Better Budgeting: Affordable Outings for the Family

Affordable Outings for the Family

Simple Living (featured column)
by Deann Curtis

Today while visiting with some friends, one of them recommended a local gym for children.  She mentioned that one day each week they had an open gym for preschoolers and that it would only cost about seven dollars each.  Even if I only took my preschool aged children, that would cost us $21.  Then I would have to worry about finding a place for the other four children.  Or maybe I could take them all, and it would only cost me $49.  That just is not realistic for our family budget.  Our outings need to be affordable and include the whole family.

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So what does a family of nine do for fun? 

We go to the local museum.  We usually buy a year long pass and visit several times a year.  That way the cost of the pass is made to last a whole year.  We pay $50 for the pass.  But if we paid by the visit, we would be paying $33 per visit without the pass.  This way we get to focus on just part of the museum each time.

We also visit the volcano down the road at least once a year.  All we need to buy is a parking pass.  Usually we pack a picnic lunch to eat after we are done walking around the volcano and seeing the exhibits that explain about the area.

Playing at the park is just as fun for our children as it was when we were young children ourselves.  The playground equipment is usually the highlight of the park, but there is much more that the parks have to offer.  Some have nature trails, most have picnic areas and the really fun ones have wildlife to watch.

Another option, is to use our own backyard.  Over the years, we have developed a real love for our backyard.  It is not a huge yard by any means, and it is in a noisy part of town, but to us it is a retreat.  To make it more secure, we fenced it in.  That helps to keep all of the children corralled.  Of course, they could still escape if they wanted to.  But, we have built so much interest into the yard that they are usually very content to spend many hours together as a family.

We have a swing set for the children and a swinging bench for the adults.  Our playhouse is a castle that we designed, built and painted together as a family.  We also have a sandbox in our backyard.  It is great for driving cars in, digging up fossils and making cakes.  We bought these items over our first eight years of marriage.  Now all we buy each year is gardening seeds, a couple bags of new sand and bird seed.  We have so much fun watching for wildlife in our backyard.  We watch the birds, the ants and other insects.

Another great source of affordable family outings is our Camp Fire Family club.  We can go on hikes, picnics, day camp, overnight camp, field trips, swim parties and on outings to give service to others.  And because it is a family club we get to go as a whole family with other families and have a great time together.

The library is another option that's completely free.  However, being that it is a quiet place I usually only take one or two children with me.

Family outings do not have to cost a lot of money and they do not have to be orchestrated by others.  You can design them around your own family's interest and to fit within your budget and schedule.  Look through the telephone book and brochures at your local chamber of commerce if you need new ideas.  Above all, have fun and make some good memories for your family!  

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