Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thrifty Thursday - Free (Or Nearly Free) Family Activities!

I haven't decided if it will always be Thrifty Thursday from now on, but for today...that's what we're going with. :)

I found these ideas at Clarisse's Financial Notebook:

Monster Sundae - get the biggest serving bowl you can find, and as a family make a huge sundae. You can have various kinds of ice cream or just one kind - it's up to you. But get creative with the toppings and sit at the table and enjoy. Yeah it's a mess, but it's fun to get messy!

Picnics - Picnics are not only for the park. I have had many picnics in other public places. In Nashville we have this HUGE hotel called The Opryland Hotel. Inside the hotel, there is a conservatory and another part called The Delta. It has plants, a little water taxi, and a big water and laser show. We will pack up a picnic lunch, go to the hotel and eat it right in front of the water show. We make a day out of it. If you have any place like that you can go, grab a picnic basket and have fun!

Local Festivals & Community Celebrations - If you can watch the local news or read the paper, then you will find that many of your local communities will have festivals and celebrations that are free to the public, and they can be rather interesting. In Tennessee, we have one town that has a Mule Day celebration (sounds totally lame, but it is actually quite fun and interesting for the kids). In my town we have the Strawberry Festival every May. There's a parade, all the strawberry foods you could ever buy (and they are really quite cheap since our town is known for its strawberries), and they even have activites and games for the kids.

Scavenger Hunts - Who doesn't love a good scavenger hunt? A group of adults can even participate. All you have to do is be a little creative and plan ahead. Our neighborhood had a Halloween scavenger hunt that resembled the Amazing Race. We had to drive in teams of 2 (not husband and wife either!) and we had to complete certain tasks. One was sweeping the floor of our local Papa Johns and another was helping someone wash their car at the car wash for 1 minute. lol. It was really fun to race around and try to beat everyone else. You could do that with your kids - just break up in teams of 2 (or whatever works) and try to find certain items on a list. You don't buy them....just find them or take a picture with your camera phone or digital camera.

Make Your Own Movie - Kids love to be on camera, so why not have them dress up and act out a movie - if you own a video camera or a digital camera with video capabilities. When it is finished, you can watch it and enjoy your own brand of entertainment.

Camping - You can go camping in the back yard. If you can get your hubby to go along with it, make a fire (yes, that means digging up the beautiful grass) and make some smores. What is better than that?

Science Experiements - Make an erupting volcano together. Go outside and look at the stars - try to spot some constellations. There are a ton of safe experiments you guys can do at home that are not only educational but fun.

Go Hiking - get out and go hiking. Maybe you and your kiddos can learn how to use a compass - or better yet, teach them how to find directions WITHOUT a compass. You never know when things like this can come in handy! But don't get yourself and the kids lost - remember safety first!

Playgrounds/Parks in the early evenings. Usually about dinner time the parks and playgrounds clear out. Some of our local playgrounds don't have a closing time because with adequate light and observability from the road, it's still a safe place for kids to play at all times of the night. If you have an area like this - take your kids out at dusk and have the run of the playground with them. It's amazing how quickly the same old playground can turn into a pirate ship or castle for a princess. Play with them. Most of the equipment can handle 150-200 lbs. Be a kid again and have fun with yours.

Go Shopping Without Buying a Thing - We always did this when we were kids. We didn't have a lot of money growing up, and as a pick-me-up for us (and I think for herself too) my mom would take us to Toys-R-Us and let us pick out 5-10 things we wanted. She would just let us play and have the best time there. We all had the agreement that we wouldn't be buying ANYTHING, but we could play all we wanted and we could put the things in the cart that we really wanted. We would just leave the cart behind and we'd leave without spending anything. Sure the Toys-R-Us people probably hated us, but it was my mom's way of shopping without shopping. When I first started on the Dave plan, I LOVED to shop, so to get it out of my system, I did the same thing. I pick out all the things I wanted, and I'd either slowly put them all back, or I'd walk away from the cart. It helped curb those cravings to shop. But I honestly see nothing wrong with going to a store and letting your kids play - as long as they try to pick up afterwards.

Downtown Parks - In a really nice park in Downtown Nashville, they will have MANY free activities throughout the year. Sure we have to drive to get there (about 45 min), but it is worth the drive once we get there. They usually have a Shakespeare In the Park even. Once a year they have the Celebration of Diversity, where you can watch many different cultures display either their dance, art, history, and food. It's fun and free. You may not have anything like this in your town, but if you have a major metropolitan area, I'm sure they have activities like that.

Symphony Centers - Many symphony centers will have 1 free night a quarter or every 6 months. This is on a first come, first serve basis, but it is a good way to either get a date with your hubby OR introduce your kids to the symphony. They usually cater to families on these nights too.

Art Centers, Museums, and Tourist Attractions - Like the symphony center, many of these places have a free day every 6 months to a year. As long as you get there early, there's usually not a problem with parking. In Februrary the Bellmont Mansion had their free day in Nashville.

Performing Arts Center - this is mostly for you and your spouse, but you can volunteer as ushers at the performing arts center, and you will be able to watch the show for free. Usually you have to stand through it, but considering the cost of tickets, it is worth standing and maybe opening a door or two if people need to go to the bathroom.

Movie Night - Clear out the furniture and either move the mattress or pile up all the blankets and pillows you own into the middle of the room. Curl up as a family and watch a flick. Popcorn, drinks and candy optional, but highly suggested!

Game Night - Actually use those board games you've bought and been given as presents. They are not only fun, but they give you some together time. If you have to bribe your kids to play, then you can have a prize for the winner. Doesn't have to be anything major - maybe 1 free day of chores or 1 trip to the mall....whatever they might be into.

Arts & Crafts - Not the typical arts and crafts stuff. But how about tie-dying shirts, painting on the lawn - non-toxic stuff of course (it comes up with a couple of mows), face and body art, costume making, etc. For older kids (teens), how about letting them decorate their rooms with some artsy stuff? You can paint and glue stuff to lamps and shade to "make them your own" at a really low price.

Service Projects - Get your family involved with helping others. It will not only bring you closer together, but you are helping someone else. You will be teaching your children how to help others and how to serve others without expecting anything in return. Maybe help do yardwork for a widow on your street, volunteer at a nursing home, children's hospital, or homeless shelter. Maybe you can get your kids to donate some clothes and toys to a battered women and children's shelter. They can deliver them with you and see how appreciated their items are. Get them involved - it will teach them to be givers in society.

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