This is an extract from my book 100 easy ways to be a thrifty family availble on pdf or kindle
When I think about some of the best fun we have had as a family, shell collecting and strawberry picking, plane watching and picnics with friends are right up there with theme parks and bigger holidays. There is a lot of family fun to be had on a budget.
Why not be culture vultures?
Museums and art galleries are often free and many try hard to attract the younger generation. At my local museum kids can dress up and draw and wriggle through tunnels. At the art gallery they can have their photo taken and have it projected to cover a giant wall. Such a giggle. No one seems to mind that my kids are noisy as long as they are interested and engaging with what’s on view. You can extend this play too by drawing what you have seen when you get home, or using the internet to print off colouring sheets or look up more info on what you have seen.
I have a friend who went to a transport museum as a birthday day out and took a picnic for all the kids with her. It cost her £0, the kids had fun she just laid on tea!
Check out the local freebies
Keep abreast of local events that are free and fun for the family. It may be for a sports day, a concert, an art group, a drumming session or even story time at the library. Lots of free local events happen all the time. .Local radio, newspapers and local libraries will all have ‘what’s on locally’ sections. Netmums.com and WhatsOn4LittleOnes.co.uk are also great resources. Word of mouth beats the lot hands down, though. Ask around (a lot) and share what you know too. Getting on mailing lists and newsletters is also a good way of staying informed.
Reading is one of the greatest pleasures of my life. If you get pleasure from books it is one of the best value pastimes ever. Books can be borrowed, shared, bought from charity shops, and loaned free from libraries. They can be read by the whole family, listened to on a long car journeys and generally they can be a great value way of enhancing lives. Online options like Smories.com (stories read by children to children) are free ways to entertain. Telling stories too, from memory from your family history or even making them up together is lovely, free way to spend family time.
Books can entertain you, inform and educate you and for that they can cost very little. To buy books cheaply consider; car boots charity shops eBay and of course Amazon.co.uk used books.
I recently did some research on my blog about memories of playing games and overwhelmingly card games played with grandparents topped the bill. A simple pack of cards. They still probably only cost £1. Hours and hours of simple pleasure and so many ways to play. Played with as a family, in pairs or on your own, cards are also fab because you can keep them in your bag. Who needs an ipod!
Board games can also bring many hours of fun. I have great memories of playing Connect 4 and draughts as a child and now at least three times a week I play chess with my son. Wonderful times together where I watch him get smarter and think a bit more and where I can get him to sit still and be with me for a while. I play snakes and ladders with my little girl and watch her learn to count and follow rules. Such games give you time together, they will last for years and are worth every penny.
Sport can be very expensive if you go down the road of private clubs and lessons, your own equipment and designer sportswear. Costs can often put people off completely. Yet sport used to be about fun and exercise and groups of family and friends coming together.
Reclaim sport in your family life and invite some friends to meet you on the park for a picnic and a cricket match. Teach your child to play tennis yourself with whatever rackets you can muster. Find some goals on the park and get a group of kids together to have a kick about. This is how I learned to swim and play tennis. Venus and Serena Williams were coached by their dad who apparently got a book out the library on tennis coaching. Most kids just need the basics…you are probably good enough to teach them to at least a basic level not to mention A LOT cheaper than joining a club.
Don’t forget sport is taught in schools. If a child shows real promise and interest maybe you could ask for lessons as birthday gifts from relatives or ask at a local club about sponsorship.
Going to the cinema
Going to the cinema is pricy these days whereas borrowing a DVD is cheap but it really isn’t the same. My family enjoy the whole experience of being in a big darkened cinema with lots of other people waiting for a newly released movie. There are a few things you can do to reduce the cost.
-Eat before you go and squirrel a few juices and snacks in your handbag. Cinema priced food are drinks are extortionate.
– Consider walking home. It’s a nice opportunity to talk over the movie and stretch your legs after sitting so still
– Give the cinema a call. Do they have review days, cheaper matinee slots, could you use Orange Wednesday (web.orange.co.uk/p/film/) Be well informed and on any mailing lists to keep up with good offers.
Playing with your kids
Time with you to play is what kids will love more than anything else whether it’s on the Wii or making play dough, pretending to be a dalek or playing an endless game of catch. In years to come this will matter to them FAR more than you shelling out for new Nintendo game or taking them to expensive theme parks or just being their chauffeur between scheduled activities.
Why not dedicate a bit of time to playing with what they have rather than putting your hands in your pocket?
Gardening is a wonderful activity to do with children, growing your own vegetables teaches them so much about how food is created and is a green and often cost – effective option. You will all be so delighted when you reap your rewards.
Even if you don’t have a garden there will be some veg growing you can do. A tomato plant can be grown on a windowsill or a few potatoes in a sack. A few cress seeds planted in an empty eggshell with a face drawn on the side is great fun, As his hair grows your child can snip it and add to their egg sandwich.
Gardening can be as simple as planting a sunflower seed in a tiny bit of soil it doesn’t need to cost much.
Arts and crafts
Children love to make things and this can save you pounds if you put their creativity to good use. Cards are really pricey so getting your child to make a batch of cards can be a real cost cutter. Prepare a few potato prints, drum up some felt tips and stickers and they are away.
Arts and crafts supplies can be pricey but you have lots already to hand which can make up a great arts and crafts box. Here are a few ideas:
Cut up bits of old fabric
Milk bottle lids
Old greetings cards
An old shirt for painting
The list could go on. Making up a big supply box like this gives fuel to your child’s imagination. Construction paper, glue, paint, felt tips and scissors are a must and can often be bought most cheaply from pound shops and supermarkets.
The great outdoors
Nature is the perfect free playground for thrifty families. There are parks, woodlands, beaches, bike paths and rivers to explore. There are animals to spot, trees to climb, fallen wildflowers to collect and press and blackberries to gather. There are picnics to be had and trails to follow, hills to climb and streams to throw stones in. There are leaves to gather, puddles to jump in and rainbows to stare at. There are clouds to watch, rain to dance in and sunshine to bathe in. There are stars to wish on and a moon to watch change. There are birds to listen to and butterflies to watch dance. Nature is amazing and it is free. Embrace it.