When did the price of movies get so high that you practically have to take on a second job just to treat the family to a night of film-viewing (popcorn and soda equals third job!)? And forget about theme parks – you might have to get a second mortgage to pay for a day with Mickey and Minnie. Despite the downturn in our economy, it seems that providers of family entertainment have no intention of cutting the public a little slack on the cost of fun. If anything, their prices continue to rise even as their sales plummet (maybe not the brightest business model). However, tightening your belt doesn’t mean you can’t still find ways to entertain the family on a Saturday night; you just need to get a bit more creative. So here are a few ways to have some fun, connect with your kids, and save a little money to boot.
1. Movie night. If you average even one movie in the theater each month, you’re going to save money by investing in Netflix. You can receive movies by mail (BTW – no late fees, EVER!) or on a Netflix ready device such as a PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, or most PCs. So pop some corn, pull out the comforters, and plop down on the couch to watch the latest new releases on demand.
2. Cook for fun. Have a family cooking night where everyone participates. Try something new like sushi (even kids who aren’t too keen on raw fish will love a roll with cucumber and tempura-fried sweet potato sticks) or get your hands in some old classics (homemade mac and cheese is a perennial fave). Once in awhile, let the kids pick a new dish to try so they don’t lose interest. Bonus: teach your kids to cook!
3. Get radio shows on audio book. Remember the days of Little Orphan Annie and her secret decoder ring, or the thrill and suspense of The Shadow? Okay, you’re probably a bit young for that yourself, but you and your kids can both enjoy the classic radio romps from a time when the only picture tube was the one in your head. Light some candles for ambience and if the kids get bored, have them draw pictures of the story as it goes along.
4. Grow a garden. This is not only a great way to save on fresh produce, you can also teach your kids a valuable skill-set and get them interested in vegetables. Let them pick what they want to plant, and then give everyone a small plot to care for their own items. Once your fruits and veggies are mature, devote a day to canning, pickling, and making jam, plus save a few specimens to try in new recipes. If you have a lot of extra, give some away for holiday gifts.
5. Host a game night. Pull out all your old board games and invest in a few new ones for a night of family fun. Then order a pizza (or make your own), invite a few friends, and let the games begin! To save on feeding, make the affair a potluck.
6. Ask for suggestions. If you’re out of ideas and you’re thinking of shelling out cash you don’t have for a night on the town, why not stop the presses, sit the whole family down, and get a fresh perspective? You might be surprised by some of the ideas your kids come up with for fun and inexpensive ways to spend time together as a family.