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Making Memories with Your Kids On a Budget

Growing up we didn’t have a ton of money. We were on a really tight budget for many years. My Dad worked a 9-5 job and my Mom babysat kids in our home. Many of my Mom’s evenings were spent sewing bows so that on the weekends she could travel to different craft fairs to sell them. This brought in a few extra dollars to help make ends meet. When I was 10, my parents got divorced and we were all on an even tighter budget than before. What is wonderful about it all though, is that I was completely unaware of any of the struggles.

Now that I am a grown up and we have struggled with money ourselves, I know that this must have been a huge weight on my parents shoulders each and every day. They didn’t let my brother and I stress about it though. We still did fun things and made some great memories. Being on a budget, didn’t mean sacrificing fun.

If you are also working on a small budget, but would still like to make fun memories with your kids, you’re in the right place. I often blog, and post on Facebook, about some of the amazing adventures we have been on. They really are amazing and I am enjoying every second of them, but I do know what it’s like to need to get creative and make every dollar stretch. Keep reading for some good tips!

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Pack a lunch

If you are having a day out with the family, instead of spending a hefty amount on food, drinks, and snacks, plan ahead with a picnic. Pack some yummy snacks that everyone will enjoy, maybe a few juice boxes, and a quick and easy lunch. Even buy those stick-to-your-teeth candies that the kids love, so that they feel like they are getting a special treat!

Should you be visiting a place that doesn’t allow you to bring in food, pack it in a cooler, leave it in your car, and head outside in the parking lot for a picnic. Most places will allow you to get your hand stamped in order to reenter later.

One of the best investments I have made was a legit picnic blanket. Normally I would use a big blanket, which of course works, but the one I invested in folds up and has a handle as well as a waterproof backing to keep your butt dry no matter how damp the grass is. Click here to get your own! 

Look for Coupons/Memberships

Check around the internet for any coupons that are available for the location that you will be visiting. Also, if the place is close by and is something that your family enjoys doing, look into the family membership prices. Most of the time, although it might push your budget a bit for that month, you can utilize it enough that you will get you your money’s worth rather quickly.

For example, when we lived in the Chicagoland area we decided to get a zoo membership. The membership was just about $100 for our family. This was a lot of money for us at the time! It hurt a little to spend it, but I knew that this would be something we could do over and over again and make great memories for a whole year. Plus, it only took 2 visits to make the membership worth it!

Act like a Tourist

Sometimes, after living in an area for so long, we forget all of the good things our city has in store. We can walk past the same park every day and think nothing of it. If you pause for a moment and think about your town as an outsider you will be surprised at all it has to offer. Head to that free splash pad in town, bring a picnic, pack your camera, and pretend you are on vacation! If you get excited about what you’re doing, your kids will notice and see it as a fun adventure!

Use Your Resources

I know it seems simple and hardly worth mentioning, but check online for free activities in your area. You can literally Google “Free things to do in _____” You will be surprised what you will find. I just searched that phrase for my hometown and had a whole list of places I could visit right away!

Check What Your City Presents

Most park districts offer classes for children and adults that will fit into every budget. These are definitely worth exploring. You can also look around on your city’s website. Sometimes they will hold special events to get the community together. This may be a concert in the park or a public viewing of a movie, for example.

Keep in mind that a lot of time many different kinds of vendors come to these events also. They will try to get you to buy food, toys, glow sticks, etc. In order to be sure that we felt included in the fun, but also that we were not breaking the bank, my Mom would bring special treats and especially some glow sticks for us. We felt like it was such a treat and my Mom saved quite a bit of money in the process.

Local Movie Theater

Some movie theaters will offer discounted movies, especially in the summertime. Our local theater would offer a movie, popcorn, and a drink for around $2 per person. The movie was usually an old movie that my kids had seen a million times, but since it was in a theater and there was food involved, it was exciting.

For Pinterest

Making Memories On a Budget


Put Your Tax Dollars to Work

The library was also an enormous part of our lives in both Illinois and Tennessee! We were part of story time, reading programs, book clubs, you name it! If the library offered it, we were there! My kids met a lot of friends at the library and always left having had a great time. Those reading programs are also great to help inspire your kids to fall in love with reading. What parent doesn’t want their kids to develop of love for reading?!?

Turn Your House into the Party

Is it a hot day and the kids are dying to go to the pool? Is it raining and the kids are climbing up the walls with boredom? Either way, bring the fun to you!

Invite some friends over, throw out the sprinkler, whip up some brownies and Kool-Aid, and call it a party! Dig through your old, leftover stash of party supplies. You know what I mean! The leftover princess plates from 2 years ago, pirate themed napkins, paper cups from the class party, whatever it is…use it! If you’ve already tapped into that stash for another emergency situation, use your regular dishes and set up a tea party for the kids to enjoy!

If the weather is less than conducive for outdoor play, invite some of the kid’s friends over to have a PJ party. Turn on Netflix, or dust off an old DVD, pop some popcorn, pull out the 2 liter of 7-up, and let the kids feel like they are at the movie theater! After the movie is over, stay in PJs and set up a salon. They can do hair and nails or even let them use blankets and chairs to set up a fort in the living room.


Game day/night is also a favorite in our house. Whether this be with friends and family, or just your immediate family; bring out some board games and battle it out. Nothing brings families together like a good old fashioned board game.  Parents should always make sure that the rules are laid out before the game starts. This will help to keep arguments to a minimum.

Don’t forget about the fun outdoor games also! Here’s a fun game that was introduced to us here in Sweden. This game is called Kubb and is SO fun! It’s good to play one-on-one or with a group of people. Kubb is just as fun, if not more, than Bags, or Cornhole as it’s known in the Southern US.

All in all, you don’t need to have a ton of money to have fun! You just need to use your imagination and think outside of the box. Use what you have around you and call on other parents to help make a memorable day even more memorable. If nothing else, try out a good Pinterest recipe, we all love to see a good Pinterest fail! Just make sure you tag me on Facebook so I can laugh along with you!