Money Smart Mom – Family Fun on a Budget
Wallet-Friendly Family Fun
By Sarah Deveau
Yet again, Friday has rolled around and you have no idea what to do with the kids this weekend. A quick check of your bank account dictates that whatever you do, it will have to be done on the cheap. Luckily, most cities have plenty of inexpensive diversions for families, whether you have babies, preschoolers, tweens or teenagers.
Independent indoor playcentres can be expensive once admission and a snack are tallied in, but some offer great deals on certain days of the week. Check your local playcentre to see if they offer discount days. While some moms may feel like they should spend money in the café on snacks drinks or lunch, mom Jodi Hunter is practical. “We don’t buy the food and I don’t feel guilty at all. Companies need to increase their revenue yes, but as a mom I need to watch my budget. If I don’t watch the budget there isn’t any extra room to go to playcentres.” She suggests planning your visit during times of the day when a snack won’t be required, such as immediately after a meal.
With day admission costing an arm and a leg, it makes sense to buy season passes to the larger attractions your city offers. Often, going just twice means the pass has paid for iteself. Packing your own lunch, drinks and snacks is the best way to not only spend less while there, but ensure you have healthy food available when your children are ready to eat. Relying on cafeteria or snack stand food can mean long waits, high prices, and nutritionally suspect food.
Risa Kawchuk, mom of two, also suggests not buying the souvenirs or other expensive add-ons at these venues. “The boys get an allowance, so if they want to buy something, they need to bring their money along,” she explains. “We do buy the odd things too, but in general the kids know that if they want mini-donuts, they can pay for it themselves. There’s much less whining and spending.”
But playcentres and big name attractions are not the only way to have fun. During the week, many regionally funded parent and child resource centres offer drop-in play or art programs, often free.Many recreation centres or smaller attractions have free admission days at certain times of years, often in conjunction with free seminars, workshops, tours, or classes. Libraries do more than just loan books and DVDs too –most offer inexpensive or free programming for children of all ages.
Kawchuk has tips for those trying to keep track of everything. “I hear about many events from word of mouth, online, and from sources like the Parks and Recreation Guide. I keep my favourite websites bookmarked and check every few months to see if there are special events coming.” Kawchuk uses Google calendar to keep track of events they might want to attend. “It isn’t that hard finding the events, it’s remembering them!” she laughs.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a change of scenery. Pack the kids up to try out a playground in another neighbourhood or schoolyard or take their bikes out to a new pathway system. Visit the wilderness within your city limits to see chickadees, swans, and other wildlife. Often children have the most fun doing nothing particularly scheduled at all.
Sarah Deveau is a mom of three, and the author of Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting.
Visit her website at www.moneysmartmom.ca or
pick up her book from Chapters Indigo.