Quality time is a key component of any happy family. And though some of the most precious moments I've shared with my family have been outside the home, the costs associated with these activities used to wreak havoc on my wallet.
Over the years, however, I've found ways to create memories without breaking the bank:
1. Family game night
Who said you had to leave home to have fun with the family? If money's really tight, grab a few of your favorite board or video games, throw a few franks and patties on the grill, and have at it. You'll save a lot of money, and have a lot of fun.
2. National or state parks
Do you live close to a national or state park? Pay them a visit on a day they offer free admission. Another option is to only visit parks that can be accessed free of charge; to date, only 133 of 401 national parks charge a fee.
3. Amateur sporting events
Skip the parking headaches, high ticket prices, and long lines that accompany professional sporting events. Go the amateur route instead: tickets are much cheaper, and so are the concessions.
Check with your local zoo about deal days, where they offer discounted or free admission to all guests. At some locations, they allow outside food and beverages to enter, which will cut your eating costs in half.
Check deal sites, such as Groupon and Living Social, for accommodations in a neighboring city, and take a quick trip. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, a staycation is a good way to get a quick change of scenery without doling out too much cash.
As my children grew older, I quickly learned that a trip to the movies could easily approach $100 after a visit to the concession stand. So, I decided to feed my family before departing and catch a matinee to cut costs. While we didn't completely eliminate popcorn, we definitely shaved down the amount of money spent at the concession on other items like chicken tenders and nachos. If you'd prefer to turn your living room into a theater, sign up for a free Netflix trial or pick up a DVD from Redbox.
Support the arts in your local community by visiting a play put on by residents. The tickets are usually affordable, and you'll be contributing to a good cause.
8. College festivities
Contrary to popular belief, events hosted by colleges and universities aren't always restricted to faculty, staff, and students. While attending the University of South Florida, Student Government hosted a carnival each year for homecoming. Even after graduating, I continued to visit and bring my children along so they could enjoy the free food and rides.
9. Kid-friendly restaurants
The cost of dining out can add up rather quickly. However, if your favorite restaurant offers free meals for children on a particular night of the week, take advantage of it. A little money saved is better than nothing.
Load up the cooler with lunch for the entire family and head to the park for a picnic. It's also wise to bring along a few balls and wear your athletic shoes just in case you want to make it a day of family fun.
When you think of the library, the first thing that comes to mind is probably books. But many libraries also offer activities for both adults and children throughout the day, free of charge. Check with your local branch.
Written by Allison Martin for MoneyNing and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.