Frugal Family Fun

The following is by contributor Catherine Way of Adventures With Kids.

My family has had a hard time financially in the past year.  My husband started his own business and we had to cut costs in many areas.  But we found that there are plenty of ways to have fun as a family without spending a lot of money.

Here are some frugal ways for your family to enjoy time together at home or out and about.

Stay at Home Fun

Staying at home and making your own fun will always be cheaper than going out.  There is less temptation to spend money on food or other treats and there are no travel costs when you stay home.

  • Cook together.  Some foods that offer a fun eating experience and easily lend themselves to lots of helping hands are pizza, pasta, sushi or spring rolls.
  • Have a movie night. To make it more exciting make some tickets and sell them at the box office.  Create a theatre atmosphere by dimming the lights.  Appoint an usher to escort people to their seats.  Serve popcorn in individual paper cones.   Simple Mom has some suggestions for family friendly movies.
  • Hold a game night.  Play with just your family or invite some other families to join the fun.  Choose from card games, parlour games, sports or board games.  Family Education has a page dedicated to fun games for the whole family.
  • Write, film and edit a movie starring your family or if you don’t have a movie camera, write a short story and take photos to create a personalised book.
  • Camp out in backyard.  This can be as simple as taking some blankets and cushions out, making some hot chocolate and stargazing before heading off to bed.  Or you can pitch your tent, get out the bbq or fire pit and spend the night in your backyard.

Going Out

Going out will always be more expensive than staying at home.  Costs can creep up if you buy food or other treats.  I recommend bringing your own food or setting a budget before you go.  You might also want to set a budget for knick-knacks and other items or let the kids know beforehand that you won’t be buying anything.

  • Explore your local playgrounds, beaches or nature parks. Take a picnic and some sports equipment – a frisbee, soccer ball, scooters or bikes – and see what you can find.  We did this recently and discovered a nearby park with a great bike path and a nice steep hill complete with cardboard sheets for sliding.
  • Turn food shopping into an adventure and go to a market. Kids enjoy this very sensory way of shopping and you end up with some lovely fresh produce.
  • Keep informed about local news.  Most places have free local events, like concerts, free entry to museums and art galleries or local festivals. If there is an attraction in your area (a zoo, aquarium, museum or amusement park) that your family particulary likes consider getting a yearly membership.
  • Go on a treasure hunt. There are preorganised hunts all around the world – look up geocaching or letterboxing.  Or you can design your own treasure hunt, for example, travel around town trying to photograph all the letters from A to Z or take a nature walk and try and collect something to represent each colour of the rainbow.

What is your favourite frugal family activity?

About Catherine

Catherine Way is mum to two boys living in North Australia. They read lots, run lots, love to learn new things and are good at finding fun and mischief. Catherine blogs about her family adventures and passion for lifelong learning at Indirect Observations.

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  1. Catherine,
    Great topic! When my kids were young we had to live very frugally – and even when our income has increased we’ve kept it up since it gives us so many more options and allows us to relax more than stress.

    Favorite frugal finds: The Public Library!!!

    Not only do you get books for free, but many libraries have passes to local museums. We used ours to go to the children’s museum and science museum for free.

    Plus, you can get free videos and some libraries even stock special toys, esp. more hard to get ones for developmentally disabled kids.

    And the library often hosts all kinds of crafts days, theater and other activities.

    Finally, as a family we love being outdoors. When we lived in the city, we went to the park all the time. In the country, a simple hike, a bike ride to explore new parts of our neighborhood or even a walk where we float sticks in a drainage canal or collect leaves have been regular family fun activities. (Plus we all get more activity and fitness in). Lots of tips on these kind of fun fitness activities at my website

  2. Our frugal fun usually isn’t free. We have found great ways to get cheap membership to some of the local zoos and museums. I got a half-priced family membership to a local museum (only $30 for the whole year) that has an amazing little room in the basement perfect for the kids. It’s all hands on and the kids really like it. We also found a half-priced family membership to a larger Children’s Museum that gives us a great excuse for a day trip. Our zoo membership also gives a lot of reciprical admissions – free or half off – to other zoos that give us more day trips and ways to explore new areas.

    On the free side — our small group of moms have decided to rotate play dates at the area parks. It’s a great way to find parks we didn’t know about and get the kids outdoors in the warmer months.

    Great topic!

  3. We’re on a pretty tight budget, too and something I need to do a better job of is staying in touch w/ the local news and local, free (or nearly free) events.

    We LOVE our zoo membership and go several times a year. It has certainly paid for itself many times over.

    As a previous poster said, too, the library is pretty fun (provided I get things returned in time and don’t have late fees) and our local branch has a pretty good selection of movies and audio books, too.

    Love Angie’s idea of rotating play dates!

    Thanks for starting this conversation, Cat 🙂
    Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Our Family’s 3 Goals for the New Year

  4. This is such a timely topic (although I think we can always benefit from saving money!). Last year we started a family nature club which is a great way to mix time with friends and the great outdoors. The only “cost” involved in our activities is gas money & sometimes parking.
    Debi´s latest post: Oxnard Beach Park- Perfect for a Nature Treasure Hunt

  5. I FINALLY did geocaching, now I have to try this letterboxing thing, excited to do it 🙂

  6. Geogaching is one of our favorite family activities. My husband claims he helped me go into labor by taking me geocaching when my oldest son was due; we went out again as a family when he was just nine days old. Now we go with three kids in tow. I like it because it gives us a reason to get outside and go exploring.

    I started letterboxing before we were married, but gave it up for geocaching since my husband likes to use “technology”. I think we’re going to have to get started in that again too!

  7. Almost everything we do is frugal! You have some great ideas here. So many of my favorites that I can think of off the top of my head involve eating–cooking together, eating together somewhere out of the ordinary (like a picnic, or on our balcony, or even just in the backyard), baking, etc.
    Two Chicks and a Hen´s latest post: A Blogiversary and a Giveaway

  8. Sometimes letting your kids plan the activity will get you something cheap, fun, and totally different! I love the way their brains work!
    Heidi @ Everyday Families´s latest post: Up and Up

  9. Thanks for all your great suggestions!
    The library is a great place to create some family fun – books, DVDs or CDs and out local library has Playstations and great children’s activities in the school holidays.
    I like the idea of rotating playdates – you could also use the same place each time and have different themes.
    Catherine´s latest post: Crazy 8s

  10. We love to go to High School football games and theatrical productions…they tickets are cheap!
    Kristl Story´s latest post: Send a Pajama Gram for Half Price


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