People have recently been asking how I keep my monthly entertainment expenses so low especially with 2 small kids (last month was only $12). The truth is, keeping expenses low is not hard if you have a strategy. In my case, I have a lot of fun and so do my kids – all without spending money.In fact, I think we have more fun that most families. Here are a few things we like to do:
Spend Time At Parks
We go to parks and playgrounds almost everyday. They are free, fun, and we have 2 within a short bike ride. Normally we ride our bikes (which is fun for them), and sometimes we have a picnic while we’re there. We’ll play on the playground, and dig in the sand pits. When the kids are tired of the playgrounds, we head to a rock bed creek where they can climb around and splash in the water.
Make Your Own Food
Last week, for instance, we made home made spaghetti. Spaghetti is basically just flour, eggs, and oil. Making it from scratch involves mixing the ingredients together, rolling it thin, slicing it into little strands, and boiling it. For the kids, it’s pretty much equivalent to playing with play-dough, but better because you can eat it. For me, it’s a fun free activity that ends with a meal that is far better than store bought spaghetti. And the meal is almost free, depending on your sauce choice.
Yesterday, we made ice cream in a bag. Basically you mix milk, sugar, and vanilla in a sandwich bag. Then you put that bag in a larger freezer bag filled with crushed ice and rock salt. Shake for 5 minutes, then squeeze your ice cream out like toothpaste. It’s close to free in terms of ingredients, it’s fun for the kids, and the ice cream is wonderful. Add chocolate sauce or strawberry sauce for other flavors. Show me a kid under 12 that wouldn’t consider this a great form of entertainment.
Involve Your Kids With Projects
This past weekend, I taught my 3.5 year old son how to bleed and replace the brake fluid on a motorcycle. Last weekend I taught him how to replace the brake pads on a bicycle, and how to adjust the seat height on his bike (and why). He also learned how to use a screwdriver, and helped me hang a homemade shelf in the garage. Kids love these things. It would be easier for me to go out and do this by myself while my kid is bored sitting inside (therefore requiring us to spend some sort of money to entertain him) – but instead I just get him involved in the activities I’m doing. What we calla chore often a fun activity for a kid.
Hiking is free, and their are trails almost everywhere in the US. We’re lucky because we live near the mountains, so we can be on a great trail within minutes. But even when we lived in Texas, we would go hiking all the time.
I enjoy reading, and so do my kids. Most weekends we’ll head to the local library and the kids get to pick out 2-3 books. This is at least an hour of fun looking at books and playing in the library, and it keeps their interest piqued to read because there is always a new flow of books. (Side note: if you haven’t been to a library since college, you are really missing out).
There are many more activities we do. We ride bikes, go on hikes, do yard work, play with the neighbors, and make shapes with play dough for hours on end. You’d be surprised how cheap entertaining kids can be if you stay involved and keep things exciting. On the other hand, if you put them in front of the TV and walk away, you’ll be sure to spend a lot more money in the end.
I’ve found that the old saying is true, the best things in life are free. If you have other cheap or free forms of entertainment with kids, I’d love to hear them.