I mentioned recently that we rarely do activities which cost money, or at the very least, we focus on activities that have minimal cost, are natural and healthy. I was floored the other day to read that the average parent spends (not including child care or vacation costs) almost $2000 (£1400) on summer holiday activities. The same day I had a couple of emails asking for advice on having a frugal family summer. I thought I would post a series on the types of activities we are enjoying, in hope it gives other people some ideas! I know money is tight for many and several mothers who read this blog are hoping to simplify and I want to encourage you to believe it really is possible to simplify parenting, as I was recently telling an old neighbour of mine who said in a typical day in the summer they spend over $100 taking their children to 2-3 activities a day (skating, swimming, movies, mini-golf, lazer tag, bowling etc.).
How To Have A Frugal Family Summer – Part I
1. Swimming - We are *very blessed* with the use of a pool in our new apartment. This is not something, sadly, most people have access to, but swimming can still be very reasonable. If swimming wasn’t free, then I would look at the variety of local options (the Y, local city pools or even private facilities) and find a reasonable way to swim. For example, one year when I was fostering I purchased 10 family tickets for the cost of 7 trips to the pool. I budgeted for them in advance and we were able to go once a week without an on-going cost. Some pools also offer summer memberships. One other thing I would also look into is swimming lessons, I firmly believe all children should take lessons and it can be a good way to get some swim time in over the summer for a reasonable fee. Both of mine had never had formal lessons and need them (we are working on being able to budget for it soon!). For us, as swimming is free, I am planning that we swim at least 3x a week over the summer.
2. The library – not only is the library reasonable (if you return items on time – ahem!) but they also often offer free programming. My local libraries in the UK were terrible, seriously atrocious, so I am very much enjoying all on offer here! For example, at my one of my local libraries there is free summer programming 2 afternoons & evenings a week for children and there is even a games club for a few hours a week where children learn more complex games under the guidance of an instructor. We’ve signed up for 2/3 of the programs which run all summer and attended our first session last week which we all loved – it was fun & free!
3. Parks - It sounds simple enough because it really is. We have a very basic local park which we walk or bike ride to at least one evening a week. We also enjoy three further afield parks which have more equipment, 2/3 have water zones and 1 has a very decent size pond filled with a variety of birds. We probably visit one of these parks once a week, too. So we have 2 fun, free activities a week we enjoy which provide frugal, healthy, family fun!
4. Bike Riding - I mentioned it above, but our family has become just a tad obsessed with cycling! Tour de France anyone? Twice a week we head out on a good cycle ride (though my children would prefer it were daily!). My children received their bikes as their Birthday gifts (one was very very generously purchased by friends), one had a cycle helmet as a Birthday gift from her Godmother and my son’s I purchased. Once we were bike owners, there were no real on-going costs, making it a great free activity.
5. Walking & Hiking – Within about a 30 minute drive, we have access to 4 wonderful hiking trails. Two are along a waterfront and two are in forest areas. I try to make sure we get a good 1-2 hr hike in each week (though with this sweltering summer temperatures, right now they only happen if we hit the trail by about 8 am!).
6. Games night - My children looooove games and puzzles. As they don’t watch any tv, or have an electronic games, we spend a lot of time with puzzles, board games and card games. About once a week we fall into a bit of a fun games night with homemade hot chocolate and a lot of fun! It costs nothing (most games were purchased prior to adoption from our local Goodwill for $1-$3 on 1/2 price Friday!) and is fun and educational. It’s also the perfect activity for when it is too hot to go outside!
7. Reading - I had the day off Friday and we had a couple of hours before our Eye Dr appointments, so I told the children to pick a chapter book and I sat and read the whole book to them. What’s more, it led to some great conversations about story development, characters, plots and bullying. It was a great reminder of the joy of simple activities and of how far my children have come – 10 months ago, they could not have sat though more than 5 minutes, now 2 hrs of reading & they were still perfectly happy.
8. Free local attractions – The top two for us are a local farm and local botanical garden, both of which are free and educational. We visit them about once every couple of months and will enjoy visiting both over the course of the summer.
9. Volunteering - We were accepted as volunteers (as a family) at an organic farm outside of the city. We provide 3 hours of farm help and get so much in return – education about organic farming, meeting neat people, fruit & veg to try and a sense of giving back!
10. Gardening Plot – As you know, we have a community garden. I spent about $10 on seeds, was given some by a blog reader & friend a few years ago and a new friend, and participated in a seed exchange at the garden. That small outlay in April has resulted in such fun for our family. We visit the garden 2-3x a week, often playing with a soccer ball in the field outside the garden and chatting away to other plot “owners”.
Looking at the above list, our weeks are nicely balanced and I haven’t even had to pay for activities, or outings. We are learning, keeping active and enjoying the summer on a bare bones budget.
Stay tuned for part 2 later this week!
What are your favourite frugal, summer activities?
p.s. My new post is up at the Simple, Green & Frugal co-op! I’m talking about my limits on frugality!