Five Frugal Family Festival Lessons – Hot Air Balloons, Muffins, and Coffee – oh my!

A Fun and Frugal Morning

Every year there’s a nearby town that holds a hot air balloon festival. At 6 AM on Saturday and Sunday, they have balloon launches where 20+ balloons take off into the sky and float for a while before landing wherever the wind takes them. This particular event is free, and lots of fun for the kids. I don’t know about your kids, but mine always get excited to see the colorful hot air balloons floating in the air around town. So in advance of the festival I planned out another fun and frugal family morning, just like back when we went out to a park for breakfast for under $10 (I’ll write about how we make the ordinary just a little bit extraordinary soon!)

I woke up around 4:30 that morning to start getting ready. After all, the balloons start launching at 6 AM, and it’s rather crowded, so it’s best to get there early. But with a toddler, you don’t want to get there too early or they’ll be very angry at you. So before anyone woke up I whipped up a quick batch of 10-minute blueberry muffins, which you can have in the oven in less than 10 minutes (check out the picture below! and recipe at the end). As they were baking, I got dressed and made coffee, as did my husband. Then the older kids were woken up and had to get dressed, with the toddler waking up all on his own due to the noise (Hi everyone! What are you doing! I’m awake!). We had packed up the car with the stroller and folding chairs the prior night so there would be less to do in the morning. The muffins came out of the oven, and we all went into the car.

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Delicious muffins made with local freshly picked blueberries that were frozen the day we picked them

Geez was the parking lot crowded! But we still found a place to park that was a bit of a walk, and got to the park in time to see the balloons just starting to get ready to take off. We drank our coffee and water, ate the muffins, and wandered around the park (toddler again) while watching the balloons taking off into the sky. A little over an hour later, it was all done, and we were on our way back home full of muffins and talking about all the cool balloons we had seen.

Nothing like seeing a bunch of colorful balloons first thing in the morning!

I love these kinds of events because you can have a lot of fun and make memories together as a family, while still teaching important financial lessons to your kids.

Five Frugal Family Lessons from Festivals

  1. No Cost Fun: Having a fun and memorable time together as a family doesn’t need to cost a lot of money – in fact it doesn’t need to cost anything! Cooking and bringing your own food, along with finding free or inexpensive local events, can easily combine to a fun time for all ages at low or no cost. When you find something free to do on the weekend, and bring food with you, you’re not only having a fun time together as a family. You’re also teaching your children that fun does not have to equal money. This is a lesson that many adults I know still haven’t grasped, so it’s an important one to show your children. When your kids think of “going out and having fun”, do they automatically think of an expensive activity? Eating out in a restaurant, visiting an expensive children’s museum, going on a day trip, or going to a concert or sports game? Those activities are also fun, and there’s nothing wrong with spending money on events if that’s something you can afford and it’s a priority for your family.
  2. Research is Important: Finding something free to do as a family doesn’t just magically happen. Free events (festivals, concerts at local colleges, lectures, games, fun at the library, etc.) typically require some research to learn what’s going on in your local area. It’s actually a lot easier to find activities that cost money than ones that are free or inexpensive.  So make sure to involve your kids in the research. Check the website of your local library and tell them about different things that are going on. Look up festivals in your area and put them on your calendar, telling your kids about a specific event you want to check out together.  My town has free concerts in the summer, a free festival in the fall (the balloon festival is actually in a neighboring town), free superhero day at the library, and much more. Some events happen every year while others require checking every few weeks to see what’s going on. I also belong to a town Facebook page to find out what’s happening. If you live relatively nearby a college, you’ll often find free events going on there such as art exhibits, concerts, and other events. It’s worth checking those too.
  3. Setting a Budget: Now this didn’t apply to the balloon festival this time because at 6 AM none of the booths were open. But have you ever wanted to get rid of all the “I wants” when you go to an event? I want that toy, I want that food, I want to go on that ride, oh now I want that toy, etc. If we had been going later in the day, or to a different festival, I would have set a budget and let each kid spend it however they wanted. Usually I keep the budget for these events at $10 per child (and nothing for the toddler) so they can have fun for $20 or less.  When I say they can spend it however they want, I mean it. If they want to buy $10 worth of junky toys, that’s OK. I use it to remind them of their choices, especially when the “I wants” start.
  4. Spending Wisely & Making Financial Mistakes: But what if they buy junk? you ask. This is all part of teaching kids how to use money responsibly. I warn them when they’re buying it that it’s not a good use of money, and show them why (I don’t think you’ll play with it, look how the plastic is thin, etc.). Then when it breaks or they don’t play with it I remind them about it next time (remember when you bought that inflatable baseball bat and it broke on the way home? Maybe you should use your money on something more fun). Making small mistakes with money at festivals, at the store, Christmas shopping, and so on is a great low-consequence way to learn about money mistakes. If you just pay for whatever they want to do, even if you can afford it, the kids won’t learn to respect that money is indeed finite and you need to make choices with it. If you make a bad choice you need to deal with the consequences, so think hard before you buy.
  5. Earning Money: You can also use this as an opportunity to teach your children about earning money – if they want more than $10 to spend perhaps there are some chores around the house they can do. Or maybe your kids get an allowance. If that’s the case then warn them a few weeks before the festival that they need to save up if they want to go on rides, get food, or buy a toy. If they choose to not save their money, don’t let them get anything.

Festivals are a great example of using an ordinary event in your life to teach your kids important money lessons. Sometimes we worry about how we can teach our kids about money because we want to make sure they learn before becoming an adult with a credit card habit. The best way to teach them isn’t to lecture them, buy them a book, or to have them take a class. Instead, lead by example and give them responsibilities. Showing them that no cost events can be fun, research is important, you need to set a budget, spend wisely (or learn from your mistakes) and earn extra money if you want more in your budget are great lessons for any age. By using a festival this way you can teach a five year old lessons that will serve them well when they’re in college with a credit card and friends that want to go out to the latest concert, eating out and picking up swag along the way.

Now for the awesome ten minutes to baking one bowl muffin recipe!

  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups, or line with cupcake wrappers. Beat the egg and stir in milk and oil in a large bowl. Mix in flour, sugar, baking powder and salt just until flour is moistened. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Now put them in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, and go have fun or get ready until they’re done!

How do you use everyday events to teach your kids about money? What fun and frugal events have you found lately? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email.

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