When you’re a family of five living on one income (mine) with aggressive mortgage payoff and college savings goals, having a frugal good time is a must. Does that mean we sit at home in the dark all weekend (to save on electricity, of course), reading free books from the library by candlelight? Of course not! Although we do love the library here.
Now some weekends are frugal by default – like the weekend before last, when my little one came down with a high fever. It ranged from 102-104 for four days. Those high fevers really do a number on one year olds. So that entire weekend was spent alternating Tylenol and Motrin, trying to keep the little one comfortable. Fortunately he recovered that Monday, and was his old self again by this past weekend.
After that kind of sick stay inside weekend, you need a fun weekend to balance things out! Now we could run out to the local ski mountain for a fun weekend and eat dinner out. (Confession-despite living in CT all my life I don’t ski). Or we could go to one of those kids places that costs a fortune. Instead I decided to create a weekend full of fun times that would only cost $11. Come see how with some research and advance planning, you can have a great time at a not-so-great cost!
Our $4 Saturday
As usual I woke up early on Saturday morning-4 or 4:30 AM is when I get up every day. I use the early morning time to read, write, or bake. Last Saturday I did writing and baking – I wrote a review of a book I’d recently read, and baked two recipes. The first was one I’ve made a million times-bread. I love baking homemade bread on the weekends, and starting early means you can have freshly baked bread for breakfast.
After making the bread dough and setting it to rise, I made a new cupcake recipe. I’m always experimenting with cake and cupcake recipes, because so many of them are dense. This one was light and fluffy – I’d highly recommend it. I topped the vanilla cupcakes with my standard buttercream frosting, dyed Valentines colors.
I baked the bread and we had delicious homemade bread for breakfast. I told everyone that the cupcakes weren’t for breakfast, sorry, but they would be for dessert.
Luckily baking doesn’t take much time. I relaxed, read, and played with the little one once he woke up for the rest of the early morning. After breakfast we headed out to Home Depot for one of my favorite events – a free Kids Workshop. No, this isn’t sponsored by Home Depot, I just love the workshops. Every month Home Depot has an event where you can come and build/decorate a new item. Lowes used to as well, but sadly it looks like they’ve ended. Fortunately Home Depot still has them! Check out the schedule here.
After this we went grocery shopping-not part of the fun weekend, but necessary. We always go to BJ’s because as a family of five who doesn’t eat out and whose kids take lunch to school every day, we go through a lot of groceries. Also over the years I’ve learned what to buy at warehouse clubs so the food doesn’t spoil.
Later that evening I had a fun event in mind for the older boys – bowling! We have a bowling alley in town but don’t go very often. So I took the older boys over while my husband stayed home with the little one. I had snagged two games for two people, plus two shoe rentals, for $4! Thanks to a Groupon $10 off anything sale (not sponsored by Groupon, but I do love those sales) we had a fun time bowling.
Our $7 Sunday Day Trip
For Sunday I planned a fun day trip to a few shoreline towns here in CT. We’re about 45 minutes to an hour away from the shore, so we don’t go too often. Plus, in winter, who wants to go to the beach??? But there’s more to do in those towns than just go to the beach, so with some research and advance planning, we had a blast.
What did we do?
- We went to a free museum where you can see old submarines, learn about submarines and the Navy in US history, and even tour a sub! It was in Groton, a place well known for Electric Boat that appears in multiple Wally Lamb novels (if you know that author), and it’s called the Submarine Force Museum. The older boys loved the audio tour of the submarine, although our brochure did blow away in the wind!
- After touring the museum, we had a packed lunch (including the cupcakes above for dessert!). It was cold outside so we ate in the car.
- Then we went to my favorite used book store – the Book Barn in Niantic. It has over 500k books spread in multiple locations, including their main location which has multiple buildings filled with books. We took a few dozen old books and traded them in for credit, getting a bunch of free “new to us” kids books in the bargain! The older boys always enjoy searching for the cats that hang around the main barn.
- Fun fact – down the street from the book barn is the women’s prison Wally Lamb volunteers at, and the prisoners who worked with him to write Couldn’t Keep it To Myself. It’s a great book!
- After this we went to the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, where I had again used another $10 off any Groupon sale to score tickets to the museum for the family for only $7. It’s a small museum, but the older boys enjoyed playing with the old submarine and the ships wheel, as well as seeing all the trains. They have a nice scavenger hunt in the train set to try and find little things they’ve hidden around the trains. I would not advise paying full price for this-it’s too small-but you can score good deals. The little one enjoyed eating snacks in his stroller and looking at the “choo choo”
After all this, we headed home, had dinner, watched a movie for the rest of the evening, and went to bed.
Family Financial Lessons
Long time readers know that I try to use ordinary days and events to convey financial lessons to my kids. The lesson here is that a great, fun weekend doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. We got to spend time together, see places that we’ve never seen before, have delicious homemade bread and cupcakes, and still had time to relax and take it easy. All in, a cost of $11 for a weekend full of fun for five people is a bargain.
All it really takes is a bit of research and advance planning. When those kids workshops come up, I make sure to sign the kids up to make something. When those Groupon sales come through (at a real bargain, not the “sales” they have every other day) I hunt through all the junk they have on their site to find the gems of fun things to do. And I spend some time researching free things in my state/nearby states, because there’s lots of fun to be had for low or no cost. So the lesson I hope to impart is that with research and advance planning, you can have a great time for little or no money.
What fun and frugal things does your family like to do together? What tips do you have for people looking for a new adventure that doesn’t break the bank? Let me know in the comments!