~by Andra Baehr, Shopping on a Shoestring with Kids in Velcro Shoes
Well, as I sit here typing, I see two moths circling the light over our kitchen table. UGH. But do you know what that means? You guessed it, SPRING IS HERE! This makes it official for me, the moths seal the deal. With warm weather finally approaching after what feels like the longest winter ever, I’ve been getting really excited to get outside with the kids! I’ve also been wracking my brain thinking up things we can do to get out of the house without spending a lot of money. My boys and I went to the park yesterday (YAY!) and had so much fun.
As I was packing everything up ahead of time I sort of chuckled at myself for having 3 bags packed for a simple trip to the park. But I truly believe being prepared and organized plays a huge role in saving money, and so, I brought 3 bags to the park. I probably only needed and used half of the things I brought, but I didn’t need to make any unplanned stops for anything, so I call it a win.
There are a lot of fun things you can do outside that don’t have to cost you any money at all. Something as simple as a walk around your community can be really exciting when you encounter an animal, overturn a few rocks, pick flowers on the side of the road, or break out the sidewalk chalk and bubbles. Have your child help you with yard work or plant their own little garden. If you can, invest in some fun outdoor toys (think ahead when you purchase birthday or Christmas gifts for your kids) like a baby pool, a play set, or a sandbox. These can all be found relatively inexpensive, and things like plastic picnic tables or slides are abundant at yard sales. Something as simple as a garden hose can provide endless entertainment for a toddler and a clean car for mom. Don’t feel like you have to spend money to entertain your kids outdoors- the outdoors is the entertainment.
If you do have a few dollars to spend and you plan on venturing out with the kids, remember to take all your expenses into consideration beforehand so you don’t get stuck spending money that you weren’t planning on spending. Think about gas, tolls, lunch, parking, and any other expenses that might pop up during your outing. Decide ahead of time what you’re willing to spend on your day out, and plan accordingly. I’m a big fan of strategically planning my outings around the locations of point A, B, and C in order to avoid wasting gas. If you pack a lunch and drinks, then you can treat the kids to ice cream afterwards.
If you plan on taking them out to lunch, look online first for a coupon. I like to keep a “go bag” packed with summer essentials like sunscreen, extra clothes, a blanket, bubbles, chalk, bug spray and a few outdoor toys. This way when I decide to go somewhere, I can just add a few things like snacks and drinks or whatever I need for the day. It makes the process of packing the kids up a little less stressful and keeps me from forgetting things that I’d end up having to purchase while I’m out.
Look locally for inexpensive places to take your child. Utilize your local parks, ponds, pools, and picnic areas! Go to a farmer’s market, buy some fruit, and have a picnic. Give your child a few dollars and go to a yard sale. Check out your local news station’s public service bulletin board online for local events that churches might be having or things like festivals going on in your area.
If you decide to do something a little more expensive or out of your area, consider taking out cash ahead of time, however much you plan on spending. Leave your debit card in your car so it’s accessible if you need it, but you’re less tempted to swipe your card on an impulse. And remember, it’s okay to say no to the $8 balloon!
Get out and PLAY!!
Andra Baehr lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. She is a stay-at-home mom who recognizes the truth in the old saying “a penny saved is a penny earned.” You can also find her working at Baehr Family Financial from time to time.