Saving on the Homefront: Ways Families Can Save Money and Spend Time Together

The following is a guest post by Lisa @ Frugalist, an Australian personal finance blog that promotes living well on a budget.

In the battle to save money and promote quality time, many families are forced to become creative in their down-time. Here are 7 ways to stick to a budget while entertaining the family.

1. Cookouts
Who needs to waste money on expensive restaurants, waiting for a table on a Friday night? For your immediate family, and perfect for when extended family is in town, consider a cookout – or a potluck type of idea when it’s not so nice outside. Add some games and you already have a good basis for such an event.

2. Did Someone Say Games?
Board games are a great family pastime, where you can certainly save money. Consider that Friday night dinner at your average restaurant – it would be fair to say that the board game (if you don’t have one/enough) would easily be cheaper than the meal (maybe half). Why not take advantage of that pizza special and see who will reign as board game champion in your family?

3. Cook Together
Food is certainly a pesky problem on a family budget, often when it comes to eating out. While not eating out that much is an obvious solution to sticking to a budget, you shouldn’t forget about the benefits of cooking at home. Let the children help as they are able; it can be a fun and education experience – for everyone!

4. Create a Stay-cation

It’s not necessary to leave home in order to allow your children to experience exotic locales. Plan a stay-at-home “trip” with meals, movies, travelogue films, and music based around the country of your choice. A stay-cation can be a fun way to spend some quality time together, while saving money. Granted, it’s not Disneyland, but it is a lot less expensive!

5. Entertainment Deals
When your family leaves the house to do something fun, take stock of adventures that are discounted. For instance, you might not like the normal bowling rates at your local lanes, but most places offer a myriad of specials on the weekend or during non-peak hours. You might be able to locate a great deal on bowling, miniature golf and a number of other fun family activities.

6. Free Outings
“Free” is better than “on sale,” and there are luckily many choices here as well. You could make the park a staple for your family, where sports and playgrounds offer plenty of options for all ages. Be on the lookout for free zoos or museums that are within driving distance, as well as free concerts and other family events nearby.

7. Movie Night
Sometimes the easiest way to save money is to stay in for the night. Designate one night each week as “movie night.” Rentals from your local Red Box or Blockbuster DVD kiosks are less than $2 per night. Purchase microwave popcorn and soda or juice, then let the kids haul out the sleeping bags and set up residence in front of the TV.
Consider cost-efficient options where you can stay in as a family. Trade the movie theater for a cheap rental. Have some of your children’s friends over for a home cooked meal, games, and whatever else you have planned. Maybe you could ride bikes around the neighborhood, play catch, and do some fun things outside. There is much to be said about the activities that can be enjoyed for very little money – that don’t require “going out.”

Lisa Kling is a freelance blogger for several personal finance sites, like Frugal Living, and on her own blog,

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