Don't have family time? Make family time. Opportunities abound - board games, movies (at home or at the theater), the arts and minor league sports are great bond builders.
Board games are a great investment. If well taken care of, they can easily last a generation. You can often find them at garage sales for a dollar or two, even the new board games. Every family should have some basics like cards, dominoes, chess, and checkers.
Rent a movie, pop some popcorn and entertain the whole family for a couple hours. Take turns picking out what movie to watch. You can order DVDs or videos from the library for free. Sometimes there is a wait but many libraries allow you to place holds online and receive notifications when your items are available.
Discount Movie Theaters
Most areas have at least one movie theater that runs older movies for cheap prices. All you have to do is wait until the movie has been out a for a few months and it will eventually show up at one of these theaters. Ticket prices can be even less than a matinee and are sometimes double features. Drive-in movie theaters can also be great bargains.
Minor League Sports
If your area has a minor league team they can be a lot of fun to watch and much cheaper than their major league counterparts. The minor league stars of today are often the major league stars of tomorrow.
Playgrounds, State Parks and Local Parks
Most parks are free, especially if you are not camping. Pack a picnic lunch or bring some barbecue. Try out different parks in your area until you find your favorites. Bring a frisbee and a dog!
Support the Arts
High school plays, talent shows and community theater are generally inexpensive and a lot of fun. You will be surprised at how much talent there is in your community. Churches also have plays and programs that are open to the community even if you don't attend that church.
Watch for Free Days and Free Events
Many museums, zoos and aquariums have free days. This is often one day per month such as the first Tuesday or last Friday. There are a lot of museums that are fun and have areas tailored towards kids. In art museums the ancient cultures exhibits are often fun for kids.
Open Houses, Openings and Festivals
Sports teams often have a free open house before the season starts. Also make note of free festivals and events in your communities. Check your local paper and chamber of commerce for upcoming events.
If you have kids who love to go to the zoo you should consider a family membership. It can be a great value if you plan on going often and have a zoo nearby. Similar memberships are available at museums and aquariums as well.
Farmers' Market and Swap Meets
You don't have to spend much money to have a good time at your local Farmer's Market. Most communities have them on Saturday or Sunday every week during the Spring, Summer and early Fall. You can buy some great vegetables for less than you pay at the grocery market and usually there is something fun for the kids to do.
Library and Bookstore Events
Next time you go to the bookstore or library pick up an events calendar. They often have live music or book readings that might interest your family. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Keep your eyes and ears open and you will find many more opportunities to have fun with your family without spending a lot of money.
Fisher Swanson is a regular contributor to the Daily Thrifty Tips newsletter at ThriftyFun.com. ThriftyFun publishes information about thrifty living. Send an email to
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