Monday, July 26, 2010

Skinny Money Summer Fun

Life is expensive. But there are ways to maze through the Dollar Signs and save money.
Summer sports, gymnastics, and more always ADD UP to a lot of dollar signs! And you can still have healthy, well-adjusted kids without all of the expensive extracurricular activities! Once in awhile, Chris and I will sign our boys up for an extracurricular program but it's a treat and not something we do every year or on routine.

Instead I wanted to share some FREE activities to do
on these carefree days of summer.

1) Regal Theaters offers free children's movies during their annual film festival. We just did our first one last week and plan to do one or two more this summer. It was only the SECOND time my boys have ever been to a movie theater because we aren't big movie people so they thought it was a MAJOR TREAT! This would be an over $40 event if we went as a family and paid.

2) Lowes (or Home Depot) offers Kid's Workshops, a free, hands on workshop class on Saturday mornings. This is amazing! The kids get to practice their skills with a hammer and take home treasures that they built themselves! We go to Lowes.
They each have their own work apron, hammer, safety glasses, badge, and certificate of completion.

3) Michael's craft store occasionally offers kid's classes to complete seasonal crafts and more!

4) Restaurant Birthday Clubs
offer free treats and meals to happy birthday kids. You usually have to sign up online. This isn't particularly a summer activity but it is FREE! Cold Stone gives a free LIKE IT cup on your birthday, and a variety of other restaurants give complimentary meals on birthdays when you sign up. Check your area and sign up! We've saved a handful of money over and over again with this one!

Sometimes restaurants offer fun promotions for free food too. Chik Fil A offers a free combo meal if you dress up as a cow every year. Our ticket came to $24.81 and we paid ZERO! I'm too shy to show my face but I will shamelessly do almost anything for free goodies.

TOTAL COST: $0.00 unless you're a sucker and order extra food {wink}

5) Barnes and Noble does a story hour and craft a couple times a week. Sometimes surprise visitors show up (like Clifford the Dog, etc!!) My kids have met a lot of characters from their favorite books at Barnes and Noble story hour. After the story, there is always a fun craft to work on. And to finish it off, they pass out coupons to buy a mini cookie and your flavor of milk for $1.00.
Our boys especially love this treat because when we go out to eat
they're only ever allowed to order milk or water.
Sooo, to have milk full of flavored sugar is a treat!

TOTAL COST: $1.00 per child unless you decide to skip the snack

6) Library and Big Bookstores Summer Reading Programs are a big event at our house each summer! We have a COLLECTION of FREE BOOKS from doing these summer reading programs over the years. We are a family of little readers.

I believe I literally have over 30 photos taken at different times
of walking up to my kids at the bookstore
and wanting to capture the moments shown below!
It makes my "Mama heart" smile
every time I walk up to find them
deeply into a book!

These shots are all the boys on different days...

You can see my personal reading list from last year here and more info on the reading programs we've done here. Basically, the kids get rewarded in the form of new books by consistently reading throughout the summer.

7) Etc, Etc...Check your local museums for special celebrations and annual events when they waive fees. We visit museums, ice skating rinks, exhibits, etc in our town only on free days. It only takes a handful of minutes to do some research and it will always be worth it to keep your costs SKINNY!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here's a view of assorted photos
of our family enjoying

They always love placing their order and handing their coupons to the cashier...
Kotah is working hard on his Barnes and Noble craft.

Titus is building a toy car garage at Lowe's Workshop.

I've made the mistake of helping before
and had my fingers smashed numerous times
from little boys with mini hammers.

Of course, walking trails, hiking, biking, swimming, and more is always an easy choice for free fun. Or a lazy day at home is a forever favorite for us!


caveman said...

Wow! Our boys get to do so much. Thank you for being such a great CFO! That picture of Kotah doing his Barnes and Noble craft makes me realize how fast they are growing up. He is so much older looking than that already. You do an amazing job making our lives special! said...

Yes!! Love taking advantage of free family/kiddie activities! It's become a passion to seek them out!

We take our son Andrew to the Home Depot kids workshops, and we love seeing the little projects that he puts together (with mostly daddy's help!) He gets such a BIG sense of accomplishment! So precious!

We also seek out community events - just last week our borough held a kid's event at a place that has giant, inflatables like slides, bouncy pits, etc... We were treated to an evening of kid fun with pizza, lemonade and CAKE! All free! We also love to go to parades, community picnics, etc...One event that we've come to LOVE is a community light-up night before Christmas - free bonfires, donuts, hot chocolate, carriage rides, fireworks, and a chance to sit on Santa's lap and get a free lollipop! For the 4th they have a free all-day carnival capped off with evening fireworks! During the winter, we go to Ottawa (my husband's hometown) for their Winterlude celebration - free skating, giant ice slides, dogsleds, snow maze, and shows...all for free.

Books are a big emphasis in our home, the Barnes & Noble storytimes! My son really looks forward to it.

Our grocery store gives out a free cookie per visit to kids with a "cookie card," and one of our restaurant chains here in PA (Eatn' Park) also gives kids a free, smiley cookie each visit.

Its so nice for parents to have options to enjoy that won't always be costly. In a world where marketing bombards our kids (and consequently the parents) with things to buy, I love that there are still things to do/enjoy that are FREE!!!

Love this post, Lisa! (I say that A LOT, don't I?!?) :)


The Quintessential Magpie said...

I think you covered the waterfront, Lisa. These are great!


Sheila :-)

Kathie Meyer said...

Oh WOW!! I just found your site and I just love it! You remind me so much of myself. I look forward to reading in the weeks and months to come.

I thought I would share a fantastic new promotion from my favorite basket company!! They are offering custom canister baskets for the kitchen, home, bath or next party. Keep things fresh and organized. The baskets come in 3 sizes and your choice of 10 colors (1st time we have had so many color choices: warm brown, rich brown, deep brown, black, ivory, eggplant, paprika, cornflower, sage and butternut). Perfect for entertaining or adding a fresh spot of color to your home decor. See more at

Thanks again for sharing!

BonBon Rose Girls Kristin said...

I totally need to take the dude to story hour. Thanks for the fabulous tips!

kTb said...

Okay Lisa, we totally did the cow thing AND allowed them to share our picture on Facebook!!
Next year you have to be bold and share your face!!
But great ideas, thanks for sharing...we've done lots of things like that where we live.
You can totally have fun at ZERO cost!!

Holly Lefevre said...

I have to make up most of the stuff myself...we do not have a lot of big stores - no Barnes and Nobel even! The workshops at the hardware stores are fabulous! I make up my own scavenger hunts for the beach or the woods.

Michelle said...

I love the new blog design!

We do a lot of this stuff. I love finding a bargain. Another thing they do is Kids Bowl Free with AMF bowling where you get coupons mailed to you each week for each of your children to bowl two free games per day. Only cost is shoes.

We got a Maryland zoo membership as a gift so we try to use that as much as possible.

Also in DC all the Smithsonian Museums, etc. are free, you just pay for parking or Metro fare. Great bonus of being close to DC.

We also love day trips to the beach. Even though it is 3 hours away. We can pay for gas, pack lunches, pay $15 to park and my kids will play on the beach for 6 or more hours without stop and beg for more.

Jenny said...

Great, great ideas! But, of course, school is ready to start up here in 10 days. Sigh.

Ashlee Marie said...

Thank you for linking up to Topsy Turvy Tuesdays! what fun summer ideas, and for free too! Thanks for sharing your list!

Anonymous said...

great post and ideas and i dont even have children!! fun stuff!