Money-Saving Monday: Family fun

Saving money doesn't have to be painful. Consider these suggestions (and please share yours!) for free or cheap ways to enjoy meaningful family time this summer. Actually, I've discovered that some of the cheaper activities are sometimes the most fun and memorable.
  • Get outdoors: Pack a picnic and play in a nearby stream afterward, go for a walk in the woods or on the beach, go for a night hike with flashlights, play at a park you don't usually go to, fly a kite, throw a ball or Frisbee, play tennis, camp in the backyard, splash in a neighborhood pool (usually cheap), go berry picking, or invite a few friends over to run through the backyard sprinkler or play on a slip and slide. If it's raining, don rain boots and coats and let the kids splash away through the neighborhood. Even if you're not a child or don't have children, some of these activities can be very refreshing and fun.
  • Cook together: Make a homemade pizza—or another dish that everyone can have a part in—adding sauce, cheese, and creative toppings. Then, make sundaes for dessert. Provide as many toppings as you can think of—nuts, sprinkles, whipped cream, fudge, bananas, candy pieces—and admire and sample each other's creations. Or make cookies (or one giant cookie) and decorate them together. If the weather's nice, enjoy a cookout in your backyard that everyone helps to prepare, and play outdoor games together. 
  • Find free fun: You may have free (or cheap) attractions, festivals, concerts, or other family friendly fun within driving distance that you've never before experienced. Take in an evening of music in the park or browse a hometown museum. Also, several stores—including Home Depot and Micheal's—offer free crafts and activities for kids on certain days.
  • Stay home: Pop some popcorn or make some indoor s'mores (in the microwave) and rent a movie for cheap or free (free Redbox codes are available constantly online). Have a family board game tournament, or just play a variety of games and enjoy the friendly competition. Get out old home videos and photo albums and reminisce and laugh. If you're musical, have everyone pick up their instruments and play (or sing) a few tunes in your inpromptu band. If you're artsy, set up a project you can all do and enjoy together. Or one family member can share a talent; maybe dad can teach the kids how to do a simple woodworking project. If you're ambitious, throw a thematic mini-party just for your family, such as a luau, using simple items you have around your home (or ones that are inexpensive to purchase). Do the limbo, don your Hawaiian shirts, eat a pineapple, and play luau music.

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