Family Night on a Budget!

by : Cyndi Roberts

When you and your family are on a tight budget, sometimes one of the first things to be cut out is money for entertainment.

When our 3 children were small, my husband and I always tried to find fun things to do as a family that didn't make a huge dent in our budget.

One thing we recommend is setting aside one night a week for "Family Fun Night". Turn off the TV and the phone and do something together. It doesn't have to be an expensive outing, but do plan ahead and let the children have some input into your plan.

Here are some ideas for 'family fun on a budget'.

1. Take a walk through your neighborhood. Say hello to everyone you meet, whether you know them or not. Point out to your children some of the beautiful things in nature, maybe the beautiful sunset, someone's pretty flowers, the clouds in the sky.

Teaching them to enjoy and appreciate simple things is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children. When you arrive back home, treat yourselves to homemade ice cream sundaes!

2. A great source of cheap entertainment is your public library. At our library, we can check out family videos and jigsaw puzzles as well as books. Check out a video the whole family can enjoy and pop some popcorn (maybe the old-fashioned way-- some children don't even know there's any other kind but microwave popcorn!)

3. Have a family picnic in the park. Let the kids help prepare the food--make sandwiches, pack an ice chest, make cookies for dessert. The town we lived in when our children were small, had a nice park with lots of playground equipment. It was a real treat for them.

4. During the school year, we took advantage of entertainment the school had to offer. For example, a couple of times a year, the high school band has a free band concert. The Christmas concert was always our favorite. Some schools have drama clubs that offer plays from time to time. If you live in a college town, you will have access to even more opportunity for free or low-cost concerts and plays.

5. In the summer, set aside one night to make home- made ice cream. Invite grandparents to come over and talk about the "old days". Maybe you would even like to go so far as to make the ice cream with a hand cranked freezer. If your parents don't live close, think about inviting an older couple or person from your neighborhood. They will enjoy it and so will your children!

6. During the winter months, when it's impossible to get outdoors, make some hot chocolate and read aloud a classic book, in installments. Research shows that children who are read to from an early age, are better readers themselves.

I'm sure you get the idea by now. What you do on family night may not be as important as just doing it! Keep it simple and fun!

--Good character, like good soup, is usually homemade!