Ask the Readers: What is your idea of cheap family fun?

Hi there, Mrs. 1500 today, looking for cheap family fun ideas. But first, let’s review last week’s answers.

A camping trip from a couple weeks ago.

A camping trip from a couple weeks ago.

Last week, I asked you a question that Mario from Adventures in Frugal wanted to know, back when I asked you what you wanted to know. His question was, when do you start transitioning for retirement?

Addison from Cashville Skyline has a long way to go until retirement, but will start the transition in about 5-10 years from full to part time. She isn’t sure she will go full-retired, but having the option is always nice…

My Dividend Pipeline says “…Ideally my dividend/high yield bond income will cover my basic necessities (when he starts to transition in 2017)”

Even Steven Money plans to test the waters for 6-12 months while he is still working, taking his salary and spending none of it, while living off his rental income and other sources. This is an excellent idea, because he will have income to fall back on, should his experiment fail.

Asset-Grinder reminds us “…to really lockdown (our) expenses and budget leading into it so there will be no big surprises…” Well said.

And now for this week’s question, What is your idea of cheap family fun? We recently went camping with two other families, and had a great time. We spent money on the actual campsite, but the rest of our expenses for the weekend were the same as if we had just stayed home. We visited a state park, where admission was free, we swam in the pool at the camp, and the kids had so much fun.

Our town hosts a weekly concert, and we love to ride bikes. What do you do for cheap family fun?

Join the 10s who have signed up already!

Subscribing will improve your life in incredible ways*.

*Only if your life is pretty bad to begin with.

Powered by ConvertKit
This entry was posted in Ask the readers, Mrs1500 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Ask the Readers: What is your idea of cheap family fun?

  1. Great question–can’t wait to see what others recommend! While hiking is my favorite cheap pursuit, we’ve also found that our public library is a fabulous source for free entertainment. They offer passes and discounts to local museums, they have a tennis court that can be used free of charge, free lectures, and tons of teen & kid activities. Plus, you can bring your own coffee/snacks and sit at bistro tables while you read–it’s like a free, BYOB coffee shop. I’m not sure if this is typical of public libraries nationwide, but it’s worth investigating.
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted…Weekly Woot & GrumbleMy Profile

    • Mrs. 1500 says:

      We live within striking distance of the Rockies, and the girls both HATE hiking. They are good for about 4 minutes, then the complaints start. I wish we could do more hiking. Funny thing is, we take a walk every night without complaints…

  2. CincyCat says:

    It’s funny you should ask this, because this is exactly the approach we are taking this year for our family’s summer vacation. Instead of our traditional 7-10 day road trip, we are exploring attractions & points of interest that are right here in our own “backyard”. A couple of weeks ago, we attended a local festival, which was very cool. Next month, we are spending a weekend and exploring the Indiana Cave Trail. All four caves are within 2 hours of our home. We might get a hotel, but that is still TBD. Next month, we are going to our county fair (which we’ve never attended), and attending another local festival. Even if we splurge on admission fees, I estimate we’ll save about $2,000 this summer by not spending money on hundreds of miles of fuel & several nights in hotels.

    • Mrs. 1500 says:

      Since we have been working on the house for a year, we wanted to take some time off to spend with the girls. And we moved in last year – still so much more to explore!

  3. FI Pilgrim says:

    Our kids are still young (5 yrs, 3 yrs, and -(3 weeks)), so camping is tough. We’ve found that the library is great for when it’s too hot or too cold, and a sub sandwich picnic at the local river-front park is a great way to spend a late afternoon or evening. It’s a great way to spend some time outdoors and relax at the same time, even with young children!
    FI Pilgrim recently posted…How Would You Define ‘Comfortable Living’?My Profile

    • Mrs. 1500 says:

      3 weeks??? Congratulations! We like the library a lot too. They do have some great programs. I will have to check it out more often. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. debt debs says:

    My kids are all young adults now but we did camping for a number of years which was a lot of fun, hiking, biking, museums (on free days). Kids made up plays and performed them for the parents – that was always good for a few laughs.
    debt debs recently posted…Top Ten Reasons You Need to Manage Your FinancesMy Profile

  5. Allie says:

    I always love seeing what other people do for fun! We’re going camping later in the summer, and we’ve been making an effort to invite friends over for board game nights.

    We don’t have kids yet — maybe we could add a question in the future about what you do for affordable date nights with your partner? I’m always looking for ideas for that too!
    Allie recently posted…It Was Enough: A Mexico PhotoessayMy Profile

    • Mrs. 1500 says:

      What board games do you recommend? I know about Trivial Pursuit (my personal favorite, as I have a ridiculous collection of worthless facts stored in my brain) and Monopoly, but I don’t really know how to play that one. I never learned about houses and hotels. It seems a little mean spirited. What games do you guys play?

      • Trivial pursuit might feel good because at least you’re learning facts and such. Monopoly never felt terribly mean to me since there was a pretty limited negotiation aspect, though players do find themselves cheering for others to land on their properties.

        One of my favorites these days is Settlers of Catan, though it’s not terribly heavy on life lessons…
        Mario Adventuresinfrugal recently posted…The most important personal finance lesson my father taught meMy Profile

        • Allie says:

          We also like Settlers of Catan, and we play Ticket to Ride a lot too (the rules for that one are a bit simpler!). Unfortunately we don’t have Trivial Pursuit, but we like to play it when we have the chance!

      • Brian says:

        If you want to avoid a game where fight will break out, don’t play Diplomacy. Now if you enjoy back stabbing then by all means play Diplomacy. Personally I love playing the game, my wife… not so much,

  6. Even Steven says:

    Some of the cheapest and most fun adventures we tend to have our heading to the lakefront or parks in Chicago. Swimming pool, taking the dog for a long walk, picnic style lunch, are the most common. When we are spending money we look to spend money on the desserts and split them($3 for a big ice cream) or have our coffees ($5-$7, wife gets something fancy otherwise it would be cheaper). When we are still looking to have some fun and get out that’s our usual direction. Outside BBQ is right up there as well.

    Thanks for the mention, always grateful to be included!
    Even Steven recently posted…What I Learned Working for Michael JordanMy Profile

    • Mrs. 1500 says:

      When we lived in Chicago, we spent a lot of time on that lakefront path. Mornings are just about perfect. That is one thing I miss about Chicago.

  7. Walks through the neighborhood or to the park (free)
    City parks and rec water park ($2 per person when you buy a 15 admission punch pass for $30)
    Big nature reserves with waterfalls, trails, etc (free except for $2 in gas)
    Riding the downtown circulator bus downtown (free)
    Art museum, science museum, history museum, state capital tour, walking architecture tour (free plus $1 in gas and $2-3 for parking on weekdays)
    Arboretum or botanical gardens (free +$1-2 gas)
    Watching rec league sports (baseball, soccer, softball, etc) – free
    Library story time, arts, crafts – free
    Toddler play time at the community center gym – free
    Roller skating on Dollar Night ($4/person including skate rental; $1/person if you bring your own rollerblades or skates)
    Biking on greenways (free)
    Playdates (free)
    Playing with cardboard boxes (free)
    Walking to the grocery store to get a half gallon of ice cream to eat at home ($2)

    Virtually everything we do with our kids (from age 2-9) is free or darn cheap. So many free activities competing for our time equals little time left for expensive activities. Being early retired with kids also means scheduling fun stuff in the middle of the week is never a problem (like free library activities).

    You know, I might convert this comment into a blog post of its own at Root of Good. Thanks for the good writing prompt! 🙂
    Justin @ Root of Good recently posted…The Art of Slow TravelMy Profile

  8. Big Guy Money says:

    This weekend we packed up the kids and traveled to a lake about 25-30 miles from our doorstep. Over the last few years we’ve been trying to find something relatively close that has camping available. It turned out this lake has free camping, and while this trip was just for the afternoon, we plan to be back to camp very soon. All it cost was 2 gallons of gas. I’d love to do it every day – in my opinion there’s nothing better.
    Big Guy Money recently posted…Looking for Happiness? Seek ContentmentMy Profile

    • Mrs. 1500 says:

      We are camping again this weekend. Almost every camping place is booked up for most of the summer, but this place is first come. Fingers crossed that we can get a site!

  9. Cheap family fun is our specialty. We spend a fair bit of time hiking, camping, or kayaking…….which is pretty inexpensive provided you don’t drive too far. We also tend to spend quality time around a bon fire in the back yard or at home on movie night. Home made burritos or quasadillas and a Redbox movie…tough to beat 🙂
    -Bryan
    Income Surfer recently posted…What’s in a Number?!My Profile

    • Mrs. 1500 says:

      Redbox is a brilliant idea. I love the low cost, and it doesn’t hurt so much if you return it one day late. Several days late, and that is another story. We do Pizza and Movie night every Friday. The girls love it, I get to experiment with pizza recipes, and when we get the movie from the library, even cheaper!

  10. Brian says:

    We have been going to a local splash park and playground recently. Our little guy has been loving that.

    We used to go on lots of walks/runs, but my wife is in the homestretch of pregnancy and pretty much can’t walk as far (or as fast) as she used to, so those are on hold until after the new little one comes.

  11. I like to grab local event calendars and look for festivals, parades, fairs, etc. There are all kinds of things happening in our area all year, but especially in the summer. We’re also fortunate to have beautiful state parks, a few revolutionary war forts and nice lakes and mountains here in upstate NY.

    Even relatively minor things can seem like a lot of fun to young kids, and I have fun seeing them have fun. When my oldest was two, he was obsessed with road signs and in particular “Dead End” signs (yeah, he’s a little odd). So, we’d drive around looking for dead ends. He loved it! Driving down a dead end street and having to turn around pretty much made him giddy (did I mention he’s odd?). Some days we’ll drive around to different railroad crossings to see if we’re lucky enough to spot a train. We call our little excursions “adventures”. It might not constitute fun for other families, but for us it works. Paying attention to each person’s interests rather than standard definitions of “fun” can really get you far without spending too much.
    Jen @ Jen Spends recently posted…7 Things I’ve been doing instead of bloggingMy Profile

    • Mrs. 1500 says:

      “Paying attention to each person’s interests rather than standard definitions of “fun” can really get you far without spending too much.” Wow. That is a powerful piece of advice. Thank you.

  12. DivHut says:

    One word… BEACH!
    DivHut recently posted…Dividend Stocks To Quench Your ThirstMy Profile

  13. G-dog says:

    We don’t have kids, but when I was a kid, we didn’t really go anywhere – a small backyard wading pool, or one of those slip& slide things, or just playing in the sprinklers; all the neighbor kids would plat hide & seek at dusk; play frisbee on the street; lawn darts; bbq’s.
    For the 4th of July our town did free fireworks. My parents would pack us up with chips, sodas (very rare treats), and we’d drive to the fireworks. My sister and I would sit on the roof of the car on a blanket, eat our snacks and ooh and aha at the fireworks. Parents sat in the front seat of the car, only occasionally yelling at us.
    Good times!

  14. Davey Pockets says:

    There are lots of things to do that are fun and it seems a bit arbitrary as to whether they are free or cost $100s of dollars.

    1. Walk in park/beach
    2. Play basketball/football/Frisbee
    3. Family game night
    4. Watch movies or TV shows
    5. Make a list of questions to ask one another. Use rating scales 1-10 ask about goals and dreams.
    6. Turn on music and sing/
    dance!
    7. Go to yard sales
    8. Go to local art gallery
    9. Bookstore/library to read
    10. Attend festival

    Best part of these is all 10 are free!
    Davey Pockets recently posted…More Reasons Why a 401k Is Not A Great InvestmentMy Profile

  15. Davey Pockets says:

    Your welcome! Hope you can find at least one really usable idea. Have had lots of success with question game. It can often spin off into pictionary/charades/hangman/ newly invented game with own family rules! Wish you, Mr. 1500 and your girls the best!
    Davey Pockets recently posted…More Reasons Why a 401k Is Not A Great InvestmentMy Profile

  16. 1500,
    During summers as a kid, my Mom, sister and I would spend nearly every day at our neighborhood pool. My Dad would stay home and do yard work and whatever else he needed to do. Membership was about $300 a summer. He always said it was the best money he ever spent on entertainment because it lasted the entire summer. Recently my family joined a pool with tennis and all kinds of recreational activities. The cost is now about $450, not cheap, per se. But to spend an entire summer at a place where all the kids friends are, outside, away from TVs and devices… I think that’s a good value.
    -RBD
    Retire Before Dad recently posted…Investment Income Update – June 15th 2014My Profile

    • Mrs. 1500 says:

      When we lived in Douglas County, our HOA had a pool. It was only open Memorial Day to Labor Day, and the HOA dues, which also included garbage pickup, were $690 a year! When we moved to our new town, the Rec Center, which includes 4 pools (2 outdoor) AND an exercise facility, was $620 for the year. We spend a lot of time at our new pool.

  17. Pingback: 17 Ways To Have Cheap Family Fun | Root of Good

  18. Daniel says:

    It’s not free, but my wife and I had a great time last week going to a drive-in movie. Besides being a fun experience we’d never done before, I think it counts as frugal since we saw a double feature and brought our own sodas and popcorn from home. Hard to beat seeing both Malificent and Million Dollar Arm for a total of $15 plus gas!
    Daniel recently posted…Is the 4-Hour Workweek Relevant?My Profile

  19. We go to a free “water feature” at a local town center – a fancy fountain she can run through, we just watch. We also take advantage of our extensive county parks and rec center – $2 pool visits (for the adults, the kiddo is free), a water park ($12 for adults), a free depression era farm with petting animals (and hay rides, and carousel rides for $2 each), and our local neighborhood playground.
    We go on the cheap most of the time, and save to spend on the amusement parks a few times over the summer – we have season passes, we’re “paying” for the first few visits and then get to go “free” the rest of the season.
    Mom @ Three is Plenty recently posted…Job Hunting and Financial IndependenceMy Profile

Comments are closed.