Another weekly column :)
If you are earning less than usual, or trying to save, you might wonder how a family can have fun without overspending. Here are some fun suggestions for a tightened budget:
- Ladies, organize a clothing swap where friends bring some gently used clothing to trade. Not the same size? Add purses, scarves and shoes to the swap. Have everyone bring a favorite appetizer or beverage and make a nice girl’s evening out of it. The same can easily be done to swap kids clothes, toys or sports equipment.
- Couples, do you have trusted couple-friends that would like to do a baby-sitting trade? Have a couple babysit for you and enjoy an evening out together. Then return the favour so your friends can do the same, saving both families the cost of babysitting. It is important to spend quality time together as a couple even in stressful times like these.
- Are you treating yourself to a meal out? Instead of a main course, order soup or an appetizer to save, or share the daily special between two plates if you are not too hungry. Don’t order a drink or a side of gravy--on a meal for two these items usually add almost $10 to the bill. Even though you may be counting your dollars closely, reward great service with a tip. Wherever possible, send some positive energy into the universe and hope that it comes back to you.
- You may be considering cancelling that gym membership or ditching the fitness classes in order to save a little money. Before you do, ask yourself what the physical activity is doing for your peace of mind. Exercise is known to be a stress reliever. If your fitness regime is what keeps you sane these days, find other areas to cut in order to keep it. It might be tempting to stop everything and hunker down to curb your spending, and that may be your reality. But try to keep a good physical routine going whether it costs or not. Get a video and exercise at home. Find a buddy to motivate you. Take yourself outside and walk as much as you can.
- Are there crafts and hobbies that you are interested in but have never had the time? Dig out the knitting needles or paints or tools that you have forgotten about. Don’t have a hobby? What are you interested in? Put out a call on social media to see what people are getting rid of—you might be surprised what comes your way for free. Try not to invest a bunch of money in starting a new hobby, but do look for new pastimes that will enrich your life. Always check online for coupons before you plan to shop. Get your kids involved in a new pastime and make special family memories together.
- Do you remember when people used to go visiting? Interacting through social media is not the same as the real thing. Call up a friend you haven’t seen in awhile and arrange a potluck, a drink, a play date or a walk. Introduce yourself to the neighbours.
- If you are looking for positive ways to spend your time, take an affordable class through local learning councils or organizations. Become a volunteer at one of your community's worthy charitable organizations. Enrich your life and the lives of others and realize that a simple, community-minded life is very fulfilling.
- Rather than planning a trip this summer, or heading to the city to shop for the weekend, plan a “stay-cation”. Look at the local attractions as though you are a tourist. Visit the museum, go swimming at the local pool, have a meal out or try to some exotic recipes at home. Yes, you may spend money but it is a far cry from what you would spend on hotels (never mind flights) if you left home.
- If you are travelling, packing your own snacks and drinks whenever possible can save a lot. Get a hotel room with a mini-fridge and coffee maker and keep easy breakfast and lunch options on hand.
- Spend time rather than money. Notice the difference in behaviour when you have a family games night with your kids, versus a shopping trip or the sensory overload of more extra-curricular activities. If you don’t have board games, check out second hand "thrift" stores for some gently used puzzles and games. Check out the library for activities, borrow books and read together. Borrow a DVD or tune into Netflix for a family movie night. Pop your own popcorn and turn out the lights. Create some excitement for your kids and they will learn to appreciate the one-on-one time.
Be creative and relieve stress with some frugal fun this spring!