While families may feel like everything is becoming so expensive, there are ways to save in every family’s budget especially when it comes to having fun.
1. Cut Your Family’s Hair
I’ve been cutting my sons’ hair for about 12 years. My husband gave me a pair of hair cutting scissors, a comb, and a Wahl clipper years ago for Christmas. The scissors and comb were under $20, and the Wahl clipper set ran about $50.
If I took the 4 boys to a budget salon ($8/child), I would spend about $277 per year. Adding in the cost of my husband’s haircut ($17) – $136 per year, the total cost for my husband and kids is $413 yearly for haircuts.
Cutting boys’ hair is simple. Generally for a boy, the sides are shorter and cut vertically while the top is slightly longer and cut parallel to the ears. There is an invisible line around the head about an inch or so above the ear where the direction of cutting is switched, and the length of the hair increases. As you practice, start with the sides and leave them longer about an inch above the ear until you get a feel for where the transition point is. It’s always easier to cut off hair than to add hair back in.
If the haircut is a complete failure, try a buzz cut. You won’t have to cut hair for a few months.
2. Museum Memberships
Museum memberships can be a fantastic way for families, especially larger ones to save money on admission to museums. Most memberships pay for themselves after 2 museum visits.
- Find out if the museum offers reciprocal admission with other museums.
- Don’t buy it because you’re interested; buy it because your kids are interested.
- Keep an eye out for deals.
- Sign up for email lists for local museums to find out when they offer free admission days or special deals.
- Sometimes it pays to go up a level in the membership.
- Sometimes it’s better to stick with the individual membership level.
- If you decide to join as a member at the last minute, find out if you can turn that day’s admission fees you paid into a membership.
- Finally, ask for the membership as a family gift.
3. Have Leftover night Once a Week
Leftovers are money in the bank for families. The cooking is done already. It’s simply a question of serving the same meal a second time or turning it into a new meal with a few extras. One of my favorite resources for dealing with leftovers is the The Use-It-Up Cookbook: A Guide for Minimizing Food Waste.
- Use cooked chicken or beef in a casserole. Many casserole recipes are based around cooked meat, a veggie, and some type of starch whether it’s pasta or potatoes. The ones using cooked meat usually need about 20 minutes to bake.
- Make extra veggies one night and serve them warm or as a cold salad on another night.
- Beef stroganoff can be made quickly from gravy, precooked veggies, and cooked beef.
- Sauce-less cooked spaghetti can turn into a tetrazzini.
- Cooked veggies can go into a quick omelet or a frittata.
- Take a can of soup, either homemade or storebought, and add in cooked veggies like green beans and broccoli.
- Keep a bag of sandwich rolls in the freezer for making sandwiches out of cooked chicken or sliced beef. Roasted veggies with a dressing or sauce are great for meatless nights.
4. Clothes and Shoe Inventory for Your Kids
Kids usually grow like weeds. We buy them new clothes and shoes at the beginning of the school year only to find they’ve outgrown them by Christmas.
To keep my 5 kids clothed and shod, I keep a running list of sizes needed next for clothes and shoes in my purse. Since we already have a large supply of hand me downs, my clothing list is a just a list I keep in the note section on my phone. Before that, I would keep the list in a small notebook I could tuck in my purse.
Making sure I have enough shoes bought for pennies on the dollar takes a bit more work. For simplicity’s sake, I wrote out a simple grid of sizes, one each for boys and girls. Twice yearly, I go through our 4 large boxes of shoes and update my shoe inventory which includes sneakers, school shoes, and winter boots.
When you’re out shopping, bring your inventory/list and check the clearance racks first before heading to the full price or sale items. Have a price point to determine whether or not you’ll purchase the clothes or shoes. My price point for clothes is usually $5 and under. Ideally, I would spend $5 and under for shoes, too. However, I find more clearance shoes priced at $10 and under.
5. Buy Used Sports Equipment
When kids are first starting sports, they generally need little in the way of sports equipment. Generally, a pair of cleats, a soccer ball or glove are all that’s required. As kids move up into travel teams, sports equipment increases in price, and kids simply need more stuff to be safe.
How to Save
Select sports that require less equipment. Soccer requires cleats and shin guards while footballs needs several sets of pads, a chin guard, mouthpiece, practice uniform, cleats, and whatever else the coach requires.
Select a sport that can be played as a pickup sport in the driveway or at family parties. This helps ensure that kids practice their new skills, plus it’s a great way to meet new people as kids get older and go off to college. Soccer, baseball, and street hockey are all great pickup sports.
Explore all the available sports programs. The local Y often offers reasonably low cost programs, though some require a program membership for signing up. Another option is a Christian or Catholic CYO. Run by volunteer parents, these are often extremely cheap, but expect to pitch in at times with equipment set up and transporting players to games. Another option is a program through your local township. These can be pricey, and require a lot of time on the part of the parent. However, township leagues often have the financial and organizational ability to set up clinics and camps for players, both beginner and advanced.
Not every piece of equipment has to be new. Garage sales, thrift shops, and the local Goodwill are places to find used equipment, but you’ll have to visit these places often to find equipment. Check your local yellow pages for used sports equipment stores like Play It Again sports. You’re more likely to find what you need in the right size.
Always examine used equipment before purchasing to make sure it’s good condition. When in doubt, buy new equipment especially head gear. With the rise in sports-related concussions among young athletes, head protection is vital for many sports.
What’s your favorite way to save money on family activities?
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