Yeah, we are back to the creative budgeting posts. Boring, I know, but it needs to be done. There are so many other women out there who are working jobs they hate when all they want to do is quit, stay home with their kids, and embrace their inner domestic goddess‘. I must forge on and do my duty by sharing with others some ways my husband and I are trying to make ends meet and save money while going from a two-income household to a one-income household.
Being home with my kids this summer has been wonderful, but since I no longer have a paycheck, my family and I have also had to make some major adjustments when it comes to how we spend money. In addition to bills and food, I noticed after reviewing our checking account history that my family used to spend a lot of money on entertainment every month. We didn’t spend money on dates, going to movies, concerts or anything like that, but we did spend a lot of money on entertainment for our kids. The Minnesota Zoo, Science Museum of Minnesota, rides at the Mall of America, Monster Jam monster truck shows and other local attractions and events are awesome and fun, but these activities add up quickly.
Fortunately, it has been a beautiful summer here in Minnesota so I have been able to do a lot of free and budget-friendly activities with the kids. We have a membership to the Minnesota Children’s Museum so we can go there for free on super hot or rainy days. We like to go to Como Zoo and the library (both are free and have a variety of events going on throughout the year). We have walked to the beach a few times, we go to parks almost every day, and we run through the sprinkler at home. The kids can play at Choo Choo Bob’s and at Lego Land for free as well when we feel like spending some time indoors. The kids love all of this. These activities are engaging, and my kiddos also get a chance to meet and play with other kids who are around the same age as them. All for free! FREE! I did take my son to see Despicable Me 2 last month, but I had an AMC gift card so I didn’t spend a dime on that outing. Yay for free things and gift cards!
The only entertainment we are paying for is the Internet and Netflix. Since we are eliminating entertainment expenses by choosing to go to events and do activities that are free or super inexpensive, we are allowing ourselves to keep Netflix and the Internet. A big monthly expense for many families is cable TV, but we have never had cable TV in our house. My husband and I know that we won’t get a chance to watch shows we would like to watch until the kids are in bed, so why bother? We like Netflix because we can choose what we watch and when. Sure our options are limited, but we never seem to have a problem finding something to watch. Netflix is also very affordable; we pay less than $20 a month. And parents, Netflix is also a great babysitter. Need to escape to the kitchen to make dinner? Need to take a shower? Have a phone interview coming up? Just turn on Netflix! It’s cheap and fun for the whole family! (Wow, Netflix should really pay me for writing so many nice things about them on my blog.)
I love that I have been able to stay home with my kids this summer. But it is nice to get out of the house and go do new things as well. For those of you who live in the Twin Cities, here is a list of some of the free and inexpensive activities my children and I have been enjoying this summer:
- Weekly trips to the library. The library is only three blocks away from my house, and I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have never taken my children there until I started staying home with them this summer. Now a trip to the library has become a weekly activity. My children enjoy playing in the children’s section and picking out new books to read at home. Our library offers story time in three different languages throughout the week. Our library has also been hosting some pretty awesome events this summer for the Summer Reading Program. We have seen a puppet show, juggling act and RADZOO. This week we will be attending the magic show. All of these events are free, and my children look forward to going to the library and reading the books they pick out each week. This is every English major’s dream!
- Daily trips to the park. There are at least five playgrounds that are in walking distance from my house so we go to the park almost every day. Trips to the park are getting more enjoyable for me because my daughter is old enough to run around on her own this summer. She turned two earlier this month, and she is starting to try new things at the playground that she wouldn’t dare to do earlier this summer. She likes to climb ladders and will finally go in the swing. She also loves to dig in the sand with sticks and pretend that she is making me pizzas and chocolate shakes. My son loves meeting new kids at the playground. I am so happy that he can go up and talk to any kid. Last week I found him playing in the sand with five other girls. I asked him what he was up to and he told me that he was, “hanging out with the ladies.” He also enjoys playing tag so I get my exercise in, too. To mix things up a bit, we will hop in the car and drive to a playground we have never been to before to play. This is not a good idea when traveling through the suburbs, though. One day we found an awesome park in Woodbury with a splash pad. But after parking and getting the kids out of the car, I noticed a sign that said the playground was only for residents of whatever development we were in. My son was devastated when we had to get back in the car without playing. Looking for a park near you? Check out your city’s parks and recreation website.
- Splash pads. I can’t take my kids to the pool by myself because they both need to be attended to. However, splash pads are awesome because my kiddos can run around and get wet without my help! Is there a splash pad near you? Check out this great splash pad resource I found a few weeks ago.
- Toddler Tuesdays. The Mall of America hosts Toddler Tuesdays on, you guessed it, every Tuesday. Events vary and are entirely free. Events may include story times, live performances, crafts or movies. Over the next few weeks, the theater at MOA is showing movies for free on Tuesdays (the mall also shows family movies for free on Saturday mornings). The movies are older flicks and times for free showings vary, but it is still something fun and different for the kids to do. Last week’s movie was The Land Before Time, which was one of my faves when I was little. My kids made it about 45 minutes through the movie. My daughter was scared of the dinos. If you plan on taking your kids to the MOA for Toddler Tuesdays, be sure to download this brochure for more information and coupons for the third quarter events. If you don’t mind spending a little cash, make sure you purchase ride points on Tuesdays for a discounted price.
- Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. Admission to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul is free, but donations are accepted. My kids like to see the gorillas and walk through the conservatory. Every now and then I’ll treat them to a ride at Como Town. There are also free outdoor concert events at Como on Wednesdays through September 11. And my family’s favorite event is Zoo Boo in October. Check out the website to learn more about other free or low-cost events at Como.
- Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store. Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store in St. Paul is so much more than a simple store that sells train sets and other merchandise. Choo Choo Bob’s offers children a place to use their imaginations while playing at the many train tables that are set up for kids to enjoy for free. It’s also a great place to take your kids if they need some practice sharing with others. Tantrums over who gets to play with Thomas on the tracks are bound to happen, but it’s a good learning experience for kiddos. Choo Choo Bob’s offers several story times throughout the month as well.
There are so many other things I have been able to do with my kids this summer, but these are some of our favorite things to do together. What sort of free events or places do you like to take your kids to?