By Kimberly Danger, www.mommysavers.com
For most Americans, 2009 has been a year for tightening the budget-belt. But with some creativity and just a little money, you can add entertaining and family activities back to your calendar! My latest e-book, “Family Fun & Entertaining,” focuses on spending quality time with family and friends while keeping expenses low.
Turn rainy days into fun days with great activities for the whole family to enjoy. Indoor science experiments are great and an inexpensive way to keep your kids amused. Cornstarch quicksand is something my kids love to make. When cornstarch is combined with water, it creates a consistency that sometimes feels like a solid and at other times feels liquid. In a bowl, combine two parts cornstarch with one part water and mix well. Feel free to add food coloring for extra fun. The quicksand can be stored away in a one-gallon sized storage bag for use on another rainy day.
For a fascinating lesson about plants, try the celery experiment. This is a great way to illustrate how plants absorb water. Drop food coloring in clear glasses of water. Place a stalk of celery with the leaves still attached in each of the different glasses of water. Your kids will begin to notice the leaves of each celery stalk begin to turn color in as little as four hours. With a little planning, your kids will look forward to rainy days and all the fun they bring.
On sunny days, exploring your community is a great way to spend time together while getting out and discovering more about your area. Field trips are not only educational, but exciting, inexpensive ways to have some family fun. For a great outdoor experience, visit PickYourOwn.org to find a nearby farm and come home with berries, apples, pumpkins or even a Christmas tree. Pay a visit to your local television station, let your kids see their local celebrities and take a tour. If you have children interested in airplanes, try a tour of a nearby airport. You can get a close-up look at how they operate as well as learn about different departments such as Customs, Immigration, etc. All you need is an open mind, a sense of adventure, and maybe a camera to capture all the memories.
Everyone loves a party but not necessarily the stress it may bring to you and your wallet. When it comes to planning entertainment for a special occasion, think simple. When arranging your kids’ birthday celebrations, try to keep expensive decorations and fancy favors to a minimum. When your children are old enough, set a budget and involve the kids in planning. If you allow them to keep what isn’t spent, you will notice they are more likely to be more selective than make unrealistic requests. When working on the guest list keep it small. A good rule is to match the number of kids on the guest list to your child’s age. Your kids will have just as much fun and it will be less overwhelming for you and your wallet.
Invitations for a special event can be costly. When sending out invitations, save money by using a simple, fun, photo of the birthday child as the announcement. Have them dress to fit the party theme or hold a handmade birthday sign and snap a great photo. This adds a personal touch to your invites and can be saved as special keepsake to honor the occasion. The cost of printing a 4x6 photo can be as low as 12 cents at SnapFish.com.
Even with a tight budget, every family can enjoy frugal entertainment and activities. This is just a sample of money-saving ideas!
Kimberly Danger is a nationally-recognized consumer advocate, family savings expert, author of “1000 Best Baby Bargains” and founder of www.Mommysavers.com , an online resource and forum for women. In partnership with MoreMileage.UniroyalTires.com , she offers free savings advice and e-books on topics including getting out of debt, ways to manage stress, school/dorm supplies on a budget and family entertaining for less. Her tips and interviews have been featured in national and local media across the country, including Parenting, Woman’s Day, Redbook, Essence, The New York Times Online and CBS’s “The Early Show.” And by the way, Uniroyal now has a page on Facebook! Become a fan to get up-to-the-minute updates on all things Uniroyal, including all of Kim’s money saving tips!