July Financial Fitness Challenge--Lots of Fun for Little Money
When I was eight, my family moved to the Midwest from New York state so my dad could continue his education. As the oldest of (then) four, I was expected to "set a good example"; mom and dad alerted me that there was no money for extras and we'd be doing without more often than not. In other words, No Whining.
Within a few weeks, we found that the best entertainment after supper was driving out to the Rochester, Minn., airport to watch planes land and take off. It was a thrilling spectacle. And soon it was county fair time and we walked through the fairgrounds, a wonderland of colors and lights and animals and odors.
Coming home, I exclaimed, "Wow, we're having a lot more fun now that we're poor than when we were rich!" Mom and dad burst out laughing. We weren't poor, exactly, and we sure never had been rich. But we did know how to have a good time.
The recession has been like that for many families—it's meant pulling back from some pricey activities and substituting simpler ones, all while finding ways to have fun. In that spirit, we asked readers to tell us, via the "What's Your Story" feature, what they do for fun on the cheap. We got some ideas that you and your family might like to emulate.
Bring it in-house
Amber, a member of Florida State University Credit Union in Tallahassee, and her husband have boys two and three years old. She confesses the boys "fight like cats and dogs but one can't be anywhere without the other one." She recounts how fast-paced her family life is, "with work, school, taking the kids to practice, birthday parties, getting home in the afternoons, and rushing to get dinner ready, cleaning up. You know the routines. And we don't stop to actually have a nice conversation with each other."
To save money, Amber's family rarely goes out to eat anymore. "Instead we'll have a 'pizza picnic' where we bake pizzas and have a picnic in the living room floor on a picnic blanket. We chat with each other and that's our special time together. The boys love it." Amber says, "This recession has forced us all to start spending more good quality time with our families, and I think that is a great thing."
Let the games begin
At the opposite corner of the country, Heather, a member of Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, in Anchorage, loves "Board game night!" She invites friends over and "everyone can bring a small dish and a bottle of wine, depending on the crowd, of course." She says it's inexpensive, a great time, and a kid- and pet-friendly event for those with family responsibilities. Heather says, "I recommend the old favorites: Risk, Taboo, Uno, and Trivial Pursuit...but the new DVD interactive games are definitely a crowd-pleaser as well."
Another game fan, Carla, belongs to SESLOC Federal Credit Union, in San Luis Obispo, Calif. She says, "We canceled cable TV and now spend a lot of time exploring our once-forgotten game cupboard. Mexican Train Dominoes has become a favorite because even the very young can participate with a little help." Carla's family spent $5.99 on a game centerpiece that plays a train whistle when you press it, "making everyone giggle," she says. "We also discovered Uno, Go Fish, Cribbage, Scrabble, Balderdash, and a homemade Aggravation board in our cupboard, just to name a few. Throw in a 50-cent bowl of popcorn, and we're ready for fun and priceless memories."
"This recession has made us spend more quality time with our families—a good thing."
Take it outside
Misty and her family enjoy the great outdoors. She is a member of Tinker Federal Credit Union, in Oklahoma City. She says, "We are a mixed family and, between my fiancé and me, there are five children in the household ages 16 to four. We have to be careful about expenditures for entertainment because the costs can add up fast." When the weather is nice, they use city parks for playground equipment. "Packing a picnic and taking the dog for a trail walk is also cheap but fun," Misty says. And if the weather is bad, the family enjoys reading new stories, working on puzzles, playing video games, and staging dance parties in the living room. She says these "are a good way to keep everyone entertained and smiling without going broke!"
What struck me as I read all our readers' ideas is that no one sounds deprived. All these families are having a good time and making happy memories together. And remembering the fun stuff from my own childhood, I think I'll take a drive out to the airport one of these days and watch those planes land and take off. Maybe I'll see you there.
Financial Fitness Challenge
The people at your credit union bring you this Web site and other tools, such as credit coaching, to help you make the most of your financial resources. In 2010, the Financial Fitness Challenge continues to look at ways you can make better financial habits no matter what condition the economy is in.
And each month we'll randomly select five winners to receive $50 Visa gift cards; we'll choose each month's winners only from that month's entries, so enter often. Remember to register for the Financial Fitness Challenge.
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