Having Fun on a Post-Christmas Shoestring

In the early weeks of a new year, it’s easy to become discouraged because of a lack of extra funds for entertainment….eating out, movies, shopping, and so forth. If you’re like our family, your property taxes were due in December, and then came Christmas. Those two events alone can make for a pretty bare-bones bank account. And if you you’ve spent more than you anticipated on those gifts on your list, you may feel the need to cut back temporarily in other areas of your budget to make up the shortfall. Entertainment spending is usually completely discretionary, so it makes sense to start chopping there.

If you’re looking for fun entertainment options at little to no cost, here are a few ideas to get you going.

1. Concerts at local churches. I just discovered that Matt Redman, one of my very fave Christian singers, will be in concert in a couple of weeks at a church in North Carolina. The best part? The concert is FREE! You simply have to call the church to reserve your tickets. Now, I won’t be going to the concert because it’s six hours away, but you get the idea. Another of my favorites, Third Day, recently did a free concert at a church in my area. Just do an Internet search for artists or bands that you want to hear in concert, and see what turns up. You might be surprised.

2. Pull out the board games. I’m sorry to say that it’s not often enough that we play board games together as a family around here. Doing so might not sound like too much fun for the grownups, but making an effort to turn off the tube and play a game together as a family can result in some wonderful memories for all involved. My kids are all getting to an age where they can understand how to use strategy and employ some skills necessary for effective play, and maybe yours are, too.

3. Renting movies from Redbox. We rarely go see movies in the theater because it’s so expensive. My husband took our four kids to see The Hobbit over Christmas break with a Fandango gift card he had received for his birthday, but it’s generally just way too expensive for us to see new movies in the theater. Redbox is a good option for us, and if you sign up for text alerts, they often send codes for a free rental or a rent one/get one free code. For us, it’s a good alternative to expensive theater excursions, and we can enjoy movies and hot popcorn from the comfort of our living room.

4. Swapping date nights with another couple. A few months ago, we started swapping date nights with a couple with whom we’ve become friends through our homeschool group. One weekend a month they will keep our kids for a few hours while we go out, and the next weekend we keep their kids. Our kids all enjoy each other, and they have spent so much time together now that they are becoming almost like siblings instead of just friends. Prior to this arrangement, my husband and I almost never went out without our kids. We don’t have family close by or available to give us date nights, and we’re simply too cheap to pay a sitter. Date night swapping with our friends is a perfect solution.

5. Restaurant coupons and discount cards. It isn’t cheap to feed our family of six at a restaurant. We do love to eat out on occasion, though, so it’s important that we stretch our dollars as much as we can. One way is to use discount cards that are sold by local high schools each year. They often have some great discounts to local restaurants, and they can generally be used an unlimited number of times. We also use restaurant coupons that come in the occasional packet in the mail, ones that can be found in the Sunday paper, and even some that can be purchased directly from the restaurants. Two examples are booklets that we’ve bought recently from Wendy’s and Burger King. Both were for fundraising campaigns that the restaurants were promoting (one to support adoption and the other to provide college scholarships). The booklets were $1 each, and they contained multiple coupons for free treats. Not a bad deal for a family that loves cheap treats!

I hope that these ideas have encouraged you to break out of the January doldrums and determine to have fun, in spite of your checkbook. There’s always fun to be had and memories to be made if we look around and get creative.

Happy January!

Michelle

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