We’ve all been there. Kids have a day off of school but on a tight budget? Between zoo trips, movie theatres, and arcades, expenses add up quick! I’ve had a lot of “boring” days just sitting around the house because we couldn’t imagine going out and fishing money out on these things. So, I’ve done some research and found there’s actually quite many FREE activities many do as a whole family, so we don’t have to break our wallet.
Library- Libraries aren’t just for books! You can also find movies, board games, magazines, local yearbooks and many other fun things at the Library. Many Libraries also offer free Story Time for little ones! For the older kids, they may have simple art activities or reading contests to participate in. Check with your local library to see what kind of Free Fun they offer!
Scavenger Hunt – These are all the trends on local deal sites nowadays. Why pay someone to supply you with a popularized scavenger hunt when you can make one with your own twist? Take it to the park, or even around town. Make a list of things you might see out of the ordinary like a squirrel digging in the ground, and things that are ordinary like pinecones, or people bike riding! Make it fun and like a contest. “Whoever wins, gets to choose what we do next”. Kids love these type of activities and it gets them out of the house and into the outdoors.
Go to the Park – And not just the park down the street that you’re familiar with! Be a tourist in your own town, explore new parks, city monuments, trails or statues. Not all parks are created equal. Some parks have more new and unique playground equipment than others, so the kids get excited to be playing on new things! Some parks even have read along, or exercising trails to keep kids occupied while you’re out for a stroll.
Free “Zoo” or Aquarium – Check the nearest cities near you, one of them (usually the largest) is likely to have a small free “zoo” or aquarium where they have animals like birds, turtles or fish on display. Some of these facilities may also offer free education areas where children can participate in hands-on activities and learn all about animals and the environment around them.
Splash Pad – What kid doesn’t love playing in the water?! “Splash pads” are basically water playgrounds! They consist of all kinds of sprinkler-like equipment designed for kids to have fun and stay cool during the summer. Bonus, YOU can also join in on the fun. No shame in our game here.. We’ve done it!
Free days at the Zoo – Our local zoo offers “free days” every once in a while. Admission is usually no charge AND they offer discounted boat or train tours. When the zoo announces which day they are offering these free admission days, we check our calendars and write it in if we are free that day! It’s so worth it if you only end up going to the zoo once or twice a year anyway. Why not go on a free day?
Recreation Center – This is an option that is usually overlooked by most parents. Check with your local recreation center, they may offer free admission for kids! This is great because recreation centers are perfect places for kids to interact and get exercise. They can play basketball, walk around the track, and even play in the designated kids area which usually has some type of arcade games.
Bowling – Free Bowling all summer long? YES, Please. Kids get free admission to bowl any day of the summer when you sign up at kidsbowlfree.com. Our kids love the bowling alley because it provides a low-key environment where they can let off some steam. Plus, it’s indoors so you stay cool! The only downfall is you have to bring your own bowling shoes.
Movie Days – I’m not talking about the movie theatre here. Some parks, libraries, even local businesses sometimes offer free outdoor or even indoor movie days. Our local humane society does this at least once a month! It’s a great way for kids to get out and socialize and maybe see a movie they’ve never thought of watching.
Concert in the Park- Do you ever drive past a crowd of people downtown and say “I wonder what’s going on there?” Check it out, it’s probably a free event! Car shows, festivals, and farmers markets are always free to walk around, get out and meet new people. You get to take in the fresh air and experience things you don’t typically see at home. Farmers markets are great for getting children’s brains going! My son got the idea to set up his own stand after seeing that kids can do it too at the farmer’s market!
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a fan of disorganization. I mean, who actually is anyway? Life can get out of order quick between work, sports, cooking, and cleaning, especially if you’re not able to grasp a hold of the basics. Implementing a daily routine and schedule has sort of been a life saver for my family. If you haven’t read my blog about the block schedule we follow, you can check it out here.
Not only do we go by a schedule, but we implement small things that help us keep the disorder a tad more together throughout the entire day.
Things that you can easily apply to your everyday tasks to help you get things done faster, and more efficient! (Heck Yes!) Here’s a simplified version of my daily routine and how things usually go in our household.
Wake Up on Time – And don’t, I repeat, DON’T hit snooze. Giving yourself an extra 5 minutes of sleep will only make you more tired than you were the first time your alarm went off. To help ease into full awakeness, I try turning on some uplifting music, or a favorite podcast on the Alexa Echo Show.
Before I Get out the Door – Take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, brew some tea, take vitamins. Not only do I do those basic to-dos, but this is also the time where I like to make sure I have everything set out or thawed for dinner that night and a load of laundry and dishes done. I have a blog post that goes into depth on how to keep the chaos out of mornings! You’ll find many helpful tips to keep this idea into rhythm. Check it out here!
Work Mode – This is the time that I call my “free” time, now that I am a stay at home mom. The kids are off to school and I have a few hours to myself. During this period, I put anything related to work as a first priority, then answer to any phone calls, emails, and social media, and lastly house work. I usually do either 2 or 3 loads of laundry a day, so this would be the time that the second gets done, and then I would focus on preparing lunch and preparing dinner items. (It’s usually about 2 or 3 in the afternoon when I start dinner) Trust me, it eliminates a TON of clutter! Oh, and I try to get a load of dishes going in the dish washer.
Family Time– Everyone is getting home from school and work. We sit down and empty our backpacks, lunch boxes, and workloads. This would also be the time that we participate in any sports activities, school events, etc. (if there’s any going on that night). This is the second most hectic part of the day, which is why I use my own time to prepare for dinner when I can.
Prep for the Night + Dinner – We start preparing for tomorrow, lunches planned and made, backpacks ready to grab, and last load of dishes and laundry done. We try to sit at the table and eat together as a family each night. Sometimes sports run late and do not allow this, so some of us may start to wind down, while the others are just getting home. After dinner is all said and done, we clean up the kitchen as a family. I believe if we all eat, we all should chip in! Not just the person who cooks because that would just make the workload bigger for them. The kids help us with wiping the table and sweeping, while we do dishes and clean the counters.
Wind Down – After dinner is the time we start to wind down. Anything that we haven’t gotten accomplished previously that needs attention like homework or packing lunches, we do it now. Showers and bath time. If we have any free time before bedtime comes, we allow the kids to have electronic time, TV or Tablet.
Bedtime – We brush our teeth, read stories and tuck in time. Before I go to bed, I like to grab my notepad and write down anything that’s on my mind that I would want to get done the next day. It’s a trick I learned from an old friend, it helps you de-stress and be one step ahead!
Not every day is the same, and of course weekends are totally different! Some nights we will go out to eat, which will eliminate the cooking part(s) of the day. But for the most part, this is a good outline on an average day for us!
What steps do you take in your daily routine to get ready for tomorrow?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of waking up late, accidentally skipping breakfast, and rushing out the door. Countless times I’ve felt like I just simply couldn’t handle mornings… or maybe I just wasn’t a morning person. That wasn’t the case, I’ve grown to like mornings now. Yes, mornings are always going to be crazy, we have to accept that as parents. BUT, they don’t have to be hectic. Simple steps you can take TODAY will help you a great deal tomorrow morning!
Think about Breakfast – In our house, breakfast was usually the messiest and indecisive part of the morning. It would take our kids at least 5 minutes to decide what they actually wanted, and usually they would choose something that takes a lot of effort to cook, not to mention the dishes afterwards! Instead, conversate with them about what’s going to be available for breakfast the next day. Make sure you have at least 2-3 options available for grabs without any necessity of cooking in the morning. Each week, I like to add at least 1 breakfast item like burritos or egg roll ups to my meal prep, it keeps mornings simple and takes a load off on dishes!
Set your Clothes out – Ever sat in front of your closet and couldn’t decide what to wear? Yep! On average, it takes us 10 minutes longer to get dressed and ready for the day if we don’t already have our clothes picked out. Before you go to bed, try to go through everything you’ll wear the next day, including socks, shoes, and any accessories, then set them aside near where you normally get dressed. You’ll have everything right there in one spot instead of going back and forth to different drawers.
Pack Bags and Backpacks – Kids have homework last night and leave everything scattered all over the table? Can’t find your wallet or forgot where you put your keys? You definitely don’t want to risk being late in the morning because you were searching for these items. Instead, pack your purse, backpacks, or any bag you’ll need the next day and set them by the door. You’ll be so thankful the next morning when you remember your keys are where you actually intended to put them!
Clean – Think about all the morning motions you go through that involve cleaning. The dirty clothes, laundry, dishes, picking up here and there. Before bedtime, try to pick items off the floor, unload the dishwasher, or start a new load of laundry in the washer. It’ll put you one extra step ahead of the game tomorrow.
Set your Alarm – Yes, yes, it’s a given. But I’m not talking about your average wake up call. I have 3 alarms set in the morning. 1. To wake up (of course) 2. Time to eat breakfast and 3. To start heading out the door. When the second alarm goes off, we know we should be dressed and in the kitchen. By the third alarm, we’re all ready to head out. Planning what you’ll have accomplished in between alarms is key. It’s helped us to wake up and be dressed before breakfast time, then after breakfast, finish up hair and anything that needs attention before we leave.
Eliminate TV Time – It’s so easy to get sucked into electronics, and so hard to pull yourself (and kids) out of them! Skip the hassle and opt into an electronic free morning. Instead, if you have free time, make it a habit to start up an interesting conversation together, study spelling words, or even do morning chores!
Make a List – Many adults suffer from lack of sleep and much of it can be due to overthinking. Have a notebook and pen by your side at bedtime. Take 5 minutes and go through the motions of today and tomorrow and write down anything that you need to accomplish or what comes to mind. This will help empty your brain before bedtime, making you feel less stressed and more relaxed. Plus, when you wake up, you’ll have your goals set without having to think about it all over again!
Plan for Lunch the Day Before – This has been an absolute game changer in our house. Not only does it save time in the mornings, but it also saves us a ton of money in the long run. No more trying to throw a quick sandwich together or just giving up altogether and going out for lunch. This trick will save you from even going out AND save you money on groceries! The day before, start thinking about what you can make for lunch, think about things that are just sitting in your fridge waiting to be eaten. Maybe throw a chicken salad together, or a cheese quesadilla with salsa. Grab some fruit and a couple pieces of celery with peanut butter, it pays to get creative! Prepare all lunches while you’re making dinner the night before and have it ready to pack in the fridge.
Adopt a Ritual – Not a morning person? I feel you, I do! What helped me turn from night owl to morning rooster was a change in my pace and outlook on mornings. Turns out, I was staying up a little too late and not getting anything accomplished at night, which made me cranky in the morning. Try going to bed or settling down an hour or 2 earlier so you can get a little extra shut eye. Then, if you’re feeling spontaneous enough, start getting up a little earlier each day to maybe indulge in a cup of coffee or enjoy a few minutes to yourself. Make it a ritual to do something you enjoy in the mornings too! This will help your body kind of stress down and rev up for the day.
Leave Room for Mishaps – Of course you’re not going to be able to implicate every single one of these steps tomorrow morning. There will be days where you forget about your lunch, or your alarm doesn’t go off. Nobody and no day is ever perfect 100% of the time. It’s all about balance. Adding one simple step each day will help produce healthy and productive habits.
Taking a road trip with your family is a great way to spend quality time together. You get to learn new things, see new places, and gain new experiences! Some of the most memorable times I have as a child are when we were on the road, our longest road trip was even 18 hours! Now as a parent, I know it can get expensive fast if you don’t have a plan in tact. Plus, when traveling with little ones and even the older kiddos they get bored SO easily. Last year, our family took a 3-day road trip (with 4 kids) and we learned quickly that we needed to implement some organization and budgeting into our vacation! So, I set out to find the best tricks, games and tips to keep the kids occupied and adults happy that they’re saving money while taking a road trip!
Because.. WHO doesn’t like saving money? More vacations, right?
Make a Plan – Whether it’s a day trip or a week-long trip. Make. A. Plan. Write down every place you’re planning on going, and have it mapped out on paper so everyone is aware of what’s happening. If you have it all written and planned out, you’re more likely to stick to it. Make sure to include stops in between for gas, bathroom breaks, or even that gigantic taco museum on the way! Making a plan will eliminate any room for sudden splurges on food or events. We like to bring a pocket folder and include everything we plan on using the entire trip.. Coupons, tickets, gift cards, etc.
Never Pay for Breakfast – Breakfast is the cheapest and easiest meal of the day to supply. Whether you like eggs, cereal, bacon, granola bars, donuts, cinnamon rolls, or even breakfast burritos, you can prep all these things before hand and have them ready to grab for breakfast time! This also takes the hectic out of the morning if you’re planning on heading back out on the road. BONUS: Check with your hotel to see if they offer free breakfast! Most hotels offer cereal, bagels, and even sausage and eggs!
Keep the Kids Happy – Usually within 30 minutes of driving, our kids are known to get bored and start resorting to saying things like “Can we stop somewhere?” or “I’m hungry”. We like to create a personal bag and folder for each of the kids that include snacks, drinks, and activities throughout the trip. The activities range for each child as they are all different ages. The younger children have coloring pages and number sheets, while the older kids have scavenger hunts and wordsearches. When packing the snack bag, we lay out all the available snacks and drinks on the counter and let each kid pick 6 or 7 snacks and 2 or 3 drinks (depending on the duration of the trip) to fill up their bag. This way they get to choose something they know they won’t waste later and they take responsibility for their choices.
Combine your Expenses – Planning on going to a waterpark or an amusement park? Do some research on your destination to see if they offer discounts on hotels or dining. Some places usually have packages that include admission to their park AND nightly stays at a nearby hotel. You can save on gas, lodging, and fun!
Fill up – Before you leave for your trip, make sure your gas tank is filled up, or you’re planning to get gas first thing after you leave. Then, try only to refill when you’re almost on empty or getting close. This eliminates any extra gas station expenses such as drinks, snacks, or unwanted and overpriced gas station “souvenirs”. (You can purchase souvenirs on your time!)
Plan for error – Always have a tiny budget set aside for any surprises you may have along the way. This will help you budget in things that pop up along the way like a restaurant you’ve always wanted to try that you didn’t know was along the way or say there was an unexpected parking fee you had to pay. An extra $75-$100 does it for us. Considering admission to anywhere per person is usually at least $12, or the average meal per person could be anywhere from $7 to $20. Pick an amount that works for your family.
Have Fun – Literally! Don’t stress about everything going perfect the entire trip. Sure, maybe the hotel you choose may not be as “4 star” as the reviews stated, or you ended up making an extra stop for windshield fluid. You can always tailor your plans if you need to. The most important factor in road trips are quality time with the people you love! So, put on a show, throw in a sing-a-long CD, or even put together a road sign scavenger hunt. These are the memories that stick with your kids for their lifetime.