The following article is by Kristi Muse, our staff writer. She is a freelance writer, blogger, police officer’s wife, and stay at home mom of two. To read more about how she tries to live a balanced life visit her website at Moderate Muse.
Life as a parent can be chaotic, stressful, and tiring. Between work and school work, it’s easy to drift apart from your kids. My husband is both a Navy reservist and a police office. He works three weekends a month, along with his regular duty schedule for work and about 90 hours overtime a month. In short, he works hard to provide for us, but he is hardly home.
Due to the nature of his police schedule, he is home after our kids are asleep and gone again before they wake up. We will sometimes go 72 hour stretches without seeing him. When we leave to visit family, he can’t always come with us. My four year old daughter has started asking questions like “Why can’t daddy be home like other daddies?” She didn’t really know any different in the first few years of her life, but now that she is getting older and more aware, we have really been struggling with some separation anxiety issues she is having when her daddy goes to work. She cries every time he walks out the door.
The truth is that my husband loves his work. Even though he isn’t be home on weekends or holidays, and our vacation time has to be scheduled a year in advance, he loves being able to help people. I love that my husband is passionate about his job, but it breaks my heart to see our four year old struggling so much with his erratic schedule.
In an effort to help her work through his absences, we have been focusing on quality family outings when he is home. We are on a terribly tight budget though. We don’t have the extra money to spend on too many activities. We do have favorite budget friendly activities though, for the days that he is home. Here are 10 budget friendly family outings that we enjoy.
Here are our 10 favorite budget friendly ways to have family time
- Going to the library
Visiting the library is always great fun with the kids. They love the craft and story times and picking out a giant stack of books to bring home. It’s even close enough to enjoy a walk to on nice days.
- Exploring national and state parks
National and State parks are a really affordable way to get out and explore something new. Many locations only make you pay a minimal fee for parking. We love finding new parks and picking a different trail every time to explore with our kids. We pack trail snacks, bring binoculars, and our daughter pretends that she is going on an adventure.
One of my favorite memories as a kid was staying up late to watch meteor showers with my dad. We sat on a picnic blanket for hours just talking, waiting, and watching the stars fall.
I want my kids to have their own version of this memory, so we are just now starting to teach our 4 year old how to look for some constellations. We also take drives deeper into the countryside so that she can see the stars without the light pollution from our neighborhood.
- Visit museums or historical sites
We are lucky enough to live just a few hours away from the many free museums and monuments in D.C. and a short drive to the historic triangle. It doesn’t cost us very much money to take our kids to some pretty amazing locations.
Most bowling alleys have discounted prices for off-peak hours. By going before 5:00 on a Monday, we are able to take the whole family bowling for the same as the cost of one person on a Friday night.
Our kids love it when we all head out for a morning of fishing. An annual adult fishing license varies in price by state, but they are fairly inexpensive. Sometimes we even end up bringing dinner home.
- Going out for ice cream cones
Small cones from the local ice cream shop only cost $1.50. So for $3 my husband and daughter can enjoy a one-on-one father/daughter date together.
- Hitting golf balls at the driving range
If your kids are anything like mine, they love hitting things. The driving range is great fun and an excellent way to get off steam. At a nearby golf course, it only costs $14.00 to drive 180 golf balls.
- Matinée movies
Any movies we do get out to see with our kids are a Matinée show. By saving money on tickets, we can justify allowing our kids to play in the arcade and getting something from the concession stand (usually a slushy).
- Going to the zoo or aquarium
If you live near to a zoo or aquarium, consider paying for a season pass. We made the investment, and our kids love seeing the animals. Our visits are frequent enough that they more than cover the cost of the tickets for the year.
Our outings have really been helping our daughter to realize that daddy loves her, even though he can’t always be home. She still has some issues we’re working through, but we are trying our best. We don’t want to let our thin wallet stop us from having quality family time and creating lasting memories. We have learned to reconnect when we can, however we can afford, and without letting our budget dictate the quality of the time spent with our kids.
Do you have a favorite budget friendly way to spend time with your kids?