Family Bonding on a Budget

You’re stressed out from work and looking for a little family R and R but the wallet looks pretty slim these days. Beyond the normal freebies – going for a walk, picnic in the park, trip to the beach – what kind of fun can a family have on a limited budget? Plenty.

1. Our family has recently scored with bowling. On a Saturday afternoon, a couple of games at the local bowling alley can cost upwards of $50 for a family of four, but many locations offer special rates at off peak times like Sunday mornings and after 9pm on weekdays. One place near us charges just $1.50 a game on Sundays from 9am – 12pm, plus they have lightweight bowling balls and bumpers so kids of any age can join the fun.

2. Many museums offer a free day once a month and some are just plain free. You can check http://www.freemuseumday.org/ for free days in major cities or call local museums to see if they have a free day or offer any discounts on admission. Our favorite freebie in the LA area is Travel Town at Griffith Park. Chock full of massive steam engines from the glory days of railroading it is a train lover’s dream! See www.traveltown.org for details.

3. We are fortunate to live in a city with a large Park and Recreation department featuring an Activity Center and gymnasium for public use. The Activity Center features ping pong, pool, Wii, air hockey and various board games free for anyone to use. The gym charges a $2 fee for access to two indoor basketball courts. Check with your local Park and Recreation to see what’s available in your area and get your game on!

4. You can go green for cheap with a trip to a state park. Admission fees vary but are seldom more than $10 and get you a whole day of fun taking in the natural wonders your state has to offer. For not much more, you can enjoy an entire year of fun with an annual permit. National parks are also reasonably priced or even free. Many parks also offer special programs about the park, it’s inhabitants and it’s history. Visit www.nps.gov for national park information and your state Department of Natural Resources website for state parks in your area.

Family bonding doesn’t have to break the bank. Sometimes the best memories don’t cost a dime.