Budgeting for entertainment is doable. Especially when you're single. Hang out with friend without going to crazy expensive concerts. Cut how much you eat out. Seek out happy hours for drinks. Small events with lower ticket prices are doable.
But when you have a family, suddenly every single cost is multiplied. If you have two kids and a partner, you can multiply even those lower-cost attraction and event tickets by four. Eating out at all suddenly becomes a complete budget buster. And entertainment geared towards children has prices inflated to the price they know parents will pay to make their kids' childhood fun and memorable.
There are ways to have a fun, fulfilling family life without boredom or financial ruin. Getting creative and seeking out money saving opportunities can allow everyone to have relationship-building experiences that won't bust the bank.
Schedule a Family Night
Designate one night per week that is family night. The night may have to switch with seasons depending on your kids' extracurriculars, but setting one night a week where no one goes out, has a sleepover, or picks up any extra work can do wonders for building family relationships.
What do you do on these nights? The sky is your limit! Play board games. Put on a play. Make a craft. Do a hands-on, kid-friendly science experiment. If you run out of ideas, run to Pinterest where you'll find no shortage of fun ideas to riff off of. If you have children that are old enough and capable, have everyone participate in the planning process. Setting up a rotating schedule for planning responsibilities each week allows everyone to showcase their own favorite activity, and will take a little more stress off of you as a parent.
Seek Out Lower Cost (or Free!) EventsIt's amazing how many free events are out there. Many of them will be one-time or seasonal, though, so you'll have to do the leg work to seek them out. If you're in ACT, a great page to check out is the local government's event page.
Right now, you could take the family to see the Warlpiri Drawings at the National Museum for free, or you could take them to a free movie screening at the National Portrait Gallery on May 9. (This specific screening is for Beneath Hill 60, so this particular event is better for families with older children.) You could also take a free, behind-the-scenes tour of The National Portrait Gallery on May 17, or take a free trip to the Mt Stromlo Observatory on May 22nd to get a closer look at the stars.
There are opportunities for low-cost, quality, out-of-the-house fun and learning; you just have to be willing to look for them.
Make Meal Time Fun
Eating out can be a real temptation, but it can be detrimental to your budget. When it's treated as an occasional treat, it can be fun, but affording it regularly can be a nightmare. To make meals at home more entertaining, get everyone involved at age-appropriate levels. Have younger children help mix pre-measured ingredients. As they get older, they can measure them themselves. As they get older still, they'll be able to cook for the family as they've grown up learning how to do it. I don't know any parent that wouldn't enjoy that!
During warmer months, take your meals outside. Whether you're packing up a picnic or simply having dinner on your patio, getting outdoors to eat can spice up your regular routine.
Getting everyone involved in meal planning is a fun option, too. You can use the experience as an exercise in budgeting and grocery shopping, and also have a lot of fun trying new foods that you wouldn't normally cook.
How do you keep your family entertained on a budget?