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8 Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy this Summer Without Going Broke



For those of you with school age kids, you’ll know that because of the timing of labour day this year, many school boards have opted for one of the longest summer breaks ever. Nine full weeks!

Our neighborhood seems to empty out every summer as families head up to their cottages. Although buying a cottage is on my ‘to do’ list it isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. It’s just the idea of spending nine full weeks trying to keep them from killing each other has me little worried. Oh, I’ve been tempted to try what my parents did. “Go outside and don’t come back until dinner.”, which lasts about an hour in a neighborhood void of other kids before they start watching me through the windows. I knew we needed a plan.

Here are 8 frugal ideas we came up with to keep the kids busy this summer without going broke.

  1. Go on ‘free’ day! Most museums and art galleries have a free day a week. Check out your local museum and art gallery websites and make a plan when you want to visit each one.
  2. Check out your local library. Libraries have more than books. They have movies, music, free activities for kids and summer reading clubs. Many libraries, including the Ottawa Public Library lend out (for free!) a museum pass for a family of 5 to visit 10 museums. (Let us know in the comment section if your city library provides this service.)
  3. Consider getting a summer pass to the local pool or children’s museum. Every year we get a summer pass to the local pool. I did the math on it and figured it took 12 visits to pay itself off. Considering we spend nearly every afternoon there, it is well worth the money. Another year we got a pass to the local children’s museum. It paid itself off after 3 visits and was a great place to spend rainy days.
  4. Split holidays to save money on daycare. If you each get 3 weeks holiday a year and you’re each willing to take two different weeks in the summer to stay home with the kids, that’s 4 whole weeks of savings on day-camps. Day-camps around here average $180-$250 a week per child! By splitting some of your holidays, that’s a lot of savings in addition to giving you some great one on one time with your kids.
  5. Play. Go for a bike ride. Try geocaching. Visit your local parks. Pack a picnic. Try Frisbee or soccer. Go for a hike. Turn on the sprinkler. Drive to the beach. Play a board game. Bake cookies. There are lots of free activities to do with your kids if you’re willing and able to get out and find them.
  6. Volunteer your time. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen once a week. Offer to visit an elderly neighbor. Try a weekly park clean-up. Volunteering with your kids will not only help the time pass quickly, it will also build into their character.
  7. Visit out of town family. You’ll have to pay for the travel but once you’re there food and lodging is minimal if you’re staying with family. Just be sure to reciprocate when they come to town.
  8. Make a plan. We get out a big family calendar at this time of year and begin filling in the days. We plan what days we’ll be out of town visiting family, what day camps they’ll be attending and what days we’ll go to museums. We get to the library once a week to fill up on new books and check out what’s available that week. When you have a plan, and know what you’re doing, you’re less likely to over-spend in the moment.

What are some of the ways you keep your kids busy in the summer without going broke?

Kathryn works in public relations and training for a non profit. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Her passions include personal finance and adult education. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.





13 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. 1. cannon_fodder

    Our kids are old enough to be independent and self-reliant (i.e. they have cellphones and computers), but when they were smaller they were just as happy going to a local hotel that had a swimming pool than flying somewhere to a resort.

    Especially in these tough times, a hotel stay can be had for less than $100 and it only costs a few bucks to drive there. Factor in a dinner (pizza and pop sitting on the bed while watching TV was a real treat) and breakfast and you have a very cheap outing compared to flying off somewhere.

    You could take a few mini-breaks throughout the summer for far less than the cost of flying let alone the resort costs.

    Another idea won’t apply to many places in Canada because they’ve almost disappeared – but any adult in their 40′s knows how great drive-ins were.

    Getting dressed in your pyjamas and playing outside on the swings at dusk? Yes!

    Hunkering down in a sleeping bag while watching a movie on a BIG screen?
    Yes!

    Eating popcorn and hot dogs and drinking pop swearing that you were going to stay up all night to watch the 3 movies? Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

    The drive-in near us (and we live in the Greater Toronto Area) has Thursday evenings where it only costs $15 per vehicle regardless of the number of people. They advertise that their concession prices are 20% cheaper than traditional movie theatres but I know that many people bring in their own food (whether its because of cost or just concern over food allergies or hygiene).

    Just remember to start flashing your headlights when the movie hasn’t started and it is still dark – that’s the way to show the projector room you want the movies to begin.

  2. 2. DavidV

    Toronto libraries have started to give out passes to places. But it seems to work that every week a branch has x to give out. So if you get there on Wednesday, they are likely gone.

  3. 3. Dharma

    Instead of taking an expensive getaway as a couple, my hubs and I send our kids to camp for a week through the summer. It is roughly 1/2 the cost of a Carribean vacation. They get the experiences of a lifetime and we get our week away alone.

    We also do work for one week up north on a family cottage to offset the cost of rental. Staycations rule.

  4. I really like the idea of renting a local hotel room and treating it like a vacation. How convenient…. St. John’s just received their first SPG hotel. :)

  5. 5. Rusty

    Good call on the geocaching! Also try disc golfing! It’s free at most places ie. city parks.

  6. 6. Kathryn

    Disc golfing? Sounds interesting. I’ve never heard of it. I’ll have to look it up. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Love the idea of a stay-cation too!

  7. 7. craig

    There are a lot of free activities for kids to do, especially boys. Playing ball, belonging to clubs and free community events all are worthwhile.

  8. Great Ideas – I don’t have any kids, but I can definitely use some time at the library – read and relax this summer.

  9. 9. mattyfu

    I live in Edmonton and all summer long there are festivals and always see lots of families out enjoying the sun and free entertainment.

    I also think if you can get your kids interested in cooking then a trip to the farmers market combined with a fresh new ingredient can make for a fun cheap day.

  10. 10. Yuva

    Great plan, but unfortunately kids are glued towards computer games and television and seldom they are interested in visiting relatives.

  11. Great tips.

    If you can’t afford to go away on vacation consider pitching a tent in the backyard and having your own camping night. The kids will love it, especially if the parents aren’t allowed to sleep over, as it seems like a real adventure even though its right in the back yard.

  12. 12. Rachel

    # 9. Summer Science projects for kids-here is the link to a list of a variety of websites that provide educational information and fun science projects for kids that will keep them busy during the summer holidays. Take a look. http://cbt20.wordpress.com/2009/07/20/summer-science-project-for-kids/

  13. 13. used tires

    Wow, as I am in college I don’t really notice the school vacations, but I guess the kids are lucky this year in that they have a longer vacation… too bad the weather isn’t all that nice up here in the northeast. With the economy the way it is, its hard to find ways to keep your kids happy and busy in the summer… to add to your list, the park is always an option. Its free and it can be quite fun for kids, with swings and such.

    Till then,

    Jean

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