Being on a budget, even a tight one, doesn't mean you have to sacrifice quality family time. A little creativity, some advance planning, and your enthusiasm are often all you need to create good family memories.
Things to Do at Home
If the weather outside is frightful, don't think the TV and video games are the only ways to beat boredom:
- Family picnics: Have lunch on a colorful blanket in the family room. It's amazing how an indoor picnic makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich taste that much better.
- Build a city: Chairs and blankets transform any rainy day into a magical kingdom in anyone's home. Once it's built, have lunch and story time in your new world. If it's dark outside, take flashlights into your tent and have yummy snacks and campfire stories.
- Games: Card games, board games, or indoor hide and seek keep boredom at bay.
- Bake a memory: Bake with your children and help them enhance their math and reading skills. Plus, you all get a tasty reward for your efforts.
Take It Outside
When you play together as a family, you not only create family unity, but wonderful teaching moments for parents. Set time aside and take it outside.
- Camping: If you don't have your own gear, check with the Army MWR to find out what you can rent at minimum cost. Also get a list of MWR- or MCCS-run campsites, cabins, beach cottages, and other recreational facilities located all over the country.
- Use your parks: Local parks offer opportunities to picnic (from a full-on Sunday fried-chicken dinner to a snack of granola bars or homemade cookies) and play (badminton, Frisbee, or plain old catch). Walk on the beach or by a river, feed the birds or chipmunks, hike in the woods, or ride your bikes around — you'll promote fitness and find that it costs very little to spend quality time with your family. Tuck some treats in your fanny pack, stop for ice cream on the way back, or have popcorn and apples when you get home.
Look Where You Live
Many towns offer museums, festivals, recreation areas, and other activities at little or no cost. Look for an entertainment paper or a city's web site to find out what's offered in your area.
Take advantage of stores and shopping malls. Window-shopping with your children teaches them prudent purchasing and frugality, and helps you create the perfect birthday or Christmas wish list. Children learn you don't have to buy every time you go to the store.
Check out surrounding towns. With a little budgeting, weekend trips are a refreshing change of pace and can offer your family a mini-vacation.
On Base and ITT
Discounts on movies, theme parks, and other events are available at the ITT ticket office on base. And most bases offer other activities for your family such as bowling alleys, movie theaters, stables, pools, and boat marinas. There are often lessons offered for different activities for both youth and adults at a reasonable cost.
Choose a good book or a short story to read as a family. Use different voices or act out some of the scenes. A love of literature is a wonderful legacy to leave to your children. Your local librarian is a valuable resource to help select your first reading adventure.
No matter what you do, do it with enthusiasm and you'll be building close relationships and warm memories for the most important people — your family.