Guest post from Amy:
My husband and I didn’t start our marriage making the best financial decisions. We were very young and made many mistakes. Unfortunately, those choices have resulted in us needing to live on a shoestring budget as we crawl our way out of the debt we accrued.
This means several things for our family. One big way it affects us now is that there really isn’t a budget for extras, like extracurricular activities for our children.
We have four kids, and as much as we’d love to put them in every sport, art class, and music lesson out there, when you live on one income and are trying to reach financial goals, it’s not always feasible.
Here are the top 5 ways we are still able to expose our kids to a variety of fun, educational, and enriching activities where they will experience new things, make good memories, and hopefully even learn a new skill or two.
1. The Local Library
This is by far my favorite resource for family fun!
Our local library offers things such as Pokemon Go club, family lego nights, knitting lessons, book clubs, story times, holiday events, concerts, and even showings of popular movies-all for free!
Check your library website, or better yet, go in and talk to the employees at the information desk! They are often a wealth of untapped knowledge!
2. The Local Community Center
Our local parks and rec department puts out a really nice calendar a few times a year with all of the upcoming events, classes, clubs, camps, and more. I look for it excitedly each season!
Our community center offers a HUGE variety of classes for all ages — from babies and toddlers to senior citizens. They also have information on free museum admission days, concerts and movies in the park, local holiday events, and so much more. The best part is, a lot of these events are free!
What isn’t free is typically far less expensive than paying for private lessons elsewhere.
3. Nature Centers
Most towns have some sort of nature center, wildlife preserve, or something similar. I’ve found these have a plethora of free fun and educational activities.
In my hometown, the nature center offered a free “mommy and me” class once a month with a themed story, short lesson, craft, and even a nature walk. They also offered a free gardening club and a frugal Saturday nature club for elementary aged kids.
The city where we live now has a wildlife preserve that offers a free class once a month for preschoolers where they do a craft, read a story, and get outside and explore.
I’d be willing to bet if you search out your local nature center, you’ll find some awesome resources as well. Gardening club may not be what you had in mind when you sought out extracurricular activities for your kids, but it teaches a wonderful skill, as well as getting your child (and maybe even yourself!) outside in the fresh air and sunshine.
4. Retail Stores
Another resource you may or may not be familiar with are programs offered in retail stores. Home Depot, Michael’s, Pottery Barn, Toys R Us, Lego stores, Barnes and Noble, and more offer free or VERY inexpensive activities and in-store events for kids.
Be sure to check local craft stores, home improvement stores, book stores, and toy stores to see what all is offered in your town. These events are often underrated and a great way to get out of the house, have a little fun, and maybe even learn a new skill!
5. Think Outside the Box
If you have a budding olympic athlete or a musical prodigy on your hands and some of the above suggestions won’t cut it, consider speaking with the owner or instructor at the place you’d like to enroll your child and ask about scholarships, discount programs, or maybe the possibility of picking up a part time job working the front desk or cleaning the gym in order to cover the cost of lessons.
If your child is old enough, you could also use this as a prime opportunity to learn about the value of money and working hard to earn something you want. You could help your child start a dog walking business or open a booth at a craft fair and have them put a portion of their earnings toward their lessons.
The solution isn’t always right in front of us, but if we get creative, put on our thinking cap, and decide we want to make it happen, very often we can achieve what we set out to do.
I realize this isn’t an exhaustive list, but I hope it’s enough to get the wheels turning and help you find some low cost extracurriculars in your area!
Utilizing some of the methods above has allowed us to expose our kids to a wide variety of activities and experiences without compromising our financial goals. It’s been a blessing to our family to do some of these free and inexpensive activities giving us the opportunity to have fun with our kids and save money at the same time.
My name is Amy and I’m a married homeschooling mama of 4 wonderful kiddos-ages 1, 3, 4, and 8! I just began working as the publisher for our local Macaroni Kid website, which is a great resource for parents in our community. It’s been a challenging and rewarding experience thus far. I love to read, write, and am a caffeine addict!