Summer vacation may feel like a distant memory, but time flies. Winter break is right around the corner, then spring break, and before you know it, it’ll be summertime again.
It’s great to have the kids the home, but needing to account for them 24 hours a day can strain your budget. After all, your kids have to eat, need entertainment, and should ideally get some educational stimulation, too.
As a parent, though, you have the opportunity to be creative, finding fun and fulfilling activities to stretch your dollars as far as possible while giving your kids a wonderful time.
Here are some options for saving money with activities both at home and away from the house, plus tips to save on shopping and other expenses while your kids are home. If you follow along, you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars while having a lot of fun with your family.
Look into museum and zoo memberships
A day for a family of four at a zoo or museum adds up quickly. At my closest zoo, adult admission is $18 and kids are $10, plus $8 for parking. Membership for a family includes admission and free parking, and usually two or three visits will put you ahead. Then you can go back again and again.
The same works for many museums, amusement parks, and other attractions. When I was in middle school, my parents happily paid for my amusement park season pass. I used it twice to break even, then used it many more times throughout the season.
Head to the park
Local parks are often underrated. They offer acres to explore, play, exercise, and more. Teaching your kids to sit in the shade under a tree reading a book is a gift that will last a lifetime.
Remember, you can bring along a picnic or other goodies to add a little more fun to your park experience. Parks are also good for playgroups with younger kids, or sports and games as the kids get a bit older. There’s no limit to what you can do outside!
Ride bikes and take hikes
Biking and hiking require a one-time investment for hours and hours of use.
For a bike, you just need the bike itself and a helmet and you’re off! For hiking, you just need some shoes or boots, water bottles, and some snacks. Both offer great exercise and plenty of vitamin D.
For a fun twist on the experience, consider geocaching. Some explorers place little secret containers of goodies around the world. These containers are called geocaches, and using a free geocaching app, you can take your kids on adventures to find them in local parks or hiking areas.
You never know what you’ll find!
Do some science projects
If your kids enjoy getting their hands a little dirty from time to time, you can give them a fun, messy experience that is both educational and exciting. And even better, you can put together a fun science project with your kids from items you probably already have around the house.
Last year, homemade slime recipes were a popular project for young kids. You can also make a vinegar and baking soda volcano, homemade rock candy, and a lot more. Be creative and look to parenting sites for giant lists of ideas that are both entertaining and educational.
Install a smart thermostat
While your kids are hanging around the house over the summer, they might want to crank the air conditioner up to full blast. While it keeps the house nice and cool, it can also quickly run up your electricity bill along.
A smart thermostat helps you keep your energy use low by adding schedules to turn the air down during the day or when your family is out of the house. You can save even more by taking advantage of features that detect if someone is home.
Also, if your kids do turn up the AC, you have the option to control your thermostat remotely from your smartphone. Finally, some smart thermostats also give you an option to opt-in to plans with participating power utilities to automatically adjust your temperature based on power pricing and environmental needs.
Learn about student loans
How about saving some money while setting up your kids to do the same in the future?
If you are helping your kids pay for school (or will be in the near future), it’s great to do some research into student loans. While your kids are home, you can work together to understand how loans work and make sure they understand key personal finance concepts like compound interest. You may even decide to switch to a loan that fits you better for the following year.
Also, any season is a good time to refinance your student loans. You may save tens of thousands of dollars. Learn more about refinancing and get your rate in just a few minutes here.
Shop for food in bulk
Last, but not least, is your food budget. Extra kids in the house means extra mouths to feed.
Do your best to keep food costs low by shopping smart. Look for specials, coupons, and opportunities to buy in bulk to save. In some cases, a Costco or Sam’s Club membership may pay for itself quickly when you head to your favorite warehouse club to buy in bulk.
Also consider online bulk shopping stores like Boxed.com. Those savings can add up quickly!
Balance fun and smart spending for great family time
Vacation is a great time for family experiences. With the right focus on your budget, you can give your family a wonderful time without going broke. Once you have the finances figured out, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy.