I want to send a huge thank you to our readers who showed up in-person and tuned in online last week to hear me speak about affordable family fun for Cricket Wireless!

Cricket Tips experts
Photo courtesy of Jeff Rose.

I had a blast meeting Nicole Diaz from Funthusiast and Jeff Rose from Wise Bread and Good Financial Cents (check out his book, Soldier of Finance, if you need a good starting place to learn about managing your credit and investments). You all asked some really great questions about family life and finances, so I wanted to offer a quick recap of some of the highlights from our chat.

Simple tips for affordable family fun

I grew up near Seattle where there wasn't a ton in the way of outdoor entertainment. However, my mom was a flight attendant so we'd often tag along on her trips and have a free place to stay. I got used to a pretty well-traveled lifestyle that wouldn't have otherwise been financially possible for us.

Nate's family focused most of their extra time on school activities and sports. Like many families, their money was primarily reserved for essentials like clothes, food and housing. Luxurious vacations definitely weren't the norm.

When we had kids of our own, there was a bit of a learning curve in figuring out what worked well for us, marrying our (nonexistent) budget with my desire to see the world and Nate's desire to develop new skillsets as a family. We learned to break away from society's traditional view of family fun and redefine adventure on our own terms.

  • Think outside the airport/hotel room/theme park. Get in the car and just drive! Gas isn't cheap, but you can cut costs by being prepared with snacks and extra clothes. Check out free camping spots on freecampsites.net. You can camp for free on almost any Bureau of Land Management property or National Forests (the downside to this is that there usually aren’t bathrooms available, but you make do).
  • Community Resources. Check out events calendars on local resource sites such as Red Tricycle. If you find yourself with the family in an unfamiliar area, you can use the Yelp app to quickly compare nearby options and get insider tips so that your money is well-spent.
  • Coupon Cleverly. Don't get sucked into “stocking up” on Groupons that aren't a fit for you. Seek out deals and discounts only when you have a specific activity in mind. Search online and ask for recommendations on Facebook. You may be surprised how many of your friends have hookups at local entertainment spots, or even free tickets laying around that they don’t have a chance to use. You should also leverage any professional associations you have. Many employers and colleges have access to discounted tickets for their staff and students.
  • Put Them To Work. Don’t forget that your kids can work – and they might even enjoy it! Around our house, harvesting oranges and taking care of goats is playtime. With a competitive spirit, you can turn even the most menial of activities into a fun game.
  • Stay Home. Don’t feel the need to always be on the go. Stay home! Watch a movie and create crafts from old toilet paper tubes. Build a fort. Read a book. Play board games.

Family fun doesn’t need to be extravagant – you just need to have the whole family there, which I think is the biggest challenge in affordable family fun. We get so caught up in keeping up with the Joneses and making money to provide interesting experiences for our kids that we don’t stop and give them the thing they need most: attention from us.