Back in the day, we used to be a “Chuckie Cheese” kind of family.
That’s just what you did when a child’s birthday came around, right? GO somewhere to have a party, spend lots of money, completely overstimulate yourself and your children and collapse at home when it was over. We certainly knew of no other fun way to celebrate our kid’s birthdays.
The thought of home party with homemade cake with “pin the tail on the donkey” games sounded totally lame! Who would want to attend that party?
It’s funny how life goes. Only a few short years later, when I was pregnant with child #3, I found myself collecting peanut butter jars from all my friends to make a craft for my then 3 year-old’s birthday party. Me? A craft? Surely you jest. Funny as most people who know me would find that statement to be, we were actually collecting big cardboard boxes to make a carnival-type party. Talk about cheap! My goal was a blast of a birthday party for under $25. The kids still talk about that one, how long after the party they kept those big boxes and played with them. That was almost 16 years ago.
At that point in our marriage, my husband and I had decided that our debt must go in order for us to be free. For 3 1/2 years, we scrimped and saved, cut and pinched and squeezed the life out of every penny until our debt was finally paid off in January 1996. What a day it was!
Once you get out of debt, you never want to go back. However, when you get out of debt, your lifestyle needs to change permanently if you plan to stay out of debt. If it doesn’t, you’ll be right back where you were financially, or even in worse shape, sooner than later.
Lifestyle changes like eliminating expensive entertainment options are an easy place to start. However, a little creativity and patience will go a long way, especially if you follow the model I described at the beginning of the post.
Before we moved to the farm, we frequented parks, looked for coupons for play places and got movies from the library. We felt pretty good about this progress and rightfully so. This was a big step for us as we began to move away from the standard forms of entertainment and the expenses that it incurred.
Towards the end of our time in the suburbs, we purchased a fire pit. Enjoying s’mores became a favorite pastime for us as we dreamed about living in the country someday.
Fast forward a couple of years and now we’re out in the country!
All of a sudden, our entertainment sources changed and it was a good thing. The cost and time involved in driving to town is more of a consideration. Now was the time to make our home the primary source of entertainment.
Living out in the country with woods, trails, a creek and at least 9 million critters to chase provides plenty of entertainment in my mind. We installed a nice basketball hoop for the big boys. Yet, I still find that the children, like all children I suppose, complaining that they don’t have anything to do. They often begin nagging me right after breakfast about where they can go! I still have my work cut out for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I do encourage my children to entertain themselves i.e. “mandatory play time“. We also belong to a wonderful pool community, but it’s a bit of a drive now and a lot of work to get there. As Mom, I need to be intentional about providing opportunities for the kids to enjoy and take advantage of our new lifestyle.
One idea I’ve had that I thought would build wonderful memories is making homemade ice cream. Last week, I picked up a little ice cream maker at Aldi for about $20. It only made a quart, but I didn’t want to invest much until I got rave reviews from my family. The rave reviews came, they loved making and eating homemade ice cream.
I have great memories of this when I was a kid at my aunt’s house. Making ice cream is just good old-fashioned entertainment! With the ridiculous price of ice cream right now, it won’t take me long to recover my investment.
Campfires are another inexpensive, memory-building entertainment options for the family. You can roast marshmallows, watch the stars and just catch up and relax. Money spent: $0
If you are fortunate to have a pond or some water nearby, make use of it. Go fishing with the kids, paddle boat and enjoy! (Yeah, we need to get some new lifejackets!)
Hiking, critter collecting, climbing trees, making forts, identifying plants, birds and flowers can all be fun and inexpensive. You may need to do a little re-training with the kids as to what is defined as ‘entertainment’, as I am still working on. Creating new habits only take about 28 days to sink into the brain. By planning a month of homesteading fun, you might be setting yourself up for a welcome change in your family…and your budget.