Without Breaking the Bank

There are always inexpensive ways to have fun together.

It’s that time of year when costs can seem to spiral. The new school term means paying out for new clothes, shoes and stationery, back to work means factoring in the need for childcare and, for many, summer holiday debts now need to be paid. That can leave family fun a pretty low priority when it comes to managing the budget. However, even if you haven’t got a lot to work with there are still way to have good times together as a family without breaking the bank.

Cooking at home

There’s something about cooking with the family that always makes for a bonding experience. It’s messy, it’s creative and it produces a sense of teamwork when you all pull together and create something you can enjoy eating. It’s also one of those activities that tempts even bigger kids to get involved (food is a motivation for most people…). Plus, it’s cheap so you can easily have a healthy family diet on a budget. You can create a cake with just eggs, flour, sugar and butter or make pizzas with flour, oil and water bases and passata covered with cheese. Not only that but you’re also passing on a skill that’s always going to come in useful.

Family memberships

Most organizations offer a family membership that will give you discounts on activities that everyone can do together. Check out the America the Beautiful Passes that cover entrance fees to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites such as national parks, national wildlife refuges, forests and grasslands (better still, children 15 or under go free). In the virtual world, DisneyLife is an annual membership that offers access to films, box sets, music and books, ideal for rainy days when there’s not much enthusiasm for going out.


Increased enthusiasm for encouraging cycling over car use has seen a wealth of new cycleways and cycle paths springing up across the country. If you already have family bikes then set off to explore. If you don’t have bikes for all the family this might be a good investment given the flexibility and health benefits they provide – buying pre-owned bikes can be cheap. Don’t forget to check out some of the many car-free cycleways such as the Island Line Rail Trail, Vermont, the American River Bike Trail starting in Sacramento, CA or the Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail in Utah. Of course, if cycling doesn’t appeal – or isn’t feasible – then hiking and walking routes offer a great alternative.

Visit the farm

From Old Windmill Dairy in Estancia with its baby goats to the gentle alpacas of Albuquerque Alpacas, there are locations all over the country where kids can see, touch and learn about animals. These are a great opportunity for city and town-based kids to do something different from their normal activities. Entry fees are often low or donation based but you can spend hours petting and feeding animals. Most family farms that are open to the public also offer a schedule of activities and things to do to keep everyone entertained.