Finding good, quality family entertainment inexpensively can sometimes be a challenge.Though the library, local community events and parks can be a great source of free fun for your family, it is good to have a "back-up".
Even during the "lean" years we've always invested in at least one family membership which we could enjoy during "rainy" days. (We seem to have a few more of those out here in Seattle, but could easily be called "cabin fever" days to my readers in the Midwest.)
Two memberships that our family have personally enjoyed over the years include: the Everett Children's Museum and the Woodland Park Zoo. The value of purchasing a yearly pass to these places has been extraordinary; easily paying for themselves in 2-3 visits during the course of a year. However, finding the funds to purchase a membership (varies between $65-$110) in an already tight budget can be daunting, but I ask you to be creative.
One way that we have paid for our family's memberships to the zoo and children's museum has been to save money that we receive from Christmas, birthdays and other special holidays. Friends and family often have a hard time picking out gifts for our family and mailing long distance is a extra hassle. So we often request money instead to be used towards a particular membership.
Memberships to family places are a great "experience" gift and can be used throughout the year instead of the first week when a toy is "new". Utilizing our resources in purchasing a membership is valuable for family entertainment, date nights, educational purposes, and so much more not to mention the impact it has on the environment. No extra packaging, broken toys or items is required when you have purchased an "experience".
Other creative ways to save up money to purchase memberships to a variety of places could be saving your pop cans (5 cents a can back in Iowa), selling unwanted items on CraigsList, starting a savings jar for your kids with your extra change, giving up or cutting back on a "vice" (mine would definitely have to be drinking Diet Coke!), growing your own vegetables. Being thrifty is all about being creative!
From inside the little blue bungalow,