Declare a Frugal Friday Fun Night
Ah, Friday nights. A time when we can relax and unwind without worry of going to work the next day (or the next). You walk in the door from work ready to kick off your shoes and enjoy a quiet dinner at home when the kids meet you ready to go out and have some fun! Besides being tired from the long week at work there is this other little problem with you entertainment budget envelope--it's empty. Here are a few ways our family has fun on the cheap spending a Friday night at home.
A night with no electricity. My daughter recently received the entire collection of Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They are a great read for a budding frugalist as they tell of a time when people had to work hard and entertain themselves without the help of televisions and computers. The books have even led to dinner-time discussions on how people lived without electricity, something my kids can barely fathom. To give them some real-world practice we have a "power's out" night ever so often on Friday nights. We turn out all the lights, and cut power to the television, the air conditioner (wait for it to cool down a bit), and computers. We then look for ways to entertain ourselves. We play board games by candle light, read stories out loud and "camp out" in the living room. As an added benefit, the kids will be much better prepared the next time a storm rolls through and knocks out the power.
Host a game night, and invite friends. We recently rediscovered Twister as a family. The box reads something like "Ages 3 and up," but it ought to read, "Ages 3 to 29," because once you hit 30 Twister can actually become a hazardous activity. For the most part I am the official spinner, and enjoy the role of spectator. We also recently invested in a Nintendo Wii, something that was against my frugal nature, until convinced by my family that we could actually save money by staying in and playing video games rather than going out to movies. We created a targeted savings account and waited a few months until we could buy it with cash. It was still a little hard for me to fork over that much money for a game, but it was hard to resist an eight year-old armed with a break-even analysis detailing how quickly our new Wii would pay for itself!
Have a backyard luau, minus the pig. We actually prefer grilled chicken, but if a roasted pig is your thing, have at it! We light tiki torches, put up a few Dollar Store decorations and even play a little Hawaiian music for ambience. I'm no good on the ukulele so we stick to a cheap CD with luau-themed music. The kids play while Mom and Dad grill the chicken and prepare our backporch table for dinner, and then we enjoy a mini feast at home. The only cost is the decorations (which if taken care of can be reused) and food, and the return of added quality time with family is priceless.
So you see, it doesn't cost a lot to have a good time. The common ingredients in all our "Frugal Friday Fun Night" activities is imagination and togetherness. I hope we are creating traditions that will carry our kids into adulthood, and that they will share these activities with their children. I also hope we are reinforcing the idea that you don't have to be rich to have a rich life.