We are a family of five (plus one adorable Jack Russell Terrier), so you could consider us a somewhat large unit. This means a lot of things can cost more. However, I try to avoid financial stress by finding budget friendly deals that work well for my household. A huge cost effective measure for my party of five involves memberships.
I am the type of mom that likes to get out of the house in the mornings, because doing this usually keeps my afternoons free for work, writing, bill paying, and the much respected nap time. Memberships to area attractions are a life-line for people like me. They are also a great way to save a lot of money in the long run. Visits to zoos and museums can make for exciting experiences and even lifelong memories. They also help me wear my kids down, so that they are actually asking to go to sleep after lunch.
The museum in our city charges $85 for an annual membership. If my entire family wants to visit the museum one time, it is a $40 admission fee. So if we go only three times in one year, as a family, we are getting a great deal via the membership. Obtaining one also pretty much ensures that we go more often, therefore I am capitalizing on a smart deal and a fun venue. A membership also allows me to take only my toddler one day and escape the mom guilt of not including his sisters who are busy at school. Because hey, we have a membership and will go again soon.
Every city is different, but even a membership to Disney World breaks down to a lot of savings for Florida residents. The sticker price for a year-long commitment to anywhere may sound shocking at first, but the cost can be effective if you really take advantage of it. Also, I know a lot of people who get requests from grandparents or other relatives regarding gift ideas for the holidays. Memberships to area attractions make for excellent presents, and are very much appreciated.
I also try hard to remember that I don’t need to spend money to have a good time with my kids. My second-grader’s favorite place on the planet is the library. She is a big reader, but even my preschooler and toddler have fun there because it is an inviting place. Most libraries have a weekly story hour that every stay-at-home parent and day care provider should take advantage of. I know I appreciate it, especially if I am needing thirty minutes to check email on my phone or drink a latte without my kids asking for sips. Children sit in the circle with a librarian and I can sit back, relax, and chat up my fellow parents that are getting a nice respite from that morning’s tattling adventure.
Smaller communities may not have a story hour option, but the larger, neighboring area typically does. In addition they most likely will not require library cards in order to attend their functions. Barnes and Noble stores also offer many free story-time hours. They have various national and local events available, especially on the weekends if a Monday through Friday time frame can’t work.
Parks, playgrounds, nature preserves, and visitor centers are all usually free, or available for a low price. I love getting my kids outdoors and showing them new sites. Visiting these types of places, also takes the pressure off of me to constantly entertain. No matter their age, I feel it is important for my kids to make their own fun. If I can provide a good location, then it seems I have done my due diligence and now they can do their part and quit saying they are bored. Some days though, kids are on a mission to punish their parents. My five-year-old once wanted to leave a fun playground area, minutes after arriving, because she felt threatened by her sister’s better leg pumping ability on the swings.
Memberships and being budget friendly do not only apply to going out and doing things as a family, they also apply to how I shop. Buying in bulk benefits my family a lot. I love warehouse clubs for grocery shopping. Places like Sam’s Club and Costco have an annual fee, but they also have great deals and lots of products. The variety and low prices on produce alone completely validates our price of admission at these stores.
Two cards come with my Sam’s Club membership, so I share with my mother-in-law and both of our households save money by splitting the annual $45 fee. It appears gallons of milk are routinely priced lower at a warehouse store, and they have better deals on their pay at the pump gas stations. My kids like shopping at these places because the carts are bigger and free samples can be found. Sometimes I think all of the complimentary snacks given out during a buying spree could constitute as a three course meal.
As I have said before, I like getting out of the house. Therefore on-line shopping is not a huge addiction for me, but my household did try a one-month free membership to Amazon Prime this past year. I figured I would cancel it easily at the end of the grace period and just be happy I got a 30-day experience on their dime. Then something strange happened. I fell in love with Amazon Prime!
The free shipping (with no purchase price limit) worked great during the holidays. I also love Amazon Music. There are no commercials, which means no interruptions to my music playlist while I am running or cleaning the bathrooms in my house. They don’t have every artist for free with Prime (stay strong in your fight against this type of thing Taylor Swift), but they do have a lot of Pink, some Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Charlie Puth, and many more to keep me happy. There is also Amazon Instant Videos with a catalog of Prime movies and TV series. It is similar to Netflix, but with HBO shows and better movies. Currently, one of my favorite discoveries with Amazon Prime is their original show: Mozart in the Jungle and the Elle King song: America’s Sweetheart. I pay $99 a year for a lot of services (shipping, video streaming, photo storage, eBooks, and music downloads) under one umbrella.
The way to my cost-saving heart appears to go through the Dr. Seuss section of a library or down the extra wide aisles of a warehouse store. I don’t mind pushing a big flatbed shopping cart at Sam’s Club or getting my leggings wet near the water tables in a children’s museum; I am just thankful I have a large family and still manage to save money (even though we are getting dangerously close to needing to buy three gallons of milk every time we grocery shop).