Monday, November 8, 2010

Fun on a budget

People often ask how it is possible to feed a large family on the cheap or even do "normal" things like going to the movies when you have a large family. The secret is careful planning and savings.

Meal Planning is key to making it work on a budget for any family size. With meal planning, you know what you're going to eat and when. This should minimize those trips to the grocery store wondering what the heck you're going to feed the family.

Shopping with a List, making sure you have everything you need for the week, and keeping the grocery trips to the minimum are crucial. How many times have you gone in to the store for "just one thing" and left with a full cart? I try to avoid certain stores like the plague. I know if I walk in to WalMart, I will magically find no less than $50 worth of merchandise, even if I go in for toilet paper. The other store that is quickly becoming the bane of my financial existence is DollarTree. It's $10 every single time. I have to limit myself to once or twice a month.

Couponing works. It took me a long time to be convinced of this one. Even if you cook from scratch you can find coupons for yeast, sugars, whole grain pastas, meats, produce, etc. The best deals, I've found, are at the drug store for health and beauty products. Never pay for tooth paste. It's usually free between coupons and rebates. Just don't get too attached to certain brands.

Speaking of REBATES and PROMOTIONS, this is how we manage to do the fun stuff. When you combine the coupons with other promotions, you can really score. This summer, we managed to take all the kids (except The Boy) to see Toy Story 3 and eat snacks at the theater, thanks to several different promotions. At the theater, I paid an additional $2.50 because the movie was in 3D. The promotions were for things our family was purchasing anyway, such as upgrading our DVD movies to BluRay, cereal and snacks! In fact, we just got six tickets and more concession cash to a movie for next weekend. We're taking Leelee and some friends for her birthday. Again, not costing a thing.

Find FREE local ACTIVITIES. Our community center has a free mother's morning out program three days a week. There are several museums suitable for children in our community that are also free. This holiday season, we'll be having fun at the state Christmas Tree Lighting, Holiday Parade, Interfaith Nativity Exhibit, it's all about finding out what's in your area.

By saving in some areas, it allows us to have fun in other areas. It took me several months to save enough cereal codes (and I even begged from friends and family!) The kids really appreciate the hard work involved when we go anywhere. It makes the time all the more special, I think.

Most of the time, we do stay home and have our own fun. The kids have put on their own carnivals, mini-Olympics, and plays. Their favorite thing to do, however, is FAMILY GAME NIGHT. To be honest, it's one of my favorites, too.

I also started doing SWAGBUCKS. I'm earning one $5 gift card for amazon every week, on average. Not too bad for searching for random things. If you want to sign up, check out the referral widget on this page!

I'm curious to hear what other tips are out there for maximizing the fun without breaking the bank!

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