When we decided that we would become parents to eight children, I would be a stay-at-home mom, and Syd would work at a less stressful but lower-paying job, we knew there weren't going to be any vacation homes, bass boats, trips to Disney World, or cruises in our future.
Still, there's no denying that families build relationships when they have fun together. But, how can a large family do this without forking over tons of money?
Here are a 10 ways we've found to enjoy one another's company without going broke.
1. Snag inexpensive movie tickets.
Sometimes, we just want to see a movie on the big screen and experience surround-sound. Even though our mid-size town movie theater is owned by a national company, they sell movie tickets at bargain prices compared to big-city theaters. Regular adult ticket prices are $5.50 and the early bird (matinee) ticket is a mere $3. (Okay, I'll admit it -- it's also a great opportunity for me to take a $3 nap!) We don't have a $1 movie theater, but my brother and his children are weekly customers at the one close to their home in Dallas.
Be sure to eat before you go, otherwise you'll go broke at the snack bar. You can sign up for weekly coupons, but they don't do much more than get you a 16 oz. drink and small popcorn for $4 instead of the going $5 rate.
If you don't mind watching your movie at home, then you can really save some cash by renting at Amazon Prime, Redbox, Netflix or by borrowing a movie from your public library and popping your own corn.
2. Join the science center.
This is one of my best kept secrets. You can purchase an annual family pass for 6 people at a science center such as the Science Center Oklahoma in Oklahoma City for $115. (One day admission for 2 adults and 4 children is $78.) This entitles you to unlimited admission to the center for one year, 4 guest tickets, plus a lot of other perks. The savings really kick in through the wonders of the Passport Program, a reciprocity agreement between science centers. When you go to a participating center, present the membership card to your science center, and you will receive free admission to any one of 300+ science centers across the country. You can be sure that whenever we went out of town, I pulled out my list, and we scheduled a trip to a science center!
3. Eat out on the cheap.
Dinner menu prices at most restaurants are markedly higher than the lunch prices. When we want a nice meal, we've found the lunch specials offer plenty of food at much more reasonable prices. Be careful -- not all restaurants offer their lunch menus on weekends. (Shame on you, Olive Garden!) Don't forget to check the internet for specials and coupons. Many of the chain restaurants have birthday clubs where they send a great coupon in the month of your special day.
4. Enjoy some live entertainment.
We live fairly close to a junior college. Typically, they offer good quality live entertainment at family-friendly prices. We've seen some great performances that were sponsored by our local community concert series, as well as area churches and civic groups. For example, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra has a special subscription series where they come to Greenville, a town that is about an hour from here. Membership prices range from $15 for students 18 and under to $80 for a family membership of 2 adults and their children under age 18. Adult memberships are $35. Membership carries admission to three DSO Series in Greenville concerts.
This is when a subscription to your local newspaper pays off since it is a great resource for finding what's available locally.
5. Attend a few sporting events.
As our children have gotten older, they've developed a taste for attending different sporting events. We've found the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and other professional teams have priced themselves way out of our league. The local junior college teams play some exciting games that are very entertaining to watch. If we're willing to travel a little ways, minor league and club teams like the Frisco Range Riders, the Grand Prairie Air Hogs, and Ft. Worth's new minor league Vaqueros Soccer Team have inexpensive tickets without all the glitz of the pros. (And their concession foods and parking fees are cheaper, too!)
Tune in next week for 5 (almost) free ways you can have a great time while you lower your entertainment budget.