We raised and four kids in an 800-square-foot mobile home. We were solvent and debt-free on one income while I homeschooled. I know about pinching pennies and cheap family fun. Here are tightwad mama’s tips to stretch your summer fun buck.
* Make money multitask. Pay with the payment form that saves most and earns best rewards: store credit cards, debit card. Save points for better rewards.
* Get admission deals. Use buy-one-get-one-free deals from vendors like Daily Deal Superstore. Save on concert, museum, amusement park, restaurants and vacation tickets. Look for events offering free kid admission with paid parents. Contact event websites for deals. I got half-price student opera tickets from the box office. An air fair distributed free tickets to school kids. They send me tickets to distribute to our home school group.
* Consider membership. We paid less for a one-year family membership at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago than we would for one-day admission for our family of six.
* Bid. For summer travel, use price bidding companies like Priceline. Visiting Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, I found a double hotel suite with pool, full breakfast and kitchenette for $65 a night. Kids brought sleeping bags. Cooking in saved on restaurants. I get cheap airfare this way too.
* Buy secondhand. Pick up used bikes, baby seat, tagalong, sports equipment and yard games.
* Enjoy free or cheap community events. Track community calendars: picnics, celebrations, festivals, concerts, sporting events, re-enactments. Watch for venue free days: zoos, restaurant specials, kids’ activities. We saved 80 percent on symphony tickets thanks to our local arts council.
* Explore free venues. Libraries and museums provide hours of free entertainment. Kids read books and earn prizes at book clubs. Museums offer kids’ classes. Venues host events and activities.
* Camp at home. Skip rental fees. Set up tents in the backyard. Grill. Dig a fire pit. Amenities are close-by.
* Invest. Use store perks card to buy big ticket summer items on sale. Comparison shop at Amazon. Use e-gift certificates earned from Swagbucks. Buy end-of-season pools, grills, camping equipment. For pools, get one with small filter.
* Go minimalist. Serve simple inexpensive meals. Eat up frozen foods. Buy fresh produce from roadside stands and make vegetable soup. Pick berries and make shortcake. Save pot pie tins and make personal pies in the toaster oven (so you don’t heat up the house).
* Bike and walk. We biked everywhere, even to the grocery store. Kids carried backpacks and used bike baskets.
* Celebrate nature. Explore parks, wetlands, meadows and woods. Visit interpretive nature centers (most are free or cheap with state park stickers or vehicle passes).