Children and Money

15 Fun and Frugal Activities to Cure Debt Boredom

15 Fun and Frugal Family Activities to Cure Debt Boredom | www.TheHeavyPurse.comEditor’s Note: Tanya is back to share some frugal, year-round family activities with us. Kids (and adults) often become bored and frustrated when entertainment budgets are slashed during debt repayment. A prolonged lack of fun can make even the most dedicated family go a little stir crazy and splurge unwisely to alleviate boredom. But it doesn’t need to be that way. Tanya has some great ideas to put fun back in your life while you eliminate debt.

I’ve met my fair share of people who know they are in trouble financially, but still resist doing anything about it. Many times it is because they don’t want to stop having fun. Granted, 4-5 years of dullsville isn’t something any normal person looks forward to either. Many will, in fact, run as fast as they can in the other direction.

The good news is there is a happy medium. You may not be able to spend two weeks basking in luxury at an all-inclusive resort in the Maldives, but you can still have fun while you get out of debt. In fact, I would encourage you to do so! And don’t worry, I checked: there is is no rule that debt is a no fun zone.

15 Affordable Family Activities to Do While Getting Out of Debt

Don’t forget that the things we look back and remember with great fondness are the simple things. Entertainment doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive to be memorable or satisfying, so let have some fun!

Family Game Night with Coveted Prizes

It’s time to dust off your board games and enact a regular family game night. You can rotate between various board and card games to keep it fun. And don’t forget the most important part — the prizes! Perhaps, a get-out-of-a-chore reward, such as doing dishes, would make a highly coveted prize.

Tip: With the holidays fast approaching, add some board games to your Christmas list. In the summer months, be on the lookout for cheap board games at garage sales.

Create a Scavenger Hunt Indoors or Outdoors

This is great for a group. Make it a theme (you could even make it educational if you wanted) and have kids pair up with friends and unravel clues to hunt down the items.

Family Movie Night

Pop some popcorn and settle in to watch a favorite movie. Many libraries allow you check out movies for free or for a nominal charge. Redbox is another great alternative. Also if you sign-up with Redbox, they regularly email great coupons and text promo codes for free rentals. Or if you have Netflix, you may want to watch a new-to-you TV series together and binge watch a few episodes every Saturday night.

Form a Neighborhood League

Form a neighborhood league with families looking for low-cost fun. Find a sport(s) that everyone loves and arrange a monthly game at a local park. It can be family against family or adults against kids or boys against girls. Keep it fun and friendly and it will be an afternoon everyone looks forward to every month.

Go Camping in Your Backyard

Pitch your tent and gather around your fire pit or fireplace to roast marshmallows while you tell spooky stories. Point out constellations in the sky and watch for falling stars.

Picnic at the Park or Beach

Pack a yummy lunch and head to your favorite park or beach for an afternoon of fun.

Go for a Walk or Bike Ride Together

Go on a family walk or bike ride. Consider walking or riding someplace new to explore.

Go Sledding or Ice Skating or Build a Snowman

Winter provides a host of fun outdoors activities. Go sledding, ice skating or cross country skiing. If you don’t have the equipment or skill set, no problem! Have a snowman competition to see who can build the biggest one. Warm up afterwards with homemade hot chocolate.

Volunteer at Your Favorite Organization or Cause

When you’re dealing with debt, it’s easy to get tunnel vision where it’s about ME, ME, ME. You only think about your problems and what you have to temporarily give up. Volunteering is a great way to give you and your kids some perspective.

Visit Local Museums

Many museums are free or offer a monthly free or half-price day. You may also be able to find coupons through Living Social or Groupon.

Tip: Checkout your city’s visitor’s bureau website. You’ll find out what your city has to offer and all its upcoming events.

Build Something Together

If you’re handy (and even if you’re not), find a project to build together. Maybe a birdhouse or a shelf or whatever catches your fancy. If hammers and nails don’t appeal to you, then try your hand at jewelry-making or sewing. You may be able turn it into a side hustle and sell your goods on craiglist or etsy.

Become Active in Your Place of Worship

Your place of worship typically offers a variety of activities for families, adults and children. Take advantage of them. Most are free or very low-cost. I loved my Church’s youth group and still have many great memories from my years of participation.

Attend Community Events and Concerts

Many communities offer a variety of free or low-cost events. From free summer concerts at the park to cheering your local high school or college teams every Friday night, there are tons of options. Those seeking more cultural events should check out their community and college theaters which put on numerous plays for a fraction of the price of their professional counterparts.

Form a Potluck Dining Club

Breaking bread with friends and family is an activity many enjoy, but it can be costly. Instead of $50 Champagne brunches, form a dining club with friends where every month a different member hosts a potluck meal at their home. You’ll still get to connect with friends and socialize but without the hefty bill and tip.

Tip: Make each month a different theme to keep it entertaining and not the same food every month.

Create a Family Movie

Thanks to our smartphones, almost everyone has a video camera these days, so start taking movies. They are great way to capture special moments, not only for yourself but for loved ones who don’t live nearby. There are tons of programs available to edit your movies and your kids likely know how to use them. 🙂 Post them on YouTube and Facebook to share with friends and maybe you’ll even go viral.

Rethink What Fun Means in Your Family

There was a time where I associated fun with the amount of money I spent. That was a mistake on my part. Replace that old, flawed thinking and decide what fun really means to you. When you have limited funds, a little ingenuity and effort can help reshape how you and your kids view and have fun. It wouldn’t surprise me, if years later, your kids recall those family game nights, picnics at the park and family bike rides the most vividly and cherish those memories the most.

What are some of your favorite family activities? What family activity do you remember most from your childhood?

TanyaTanya is a freelance writer, web designer and blogger. You can find her at Eat Laugh Purr where she and her ginger tabby, Max, enjoy simple pleasures every day and at TV Fanatic reviewing Madam Secretary and more. Connect with Tanya on twitter and Pinterest. And please, no judgement on the number of cat pins I have.
October 22, 2014  •  24 Comments  •  Children and Money

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  1. Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
    I like the idea of a potluck dining club. This sounds like such a better alternative than going out to eat with a group of friends. Definitely more budget-friendly.
    • Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
      It's a great alternative to dining out, which I LOVE to do, but it gets spendy so fast. This way we can still get together without breaking the bank.
  2. Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
    Been always a fan of Family Movie Night! I, my wife, and our daughters are always looking forward to this bonding time. I prepare their favorite dishes like Spaghetti Putanesca and others. It's really frugal, but we still go to a movie house just once in a while. But, we have a problem sometimes what movie to watch. :D
    • Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
      I love movie night! But I'm a big movie fiend and it's not always feasible to see every movie at the theater too. Pasta Puttanesca is one of favorite dishes, although I'm a carb-o-holic so pretty much any pasta dish brings a smile to my face!
  3. Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
    These are all great ideas Tanya! We do or have done a good number of these in our family to have fun and save money. I always enjoyed game nights with my parents as a kid and looking forward to our kiddos getting a little older so we can do the same with them. The potluck club sounds like a great idea!
    • Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
      Thanks, John! I have to confess that I did not like board games when I was a child. My brother had to beg me to play. Now his family loves board games, especially his daughter. She always have at least a couple board games on her Christmas list and I actually find them fun now. As much as I love dining out, you can't always linger and talk as much as you'd like because the restaurant needs your table. Here you can socialize to your heart's content. Plus, you can still always choose to have one month at a favorite restaurant too.
  4. Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
    We are big fans of Family Movie Night. We have Amazon and Netflix, so there are lots of movies to choose from. Hubby makes popcorn and my son loves the fact that he can watch the movie in bed with us. We all have fun and for significantly less than going to the movie theater!
    • Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
      It is a special treat when you get to watch a movie with Mom and Dad in bed! And I think the more special and event-like you can make something, the more kids enjoy it too. It's the night where they get popcorn and maybe some candy like they would at the theater for a fraction of the cost. You can put on your pi's and just enjoy it without the kid behind you kicking your seat. :)
  5. Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
    Great ideas. Many of my co-workers complain about the expensive family entertainment options...but never consider these ideas. Honestly I think spending time with family doesn't have to require expenditure of large amounts of money. Spending time together is the main ingredient which makes it special and that part is free.
    • Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
      I really think families can balance expensive and low-cost entertainment. It doesn't always need to cost a small fortune to do something fun. We've just been conditioned to think so. Lots of my favorite childhood moments are not the ones where my parents spent lots of money, but the more quiet, every day moments. We sometimes lose sight of that.
    • Monday, October 27th, 2014

      Interesting guest post and had to hit on your last comment. The key is "we have been conditioned to think that it costs money". And we are conditioned by about $85 billion worth of advertising per year. I want to be very clear this isn't some rant on advertising / companies / capitalism being evil, its just simply acknowledging that business pay to get us to pay our money.. no business spends money to say "stay at home"

      The key then is for us to simply realize this and challenge our beliefs. And your post is a great start.. and its ideas are what each of us need to embrace.

  6. Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
    This is a great article. Thank you!! One of my favorite things to do with my family is go on long walks. Our girls are little and are both (normally) very content in the stroller, so it's the perfect time for my husband and I to talk about life, our day and our dreams! We usually go to a park, too, so the girls can run around. Super fun and free!! We are also planning on starting Family Movie Night once the girls are a little older.

    Thanks for the ideas!!
    • Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
      Thanks, Sarah! I bet the girls love the walks and playing at the park. It's sounds like a great time for Mom and Dad to catchup and relax too, which is fantastic. They will definitely enjoy movie night when they get a bit bigger. I think when you have consistent family events that you can make into a big deal, it really gives kids something to look forward to doing. And the best is that doesn't have to cost a lot money to make something special.
  7. Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
    My kids love making short home movies. Sometimes I look up and they've put three or four on my iPhone. I love how it stirs their creative juices.

    Another cheap activity we've done is Geocaching. It is like a glorified scavenger hunt where you follow clues to find items placed by people somewhere in the outdoors. There is a whole website devoted to it ( and it's really fun trying to hunt down the caches.
    • Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
      Feeling old here, but I wish we could have made those kinds of home videos when I was young. My parents had a nice handheld video camera, but it was expensive, so it wasn't something we could just play around with and shoot our own movies. Those will definitely be precious memories for both you and your kids. LOVE the idea behind Geocaching. It sounds like a blast and a great way to get kids outside and moving around. Thanks for the tip!
  8. Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
    I love the create your own movie idea! What a great way to get kids involved in that creative process! And man it's so cheap and easy now for people to make low budget movies. Not true when I was a kid of course. My favorite memories were board game nights. I didn't have the greatest childhood and we were almost never together as a family, so I really remember those very fondly and wish we did them more often.
    • Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
      It is so easy to make movies these days and really cool movies! I wish I could have done that as a child. We had a video camera but it was expensive so my Dad never let us "play" with it. We never really played board games as a family, but possibly because I really didn't like them growing up. Now when I go home and we all hangout together, we play board games and cards all the time and I love it. :)
  9. Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
    When my wife and I were in college and didn't have much money (oh wait, with student loans we still don't have much money haha) we would go to the beach a lot more. It was a really cheap way to hang out and go "do something" without actually having to pay for anything.
    • Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
      The beach is definitely cheap fun! And Minnesota summers can get so humid that a dip in the beach is perfect way to spend the afternoon. And I like boating too, which isn't an inexpensive hobby, but it's almost impossible not to know someone with a boat in Minnesota. Good, cheap fun!
  10. Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
    I'm a big fan of family Movie night - a movie from Red box, popcorn, and supplies for ice cream sundaes - the cost is under $10, and we always have a great time!
    • Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
      Oh, I like the addition of sundaes! That would definitely be something to look forward to! Movie night is so affordable. For $10, you can get maybe one adult movie ticket. I love going to the movies, but it is so expensive, especially for a family. Thankfully, these days movies come out on DVD fairly quickly after their movie run ends. I remember VHS tapes (gasp!) and it took at least a year before a movie ever made into Blockbuster.
  11. Friday, October 24th, 2014
    All great ideas! Some of these are even things that I, as a single person trying to get out of debt, do by myself too. I try to have a "movie" /Netflix TV show marathon every Friday or Saturday night that I can. I have a snack and cuddle up with my dogs on the couch for a little down time. It's cheap and relaxing.
  12. Saturday, October 25th, 2014
    These are all great ideas. We've done almost all of them, with the exception of the scavenger hunt...I bet my kids would love it though. It seems like the cheaper the activity, the more quality the time. Expensive things like going out to a movie or going to an amusement park usually won't let you spend as much time together talking as many free things will. It's so much less stressful and more productive to just do the cheap and free stuff!
  13. Saturday, November 1st, 2014
    We like geocaching around the city. It gets us out of the house.
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    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan