Kids are expensive. Anyone that has kids will agree with that, but according to the US Department of Agriculture, it costs $233,610 to raise a child! That’s a big chunk of change!
I’m not saying that kids aren’t worth it, of course, they are! But they do put a strain on your wallet.
As a single parent, I felt that pinch even more. ‘One income’ + ‘three kids’ was not the kind of math I liked to do (and I’m a math teacher by day!).
Do you feel like your wallet has a hole in it? As soon as money comes in, it disappears again.
Weekends seem to be the worst for draining the money supply. It feels like I can’t go a weekend without spending money on SOMETHING. And all those “little” things add up fast.
To combat this slow trickle of spending, I like to have a ‘No-Spend Weekend’. Where we literally do just that – spend no money all weekend!
This might sound easy, but it’s actually harder than you might think. But it’s sooo worth it!
Just doing one No-Spend Weekend a month can make a BIG difference to your budget.
Of course, I’m not going to let you tackle something as difficult as a No Spend Weekend on your own! I’ve written before about how to plan and prepare for a No Spend Challenge (a weekend, a week, or a month). But that was general advice – this is post is more specifically about how to SURVIVE a No Spend Weekend with kids!
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No Spend Weekend With Kids
If it was just you or you and your partner, then you could probably have a lot of fun on a no-spend weekend and not worry about it too much. But kids change everything!
My kids get bored after just a few hours at home! Yes, I could let them watch TV or play video games all day (they’d love that), but I want it to be a worthwhile weekend too!
We just finished our latest No Spend Weekend, and it was a great success. But the key to it being successful is to PLAN AHEAD! Otherwise, it won’t work. and if it doesn’t work the first time, then you are less likely to do it another time.
And trust me… if it works out for you, you’ll want to do it again!
We had a great weekend! The kids enjoyed themselves, we got to do things we don’t normally do and we didn’t spend a penny!
No Spend Weekend Planning
Before we get into the list of No Spend Weekend ideas, we need to talk a little about planning.
I talk a LOT about planning in my general No Spend Challenge post, but I’ll recap a few points and add a few that you need to consider with kids.
You need to decide how long you want your No Spend Challenge to last. I’ve been talking about a weekend, but you can make it a day, a weekend, a week, a month, or even longer!
For the sake of this post, we’ll keep talking about a weekend, but the same rules and ideas will apply to any length of time.
You might have to make some exceptions to your no spend rule. After all, bills gotta be paid and kids need to be fed!
The exceptions I made were for bills, grocery store food (not junk or fast food though), and gas. But depending on when and how long your No Spend Challenge is, then you might be able to even avoid those!
Groceries is probably a controversial one, as it’s easy to overspend at the grocery store. I’m a BIG fan of meal planning (check out my post about how I can save $800 a MONTH on food costs!), so I’m pretty good about not overspending at the grocery store. But if you are a sucker for the candy or cookie display, then maybe skip the grocery store for the weekend.
One of the biggest weekend expenses I have with my kids is eating out.
At weekends we tend to crisscross town while running errands and going places. So it always seems “easier” to stop somewhere to grab lunch or a snack.
Big mistake! As a family of five, we can easily spend $40 on a small junky lunch at MacDonald’s. If we eat at a restaurant for dinner then it’s rare that we get change for $100!
So planning my meals for a No Spend Weekend is an UTMOST PRIORITY! I don’t just plan dinner, but also breakfast and lunch.
To make the weekend more exciting for the kids, I let them pick their favorite meals. Each kid gets to pick a different day.
My daughter loves baking, so we normally plan to make cookies or cupcakes too. It just makes the weekend seem extra special.
The timing of your meals is very important when planning a No Spend Weekend.
For example, if you are across town at a park around lunchtime, it can be hard to resist the urge to stop for lunch. So you either want to make sure you take a picnic (kids LOVE picnics!) or that you leave early enough that you can get home for lunch.
Just taking the time to plan your day ahead of time can make a BIG difference!
One of the important aspects of a successful No Spend Weekend is to make sure you have the right mindset.
If you feel like you are depriving yourself (and your kids), then you are going to be miserable. But if instead, you look at it as an adventure and a chance to explore new places, then you’re going to enjoy the experience.
Positive thinking is such an asset to anyone, so it’s a really great skill to teach your kids too.
No Spend Weekend With Kids Ideas
OK, so now we get down to the nitty-gritty of it! What are you actually going to DO to fill the weekend?
If your kids are anything like mine, you can spend a morning doing something super fun, and then in the afternoon they will say they are “bored”!
So you want to make sure you plan enough activities to keep them amused. But personally, I don’t like to overschedule our weekends, as I think it’s important for us all to have downtime and time for the kids to play independently, without having to be entertained the whole time. I’m not a damn clown!
To have a truly fun No Spend Weekend with kids, then you need to think outside the box. Parks and the library are great, but that can get boring if you do it every month.
Here are some different ideas that you might not have thought of before:
Out & About Fun
I know, I know. This one is kinda predictable and I just said that the library can get boring. But your local library isn’t just for books anymore. You probably already know that they have DVDs and audiobooks too, but why not check out any free events they have going on?
In the summer in particular local libraries run lots of events for kids of all ages.
Yes, I did it again. Another obvious and “boring” one. But I’m not talking about going to a park and texting on your phone while your kids play on the swings (go on, admit it, you do that too!).
Make a visit to the park more of an event. Take a picnic. Fly a kite (or a drone!). Have a mini Olympic Games with your friends. Have a scavenger hunt.
There are so many fun ways to enjoy wide-open spaces. Time to think outside the playground!
Yep, Car, motorcycle, boat… all those kind of dealerships, often have free events at weekends. Think free BBQ and live music. So during the week, listen closely to the radio and find out who has a free event that weekend.
Our local Harley Davidson dealership has a big field next to it, and they have loads of different events each weekend. Dock Diving Dogs, RV show, live music, and more. The best part is it’s free!
A lot of these kinds of events also have vendors that give away freebies too! Not just local law firms giving away pens, but sometimes you can get some really good stuff! I’ve got beauty kits from dermatologists, t-shirts from radio stations, frisbees from… well… everyone!
Furniture stores, outdoor stores, and other big places like that also often have free events too.
RV or Boat Show
Depending on where you live and the time of year, this might be easier or harder.
I live in Florida so we have a lot of RV and boat shows. And my kids LOVE them! RV shows in particular.
If you don’t know what an RV show is, it’s basically a field filled with dozens of recreational vehicles, travel trailers, and campers.
There are generally no pushy salespeople, and all the RVs and trailers are open and unlocked. You are free to just wander around and look inside them all.
My kids love looking at all the neat cubbies and pull-out whats-its. They will argue over who would get to sleep in which bed (in the $300k RVs…. errrr…. yeah…..!). It’s fun!
Now, some of the very large RV shows you do have to pay to get in, so make sure you check before going. Generally, the smaller and local ones are free though.
Ditto for boat shows!
A lot of membership places, like gyms or country clubs, will offer a free trial membership or pass. These are slightly harder to find and might take more planning. But depending on the age of your kids, it would be a lot of fun.
Many gyms now have fun fitness classes aimed at kids. You can workout (or enjoy some peace and quiet in the steam room), while the kids burn off energy in a fun fitness class!
If your children are younger, then most gyms offer free childcare. If your little one doesn’t mind being dropped off, then you get to have some kid-free time to exercise and your kids get to enjoy playing with new friends and new toys! Win-win!
Free Local Events
OK, this is another obvious one. But in most towns, there are free events on the weekends. Sometimes it’s harder to find out about them, so join a few local Facebook groups so you can get notifications about them.
Churches also often have really fun Fall or Spring Festivals with lots of free fun for the kids. So look out for signs about those when you are driving around town too.
This one will take a bit of planning, but it is so worthwhile. Depending on the age of your children, you can volunteer at a local charity for a few hours (or the whole weekend!).
There are lots of charities that gladly accept any help they can get. Depending on your skills and interests, you could help with:
- Animal shelters/adoption events
- Habitat for Humanity
- Soup Kitchens
- School events
- Visiting a nursing home
- Helping an elderly neighbor with yard/housework
- Local church event
If there is a special event going on, then you can often get in for free if you volunteer for a few hours. My local town holds a massive music festival and if you volunteer you get in for free – normally the tickets are $20 each. So it’s worth planning ahead to see if there are any events like that happening near you.
Not only is volunteering a great way to spend time as a family, but it’s also a good lesson for kids!
Back to Nature Fun
This is a cross between a treasure hunt and a nature walk! You set up a free account at www.geocaching.com and then download the app. It gives you a map and hints to find a hidden “treasure”. To find out more, watch this short video all about it!
Depending on the age of your kids, this might be not so much fun! Little kids have little legs that don’t walk as far!
But if your kids are older (or you have a good stroller or carrier), then going for a hike is a great way to relax as a family.
You can use Google to find nature preserves or trails near you. I bet you’ll be surprised how many there are that you don’t know about!
If you plan on taking your dog (good exercise for him too!), then make sure you check before you go that dogs are allowed.
To make the hike even more fun you can take a picnic along, have a scavenger hunt, look for birds or animals, sing songs, play guessing games… the list goes on!
This doesn’t have to just be a bike ride around your neighborhood. Why not throw the bikes (or rollerskates/skateboards if you can’t fit bikes) in your car and drive to a different neighborhood or local park?
I love exploring other areas of my town and it’s fun to do it on a bike.
If you decide to go to a park or on a trail, then don’t forget to pack a picnic (can you tell I’m a picnic fan?).
Beach or Lake
Going to the beach or lake is always popular with kids. But if you live near a beach or lake, then you’ve probably done that a few times.
You can spice things up a bit by having your own beach Olympic Games! There are so many fun games to play at the beach. Who can build the biggest sandcastle? Who can carry the most water from the sea/lake to the pail? Find the biggest shell. Once you start using your imagination, you will come up with hours of fun games to play together!
At Home Fun
Teddy Bear’s Birthday Party
I used to LOVE doing this when my kids were little (sob, sob… why do they grow up so fast?!). We would plan a birthday party for one of their favorite stuffed animals.
I generally had leftover party supplies from the kids’ birthday parties, so we would use those to decorate the house. The kids would also make their own decorations out of anything we could find!
If we really wanted to go all out, then we would invite our friends over to celebrate with us (with their favorite stuffed animal as a guest too!). My friends would each bring a dish, so we’d have a bit of a mini pot-luck party too!
Make it even more special by baking a cake or cookies (bonus points for making it from scratch!) for the Birthday Bear!
Living Room Camp Out
I will admit that I haven’t actually done this one… I love my bed too much! But it’s definitely on my list for our next No Spend Weekend.
Set up a tent in your living room (or just pillows and blankets on the floor) and “camp out”. You don’t have to spend the whole night there, but it sounds fun to sprawl on the floor and chat, play games, or even just watch a movie.
S’mores are optional! (Maybe melt the marshmallow in the microwave and not on an open fire in your living room!)
If the weather is nice, then you could also camp out in your backyard too!
Let out your inner Bob Ross and look on YouTube for “How to Paint” videos and follow along!
You don’t need to use canvases, you can just do your painting on paper. If you really love it, you can always frame it later!
It’s fun to do this as a family and compare your pictures at the end. I bet you’ll be shocked at how different they will look, even if you were all following the same directions.
This is absolutely one of my favorite things to do as a family! We always have so much fun and I’ve got some really nice matching artwork from it too!
This is another obvious one, but you can make it special. Throw a load of blankets and pillows on the floor and snuggle up together.
Maybe make it a themed night, where everyone has to dress up (in homemade costumes) to the theme and dinner can even fit the theme too!
If your kids are a bit older (or can stay up later anyway), then why not make it a Movie Marathon! Back to the Future anyone?
Build a Fort
I use to LOVE doing this as a child. We would take all the cushions off the sofa and stack them to make a fort!
There are lots of different ways to do this. String tied between two points with a blanket over it. Using tables or chairs and draping a sheet over the top. Just use your imagination.
Bonus points if you then camp in your fort overnight!
I haven’t lost my mind – I promise! I’m not talking about regular cleaning (kids hate that!), but the fun BIG cleaning jobs!
Why not get them to help you with cleaning the windows? Washing the car? Pressure washing the deck or fence? The more water involved the better!
Cleaning (especially with kids) is all about mindset. If they think it’s a “boring chore” they will not want to help. But if you make it into a game, they will be more than happy to help!
Just like Mary Poppins says “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”!
One of my favorite cleaning games is the Timer Game. We set a timer for 10 minutes and we see who can pick up (and put away!) the most things in 10 minutes. The kids love the element of competition and it’s amazing how much you can get done in such a short space of time. Use something fun as the prize, like the winner gets to pick the bedtime story.
So that gives you some ideas. What are you going to do?
Just remember that a No Spend Weekend can either be fun or torture. It’s all about your attitude! Go into the weekend with a fun and open mind, and you will have a blast! But if you dread it and think of it as a punishment, then you’ll hate it!
I bet once you see the fun you can have and the benefit to your wallet, that I’ll start scheduling more No-Spend Weekends! But the key to success is PLANNING! Make sure you plan out your weekend fully and I just know it will be a tremendous success for you and your family!
Time to start enjoying not spending money!