By Carla Hindman
Director Financial Education, Visa Canada
With millions of Canadian schoolchildren starting summer vacation, cries of “I’m bored” will soon be heard across the nation. Whether you have toddlers or teenagers, keeping kids entertained can be a difficult task and without a firm plan in place, you may find yourself overspending on activities, completely blowing your summer budget. According to a Charted Professional Accountants of Canada national survey 39 per cent of Canadians spent more than anticipated this past summer.
The good news is that creating unforgettable family memories doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. If you are looking for ways to entertain your kids on a budget, here are a few options to check out:
Plan your weeks
Planning your summer weeks in advance can help you budget appropriately for bigger activities such as travel or outings. Hold a family brainstorm session to get an idea of what your family would like to do during the summer months and discuss activities that are already planned. This will help you calculate expenses beforehand to avoid potential spending traps.
Explore seasons passes or memberships
Visiting local attractions such as the zoo, museums and water parks can be an entertaining family activity – but it can also be pricey. If there’s a favourite family destination, consider purchasing a family membership to save on repeated admissions or look for sponsored days with special pricing.
Summer movies and concerts
Many movie theatres offer summer matinee promotions that can make for a fun family outing while helping you save a little money. Also, many communities offer movie and concert nights in the park where you can enjoy some free entertainment under the stars and maybe even meet some new neighbours.
Explore the great outdoors
Kids love to get active and explore the great outdoors. Take advantage of the nearby parks and public areas. Explore local hiking trails; take a family bike ride; head to a public lake, beach or pool; walk to a nearby playground; or simply play ball or throw a Frisbee. Check ahead of time to see if the public area will allow you to bring in outside food to help you cut down on lunch/snack expenses. This may seem like simple activities to you, but they’re guaranteed to keep the kids entertained.
Explore your local library
Most libraries offer story times, movies and other activities for kids and teens during the summer. Check and see if they have a summer reading program that your kids can attend once or twice a week. This is both a cost-effective and educational way to pass the time during the summer months.
Visit your local tourism office, go online or get tips from your family and friends on fun things to do in the neighbourhood. Most cities have local “things to do with kids” websites that feature event calendars with free or inexpensive events in your area. Make sure you follow the social media accounts of your favourite attractions and be on the lookout for free events, promotions and giveaways.
When it comes to family fun, don’t forget classic and simple ideas such as creating a lemonade stand, putting together a family play or concert, having a backyard campout or washing the car together. Often the simplest, most fun summer activities are also free.
As the temperatures rise, don’t sweat about your finances – there are smart ways to have a blast with kids without breaking the bank.
Carla Hindman directs the Practical Money Skills program for Visa Canada. More budgeting and personal finance tips can be found at www.practicalmoneyskills.ca. As always, consult a financial professional regarding your particular situation.