Summertime Plans on a Budget!

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School is out for us on Tuesday. That means I’ve got 67 days to fill with adventures and “excitement” as my 6 year put it. No pressure, right?

Here are just a few things we’ll be doing to have lots of fun, but not spend a ton of money.

  • Taking advantage of free community events! Our local libraries have tons of fun events during the month.  Lego Club, craft afternoons, story time for pre-schoolers, and our local library has a great slate of summer events, including a summer reading program!
  • Using passes and memberships that we’ve already paid for. For us, that’s the San Diego Zoo and the YMCA. I plan on taking full advantage of the YMCA membership daily to get the kids out of the house and playing with others, as well as swimming at the activity pool.
  • Packing snacks and drinks when we leave the house. Henry’s pre-school backpack has become our go to snack backpack. I wrote about our family snack backpack yesterday.
  • Meeting up with friends at the park to play. We love playing at the park. It’s a great way to get out the wiggles, meet new friends, and catch up with old friends. There are tons of groups on Meetup.com or Facebook. If you haven’t checked out Momco on Facebook, it’s a great way to find moms looking to meet up and play!
  • I love to arrange craft or science get togethers. The kids get to make something or try a science project and play with friends. I’m not really into Pinterest all that much, but I do have a Pinterest Board with some of the science and crafts we want to do this summer.  I try to use the supplies we have on hand. I find that a lot of the supplies can be picked up at 99 Cents Only, or cheaply at Target.
  • We’ll also be painting a lot of rocks and hiding them all over this summer. Have you heard of Santee Rocks? Both kids love it and it’s a great way to get kids out and active!  It’s an awesome Facebook Group. Learn more here.
  • The Beach! I know not everyone has the beach near them, but if you do- take advantage!  Google your favorite beach and Tide Chart and find out when low tide it. Low tide is the perfect time to hunt for shells. If you are in San Diego, or will be visiting this summer, check out Coronado for the SS Monte Carlo. It’s a sunken ship that is visible and explorable at low tide.
  • Don’t forget the $1.00 kids movies at Regal Cinemas!
  • Here are a few of my other tips for a fun, frugal San Diego Summer.
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Camping with Kiddos!

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As we prep for our annual family camping trip, I thought I’d share some of the fun things we do with the kids when we camp.

In addition to all of the usual camping stuff: Tent, blankets, pillows, air mattress, clothes, toiletries, Sunscreen, food, camp kitchen stuff…. You need stuff to do!

A friend and I made a huge batch of play dough last week, and we’re taking half of the batch, along with some cookie cutters, small rolling pins and other fun play dough stuff I got on my local Buy Nothing Group.

Games: High Ho Cherry-O, card games (like Uno, and a few regular decks of cards), lawn bowling.

We also have a craft box. It’s a large tote, like this one. I’ve filled it with all sorts of craft odds and ends. Mostly stuff leftover from other projects, as well as stuff I’ve gotten from Craigslist Curb alerts, and my local Buy Nothing group.  There is paper, scissors, glue, beads, pipe cleaners, paint, and so much more! The kids rifle through it and come up with some of the most interesting projects. I really believe that kids need to have free reign over creative play, so as long as I am there to make sure they are safe, they are free to create and play how they wish.

Bubbles. I make about a gallon of bubble solution, and we have all kinds of wands and stuff (Dollar tree and Target’s Dollar spot are great places to find bubble toys). We also make some out of pipe cleaners.

We also cook a lot when we are camping. We use dutch ovens to make all kinds of baked goods, including our favorite: Beer Bread. My dad has a cool clay Pizza oven (it’s this one), and we make pizzas in the late afternoons to snack on. Our favorite pizza recipe is here.

Here are a few pictures of our adventure last year:

We also of course, play at the campground play ground, go on nature hikes (and do some fun nature scavenger hunts- check out Pinterest for a bunch). We spend time with family and friends, and of course, check out all of the events and fun at the big camping event in which we are participating.

Camping is a great family activity, and here in San Diego there are so many places to camp! From the beach, to the mountains, to the desert, there are campgrounds, both private and public for low prices!

If you are a camper, where is your favorite place to camp?

Great gifts for kids that won’t break the bank (or your sanity)

DSCN9862It’s that time of year, when friends and relatives start asking you and your kids the dreaded question.. The Holiday gift question.

First of all, if you don’t have kids, please do your friends WITH kids a favor: Skip the toys that make noise/require batteries. Many a night I was woken by a phantom toy mysteriously going off. This Stupid Fisher Price Dog was the main culprit.

This year, we’re skipping all the “hot” toys. Why? Well, we don’t have cable, so Lil’ Man doesn’t really know about what toys everyone else has or wants. We mostly watch PBS and Netflix. I’m trying to get away from “stuff”. We have so many toys and stuffed animals. We don’t need a lot more stuff. I’m asking for more “experience” type gifts. Here are a few things that are always welcome in any household:

  • Groupon/living social/Amazon Local discounted vouchers or gift cards to places that  kids love to go, but can be a little pricey. For us, that’s Urban Jungle, Kid Ventures, Boomers, bowling. Zoo tickets, movie tickets, and museum passes are great options as well!
  • If you have a vacation planned, ask for gift cards. We have a friend who takes their family to Disney World each year, and she asks her family to buy the kids Disney gift cards to help offset the cost of their vacation (bonus- Disney GC can be used almost anywhere in the park- food, gift shop, even admission!).
  • Accessories for toys or games the kids already have. We always need more train tracks for our Thomas the Tank Engine trains. Most kids could always use more pretend food (we like these and these from Melissa and Doug).
  • Gift baskets that include experiences: I know I keep going back to experiences, but kids and families love to do stuff together. Movie baskets that contain popcorn, candy, redbox codes or GC for redbox is always a big hit here. We’ve given pizza night baskets that contain the fixins for a pizza (boboli crust, toppings, sauce) and a board game. Use your imagination!
  • IOU’s/GC for dates or time with the kids: Lil’ Man and I have a special date every week. We go out to eat and do an activity together. Maybe you have a little in your life that you’d like to spend more time with? Give them the gift a a date! Ice cream feeding the ducks, exploring nature- all of these things are inexpensive for you and mean a lot to a kid.
  • Craft supplies. The most popular gifts we’ve both give and received have been treasure boxes (usually a decorative cardboard box from Michael’s) full of craft supplies. Dollar Tree has a great selection of craft kits, glitter glue, stickers, feathers, pom poms, construction paper, water color paint, acrylic paints. Add in some wooden cut outs from Michaels (.50 or less EACH), and a few paint brushes and the kids will have fun for hours. The best part: for less than $20, they’ve got a cool box and tons of stuff to keep them busy and unplugged!
  • Monthly Subscription Boxes: Kids love to get mail. Monthly subscription boxes like Kiwi Crate, Little Passports, Green Kid Crafts are a great option for kids to get a little something fun in the mail each month- and monthly subscription boxes aren’t that expensive! Adults love them too! BirchBox (makeup), UrthBox (snacks), and Dollar Shave Club (razors and shaving accessories for men and women) are all popular options!