Tonight begins a new tradition in the frugal household – Family Fun Nights. My wife and I agreed a while back we were spending too little quality time together as a family, and too much time parked in front of the television. We have scaled back to basic cable which leaves few viewing options, particularly on Friday nights. Here is how we plan to boost our quality time together over the next four Fridays without emptying the entertainment envelope.
Create a family fun jar. Having fun together as a family doesn’t have to be expensive. I enjoy the annual trip to Six Flags as much as anyone, but anything more frequent takes a toll on the wallet. The kids plan to decorate a large mason jar using stickers, paint and some stick-on jewelry. Inside the jar we will place strips of paper with all of our ideas for things to do on Family Fun Night. On Thursday evening the kids will randomly select an idea from the family fun jar and the selection becomes the theme of Friday evening’s family fun night. The kids have already come up with some great ideas:
- “Power’s Out!” This one might be my personal favorite. The idea is to simulate a night without power. Turn off all the lights, computers, and televisions in the house and pretend you are without power. Light some candles and gather around the kitchen table for a night of boardgames and playing cards (remember the safety rules regarding candle usage).
- Have a luau. As the weather warms up this is one we will definitely enjoy doing. Transform your backyard into a Hawaiian luau setting, complete with tiki torches, some inexpensive leis and a couple whole pineapples from your local grocer. While out of season many of these items can be purchased relatively cheap at a party store, or larger discount stores. Light the tiki torches, fire up the grill and enjoy your favorite grilled cuisine along with some sliced pineapple for dessert.
- Movie night. Another crowd favorite, movie nights simulate a theater experience in your own living room. With the lights down low gather around your family room television and watch a favorite DVD. In our fun jar each family member has a vote for “movie night,” so the name drawn gets to pick the movie. This saves dad from having to endure endless weekends of High School Musical 2! My wife makes homemade popcorn and we share a movie-sized box of candy bought for $1.00 at Target or a local pharmacy (purchased outside of a theater these “movie boxes” of candy cost about 1/3 of the price at theaters).
- Game Night. Similar to “Power’s Out,” but with lights. Game nights offer an opportunity to play together as a family. I like to play something with an educational twist so the kids learn something while having fun. If you are interested in teaching kids about money there are several good Monopoly Jr. editions out. Be careful, some of these Monopoly games have move away from using Monopoly money have partnered with Visa to let kids “electronically” manage their monopoly balance. What a dumb idea. When I was a kid Yahtzee reinforced my multiplication tables, while Battleship helped develop strategic planning and thinking.
Does your family have a “fun night?” I’d like to hear from you what frugal ideas your family might put in a family fun jar.