Saving money as a parent is very important to me regardless of the economy, and making the dollar stretch is not always easy. Instead of spending a lot of money on a few activities, we use several tactics to get into these places at a lower cost, and we also hunt down affordable options. Here are some methods that will help any parent lower their costs of having kids.
Getting around steep museum admissions
Museums are a great way to have a fun and educational day with kids. Their downfall is often their admission prices, though. Besides looking for coupons and Groupon's that museums periodically put out, I check the museum's website for their free days, discount days, and resident discounts. All of these options will get us in free, or give us a very deep discount. The last option to seek with museums is membership. My child has particular museums that she could visit daily, for example--The Children's Museum. Instead of paying $40 each visit, I look into their annual memberships that are usually around $100 for a family of four. In the long run, this method will save any family a lot of money.
If the cost of privatized dance, gymnastics, and social classes are overwhelming to your budget, check with the city parks to see if there are discounted classes. In Chicago, the park district offers classes at a drastic discount. My daughter does ballet and gymnastics classes for $30-$40 each for 3 months. This is less than one class costs in some cases. The one downfall is that you have to be on time for online registration since the classes fill-up fast.
Group discounts are great, but it's usually associated with large school groups. This doesn't have to be the case considering many places will give discounts to meet-up groups if they request. Some of the groups will rent out a room for a great price and have all the parents split, or they can get group discounts at larger venues like a zoo. It just takes preparation and commitment from a number of parents.
Exchanging play dates
Play dates are very important for little kids, especially if they are not in any organized program. It helps them with their social skills, and it gives kids the opportunity to develop friendships with others their age. While drop-in programs and play dates can be very expensive, finding a parent that can exchange play dates is a great alternative. This is also a great way to get free childcare. When I need to get a haircut or something else done without my daughter, I call friends with kids to see if they can watch her. In return, I will take their kids for a play date so their parents can accomplish things without kids in tow.
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