As the summer winds down, and the kids head back to school I always feel a bit nostalgic. One more summer behind us and a new chapter ahead. What did we do? What memories did we make? Was it valuable? Will the girls think back to this year as “that summer” with fond memories or will they simply draw a blank?
Of course, not that every single summer will offer the best of their life but as parents, Brent and I try to ensure that we are creating memories that are of value.
This summer the girls did quite a bit. Hands down, I think the girls would say this summer was “so fun” overall, but given budget and work constraints, in hindsight we did very little as a unit of four. This tends to be the case with our family more often than not. As summer wound down and Labor Day quickly approached, we decided to look into doing something that we could do as a family. Brent’s response, “let’s do it! what do we want to do?” Mine, “how much is it going to cost us?” I’ve learned this is the wrong question. In the life of frugality the correct question should always be “what is my budget?” This will allow for narrowing down options into an appropriate budget column and not get carried away in the myriad of options that seems wonderful but will leave your bank account quickly depleted. Side note, it has been my experience that these same options that cost a lot of money also cost a lot of headache. Example? Disneyland. Need I say more? It sounds fun but there are few parents who leave the Magic Kingdom after a day with x-number of small children feeling magical. #truthbomb The overall experience is worth it, lifetime experiences often are but I digress…that is not this post. This post is the opposite.
When we started to look into our options for the three-day weekend, we decided to look into something we could all enjoy doing but have either never done or somewhere we’ve never been. Of course, something that doesn’t cost a lot of money and will allow us to retreat and simply enjoy each other’s time, disconnect and reconnect. We landed on primitive camping in the Outer Banks. Highlighting the word primitive here. Camping can get VERY expensive if you aren’t careful. Budget is key; and in a place like the Outer Banks, you can easily find hotels that cost less than some of the campsites. We took our time, set a budget and took to task. With a little research and some great recommendations, we were able to find just what we were looking for. That being said, communication around expectations and budget was critical per usual in efficient and budget friendly planning.
Here are my tips for a frugal family outing.
1. Set a budget first.
2. Only look at options within your budget. Sure, that indoor water park looks fun and yes, it would be great memories but is it within your budget?? Avoid the temptation and just don’t click on it.
3. Assess what you have. It is not money-saving to plan a budget friendly camping trip if you don’t already own or can easily access the majority of the equipment required to camp.
4. Consider all costs. Gas, food, equipment, activities, etc.
5. If you are traveling, maximize the area. What types of things are there to do and explore? Most places have plenty of free family friendly options. Request information and look online for family guides and resources.
The unplanned lessons.
Note: This post could also be called How Not to Break Bank When Your Plans Change. Needless to say we were really, really looking forward to this new adventure together, had planned for it, budgeted, etc. So when bad weather along the coast forced us to postpone our weekend plans we opted to make the best of it… and as always taught us a few more good lessons. Here goes…
1. When your plans fall through, be sure to check cancellation and date change information to avoid excessive fees and charges. Thankfully myself being a OCD calendar type, I took to my weather app and calendar early in the week and we were able to avoid said charges because didn’t wait to the last-minute for a “game-time” decision. Which honestly was our first thought to do, thankfully we opted for the other because it definitely would have cost us $$.
2. Don’t rush for a back-up. Just because plans fall through doesn’t mean you should throw your budget to the wind. Last minute choices and incomplete plans can add up just as much or sometimes more and before you know it the budget you began with is gone.
3. If/when the plans you’ve made as a family take a detour, look at bringing the same type of fun to home. Even though our Labor Day weekend of primitive camping in the Outer Banks fell through didn’t mean the idea had to. Our options turned to pitching a tent either in the backyard or the family room, depending on weather. What happened was just as unpredictable. We had the tent set up, brought the cooler in, even had a starry night in the ceiling ready to go. I made treasure packs for the kids to do inside and we arrived home just in time for even that plan to be interrupted. As soon as we walked through the door our alarm system was going wild with emergency alerts. We were under tornado warnings. Awesome. So we gathered our hot dogs, snacks and camp food, listened to the storm swirl around us and spent the majority of our evening in a closet playing card games. Talk about no cost togetherness!
In the end, when the warnings had finally expired, the tent was put to use and (more) memories were made. Saturday was a dreary day spent decorating for fall, watching college football and making fall crafts. Sunday the sun came out and by Monday night we were able to reflect on ocean waves, time on the lake with great friends and just enough Vitamin D to last us until our next heat wave. It may not have been the weekend we had planned, and was certainly a juxtaposition of seasons, but it was budget friendly and ticked all the boxes of family fun. Needless to say it was definitely one for the memory (and yes, even check) books. -xo-