The 10 Best Budget-Friendly Family Activities During a Recession

by Erika Robertson
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Recessions often mean tightening the budget until the sunnier economic weather shines again. But being frugal doesn’t mean you can’t have a blast with the family!

There are plenty of ways to spend the days and nights making memories together without spending a significant amount of money, or in some cases, without even touching your bank account at all.

While recessions can be tough at times, try to look at the bright side and open your mind to new ideas. View the stormy economy as an opportunity to think outside the box and get creative with your activities.

You might even discover some new hobbies and interests to continue enjoying long after the economy has recovered. Now is the time to plant seeds that will grow into trees!

Finding activities that the whole family will enjoy is no easy task — you Moms out there know the struggle! All of these ideas are suitable for all ages, so hopefully you can find at least one activity that you and your whole crew will appreciate.

So let’s get to it!

kids looking into telescope
Photo credit: demaerre from Getty Images via

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1. Plan a Park Day

Don’t let a beautiful day pass by while you’re cooped up indoors! Public parks are free to enjoy, and there are so many ways to make a day out of your visit. Pack a picnic, a big blanket, and a frisbee, and you’re good to go.

The great thing about park days is that you can get some exercise or enjoy some leisurely relaxation depending on your mood, and the kids will come home tuckered out and ready for bed!

2. Play Astronomer

There’s infinite free entertainment right above you! Studying the sky is a wonderful way to teach kids about our place in the universe, and you might even inspire someone to become an astronaut.

You may not have a telescope, but you probably have a smartphone. There are free apps that show you exactly where specific stars and constellations are located.

Besides stargazing, learn about upcoming eclipses, and plan an eclipse viewing party! Eclipse watching is truly an incredible experience that the whole family will never forget. Just make sure everyone wears certified eclipse glasses to prevent eye injuries.

3. Throw a Block Party

During times of recession, collaborating with other people can be beneficial for all. Throwing a big party may not be affordable for one Mom, but sometimes it takes a whole village!

Reach out to friends, family, and neighbors to see if they’d be interested in teaming up on a special, family-friendly party. There’s power in numbers! If everyone contributes a few bucks, that party budget can stretch a long way, and you don’t need a huge budget to have an amazing party.

Kids will love fun attractions like inflatable games or costumed characters. Adults can enjoy grilling some tasty food, listening to music, and getting to know their fellow community members.

4. Hit the Road

Even an affordable family vacation can be pricey during a recession, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get out and explore some new places. You might be surprised by how many undiscovered gems you didn’t know about if you put in the effort to seek them out.

Walking is free, bicycles can take you even further, and a road trip only requires some gas money.

Do a little research to find local attractions or interesting areas. For example, some farms allow families to pet and feed animals. Or, you might find some neat hiking trails or a cool lake. Choose a destination, or just hit the road and see what happens. Sometimes the best adventures are unplanned.

5. Visit Your Local Library

Libraries are magical places! Not only can you borrow books, video games, movies, and lots of other items for free, but many libraries also host free activities for kids.

Libraries aren’t just for children, either. There are endless books, magazines, comics, and newspapers for adults to explore. Any topic you can imagine is there at your fingertips. It’s easy to get sucked in!

Best of all, the fun doesn’t end when you leave. Bring home a hefty stack of books and media that’ll keep the family entertained until the next visit.

6. Bury a Time Capsule

A time capsule is a box of memories that you bury, forget about its contents, and then unearth on a specific date after a certain amount of time has passed.

Fill it with anything that you’ll be excited to discover when the big day comes — family photos, letters, artwork, knick-knacks, magazine clippings, newspaper articles—get creative with it!

7. Explore a Museum

Many museums have free admission days, and some let kids in for free every day. Going to a museum is a great way for kids and adults alike to learn new things by seeing fascinating objects up close and personal. Whether you’re viewing ancient relics or fine art, there’s something magical about museum exhibits that makes learning fun.

8. Experiment With New Recipes

Food brings people together — not just eating it, but making it, too. Everyone has to eat, so why not turn it into an occasion? Have everyone suggest a meal (or dessert), write the suggestions down, and choose one at random. Save the suggestions, and do it again tomorrow or next week.

After selecting the winning dish, work as a team to make it. Not only will the kids gain a new appreciation for where their dinner comes from, but you’ll have some helpful assistant chefs to lend a hand in the future!

9. Watch a Triple Feature

Instead of just watching a movie, make an event out of it! Choose three complementary movies and watch all of them while munching on your favorite movie snacks. Of course, a trilogy always works, or you could choose a theme like silly comedies or space adventures.

10. Go Camping

All you need is a tent and a campfire to have a family-friendly adventure! And you don’t necessarily need to leave your comfort zone. If you have a backyard, set up camp there so you have modern creature comforts available if necessary. Roast some hot dogs, toast some marshmallows, and bust out the acoustic guitar!

Be Open to New Experiences

When money’s tight, you can’t always be picky about how you spend your free time — that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! If you have an idea, go with it. Instead of letting the recession stand in your way, use it as a reason to expand your horizons. Life’s all about trying new things.

Finally, don’t forget that the activities aren’t what really matter. Many of the most meaningful memories are made just doing nothing while surrounded by the people you love. That’s the most important part. No matter where you go or what you do, spend time with family. That’s priceless.

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