Studies about women and money often find that we prioritize spending on our kids. That is certainly true for me. Although I loathe acquiring stuff for my children (I stop at H&M or Old Navy two or three times per year to stock up on kids’ clothes, and there is no such thing as randomly had gifts — those are saved for holidays and birthdays), I rarely hesitate when it comes to family fun.
A trip to the circus? What childhood is complete without the annual event — even if it sets me back more than $300, including popcorn and parking? Sure, movie theater tickets have gotten so expensive, but what is $50 for some family bonding over Pixar? And how about museum visits — which can cost as much as a semester’s worth of college tuition if we go often — but are one of the reasons we choose to live in New York City?
Until a couple months ago, I thought little of forking over this kind of money each and every weekend. A glance at my bank accounts made it clear I was spending a lot of cash entertaining my kids. On one hand, I felt OK about this money spent. After all, this is cash paid for experiences, and studies show that experiences are what give us pleasure, not objects. Plus, as a single parent, I only have my kids for half the weekend, so our Saturdays together seem extra precious, and I feel the urge to make them extra special. I also recognize that since I am single, as well as a self-employed writer who works from home, I can feel isolated. All these weekend outings are at least as much about my own urge to be out in the world as they are about creating family memories.
But the fact is: Some months these experiences and fun were difficult to afford. Something had to give. So I began challenging my impulses to spend big bucks on family activities and replacing them with lower-cost outings. Here’s what I did.