Making Family Memories In a Fast-Paced World On a Limited Budget
I assume I’m not the only one who is aware of my parental failings on a daily basis. Like there’s this vague sense of guilt. I watch too much Netflix, fall into the Facebook-rabbit-hole, and mentally just zone out.
I’m tired. Having kids is exhausting, and so much harder than I ever imagined. Its rewarding, and all the great stuff you hear about it is true. But there’s also a lot of things about it that are difficult and trying.
I get consumed by the calendar, the schedule, and the demands on my time, that I forget to take time to think and plan for those things and people that matter most to me. Big people problems distract me from the little people, who shouldn’t be low on the totem pole of my priorities.
The last thing I’m here to do, is to add to your guilt. To increase the heavy, ambiguous condemnation you feel.
I want to highlight the ways you’re already spending meaningful time with your kids, point you to small ways to make the most of little snippets of time with them, and motivate you to plan to make time for quality family time.
Ideas Making Family Memories In a Fast-Paced World On a Limited Budget
1. BE PRESENT
In this day in age, I’ve got to start here. Simply being mindful where your attention lies while you’re spending time with your family is an important place to start. Is your focus on the people or the devices? Better yet, ask your spouse if you are a good listener when one of your family members is talking and if you place a higher priority on quality time or the ever-intruding notifications from your phone.
Set down your phone. Make eye contact. Ask questions. Listen to answers. Ask questions in response to the answers. You know what it feels like to be talking to someone who is totally distracted.
Don’t go overboard. Don’t feel guilty every time you catch a glance or sneak into the bathroom for five minutes with Twitter. Simply be mindful of how you’re spending your downtime with those you love most.
2. STAY HOME
This is nothing new, but it deserves repeating. Kids are not hard to please. I recently got the play-dough out, and my girls were beside themselves. I read a library book to my youngest and she begged me to read more.
In this fast-paced world, slowing down and spending focused time together is a rarity. In some ways it’s easier to fill the calendar, check-out, and let the days pass by. Do the harder work of engaging your kids.
Here’s what I’m talking about. Do the research if you don’t have a green thumb, and plant a tree in your yard. Host a family movie night with popcorn and candy for a lot less than a theater. Choose an enchanting chapter book to read aloud together. Go for a bike ride around the neighborhood.
3. STAY LOCAL
This is a perfect time of year to take a look at your community’s calendar of events for the spring and summer. Even the smallest po-dunk towns have parades and festivals and pumpkin patches. Look around, ask around, and you’ll be surprised at how much inexpensive and free stuff you’ll come across.
Don’t focus on the activity itself. It's not about what you’re doing. Any effort you put into spending time together as a family is a worthy investment, whether everyone has a blast with picture-perfect-photos to boot, or it’s a total flop and everyone is fighting by the end.
The goal is to make memories, strengthen the family bond. This will lay a foundation for trust and love and communication for years to come.
4. FAMILY DEVOTIONS
My husband grew up with four siblings. His parents faithfully read the Bible to the kids, but they has some pretty hilarious stories as a result. Stephen, the oldest (and my husband) painfully tried to stay awake during these “early morning” times. And when him and his siblings were little, devotions were basically mass chaos.
I totally get it. A lot of nights it feels like we can’t get through a sentence in a devotional without someone recalling the song they sang in music or the poop joke their classmate told at lunch.
Oftentimes it feels like a lost cause. But God says that when his word is spoken, it is not in vain (Isaiah 55:11). It will not return void, but will accomplish His purposes. All we need to do is to be faithful. We need God to bring our words to life.
EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS
I get it, even the gas money adds up. Before I leave you, let me share a few ways I have made a little extra cash, to give a bit of a cushion for these activities and resources I’ve mentioned above.
All of these fit easily into the rhythm of family life, whether you’re homeschooling, working, or doing a little bit of everything. All of these ideas are ways to make a little money, without spending a cent:
- Sell big ticket items on Craigslist
- List your house for rent on Airbnb while you’re away
- Trade in silver and gold for cash
- List household goods on eBay
- Trade in clothes on Thredup
- Purge your home, and have a yard sale
The point is, get creative. Making memories doesn't have to be expensive. You don’t have to take your kids to Disney to show them you care. But these are some small things to do so you don’t feel the squeeze.
Jen Altrogge is a wife, mother, and writer. You can find out more about her at her website.