Updated on January 20, 2011
I.S. asks from Culver City, CA
13 answers

Hi mamas,

My husband and I were talking about our friends (the husband is his colleague) and how they seem to do a lot but are scraping by. They have no debt (or so they tell us lol) and are a one income family, much like us and they have one child (5 yrs), just like us (17 months) but the wife, my friend, often speaks of how they just scrape by near the end of the month. Not judging them at all, a lot of families are JUST making it. They do however have a slightly higher rent than us and they go out often (sight seeing, theme parks, etc) where as we tend to stay in more (we don't have a car, neither do they but we have a toddler in a stroller so public transport is a bit of a challenge) or stay around us and don't spend money, except for groceries and toiletries, bills, rent, loans, etc.

My husband and I like to go for walks with our son, we live in a complex with pools so we swim, etc (on weekends, he works mon-fri full time) and then we watch our favorite shows on DVD (bought a few yrs back, we keep watching them as they're awesome! while playing with and feeding our son. We eat all meals at home and I pack a lunch for him during the week. Every so often we will splurge and order pizza.

So my question is, what are your entertainment costs? Do you do it on the cheap or free, like us? Or do you like to spend the money and go to the theme parks, museums, movies, etc? If you DO spend a lot of money how do you justify it, or do you need to justify it?


We do like to do things but it's hard with our toddler... he naps in the middle of the day and it's good to be close to home for feeding and changes.

My husband has accrued debt by traveling the world (before we met) and that is what he is paying off now. I traveled through the UK and Europe, on my own steam (working my way around). We both love to travel and can't wait to take our son to these places.

Also we love art, history and music but it's hard to take a temperamental toddler anywhere, especially when it takes an hour or more to get one way on the bus.

So it is not that we don't like to experience things, it's more that there isn't time or possibility for us to at the moment. This post was asking about what other people do for fun and how it works in their budgets. For the time being we enjoy what we're doing, spending time with our son and each other (hubby works hard).

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Honolulu on

Whatever entertainment we do as a family.... or for the kids... are delineated, by budget.
That's it.

We don't justify it. It just is.

More Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

I think it's a good idea to budget for entertainment every month. We're debt free. All cash and generally, if there's a movie or something we want to go to or see or do, we do it. We're not always running around like crazy or anything maybe a movie per month, a few dinners out, a few dinners ordered in, etc.
Our yearly beach vacation is where we splurge most!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think your answers are going to vary by income level a lot. And some people put a higher value on certain entertainment. For us, we can afford all sorts of outside entertainment but I try to stay away from costly things as I figure if my kids get used to that stuff already, what do they have to look forward to when they're older? And will they be so used to paid for entertainment that they won't value it or be able to entertain themselves with simple things? We have friends who are constantly driving their kids all over to stuff like amusement parks and I'll look outside and see my kids having a ball with the neighbor kids just playing outside and figure that's priceless. If you guys don't feel bored or restless, then I wouldn't change a thing or feel like you're missing out on anything.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

We may go to a movie or to a restaurant maybe once every 2 months. Maybe once every 5 months, we will go to a museum or zoo or something. If we have coupons, we will find good deals in our cities for a bounce house or little free community activity. We do not have much to spend, but we have tons of fun at home with netflix or playing games together, we have friends over for dinner instead of going out. We are frugal in the home and vehicles we have and I do most of our clothing and such shopping second hand.

My relative is like this, they live in a less expensive house, have free child care, both parents work, plus get va benefits (so make $20 k more than us), they filed for bankruptcy last year so they have no debt, and they are dirt freaking poor b/c they blow money on shopping, movies and fast food (they eat this 2 meals a day, they haven't cooked a meal in months). Their utilities get turned off monthly, also paying speeding tickets and always borrowing money from family members for groceries or gas.... I'm guessing they will be filing for bankruptcy again next year. It's frustrating, but some people are just plain idiots in that they believe wants come before needs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Definitely on the cheap - playgrounds, walks, friends houses, the playground at the mall. We did by memborships to the zoo and the arboretum for a $100 each, but we can go anytime, all year.

Its easy with two kids under three to justify NOT going out to dinner or to the movies. Who wants to spend $30 + on food when you are stressed worrying that one of your kids will start screaming?

A movie tickets for two are $20 + - ad $20 + for a sitter and it just is not worth it.

At the age your child is now, they dont know the difference between a theme park and a playground. They wont remember it and, plus, my kids get overstimulated at places like that anyway.

My kids two favorite places to play? The sandbox and the toilet (we discourage the toilet play).... :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

Well, your baby is only 17mo old, so there is really no reason to be running around spending big bucks on theme parks, movies etc.
My kids are 6 and 8. Since they were 2 and 4, I have purchased a yearly membership to our local zoo for $75 for the year. We pack our lunch, get free popcorn due to the membership, take change with us to feed the animals at the petting zoo etc. We don't even go into the souvenier store until the very last time we visit the zoo for the year - usually in the fall here - when they give members %40 off anything. The kids can pick out one thing for like $15.
We always buy a state park pass - $24 per year
We have a museum by us that is free, pay $2-3 for parking. They also have a planetarium show that is 45min long and only cost $3 per person, so we have done that a few times too.
We only go to the movies maybe 1-2 times per year. I'd rather wait and just buy the movie when it comes out if we want it because it is cheeper to buy it then take 4 people to see and and buy snacks.
We go bowling 1-2 times per year, I take the kids to local community theatre things that range from $5-15 per person, stuff like that.
So, yes, we do spend money on entertainment, but on a regular basis, I try to do it on the cheap. We splurge from time to time - I took the kids to an amusement park/waterpark this summer and it probably cost us close to $100 once everything was done. I think the older they get, the more you spend - I mean, I can't just expect a 6 and 8 yr old to sit around the house all the time, but we do try to find cheap or free things to do. It's full blown winter here now, so our favorite thing to do is go down to the park and sled - that's free!!!



answers from Los Angeles on

We own our own business, homeschool and rarely spend money on entertainment. We have no debt, except our home and my student loans....even our cars are paid off. We save money every month and my husband and I REFUSE to take the kids to these junky movies. Went took them to see a 3-D movie in SF and it cost us $67 just for the tickets! We rent movies MAYBE once every 5 months. We DO have memberships to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, since it's cheap and we can go a lot and the kids always learn something. We also have a membership to the SD Zoo which allows us to get into the Wild Animal Park, as well. Other than that....really not much.

My husband took me on a date a few weekends ago to the Getty Villa (not the Center), and it's free to get in, except for $15 parking. We spent 4 hours there without the kids and LOVED it. There are plenty of free entertainment things to do around here, so we do. We go to Disney every 3 years, it seems, but it's a 25 minute drive and we do home after AND bring our own food. It's just the cost of the tickets with the SoCal discount.

We have the money, but we choose to save it, so we can take our kids to Africa, China, Europe, St. Thomas, etc when they are older....where they can have actual life experiences. It also teaches the kids, just because you have the money, doesn't mean you HAVE to spend it.



answers from Los Angeles on

I think it's a personal, family choice. My family and I love to go out and do things. We do have a lot of toys, we are big camping and river people. Thankfully all of our toys are paid off and we have a house at the river so costs are generally minimal. To my family this is our way of spending time together and hanging out and bonding. I have a tween and teen so for us it's very important to have time together doing things we love. We've been doing these things...well before we even had kids...these are things that we both grew up enjoying with our family.
You can still go out and do things with the family, even with a toddler. :)
Good Luck!


answers from Santa Fe on

We tend to spend our money on experiences not things. We like adventure and travel. So, yes! We do go do things. But everyone's budget is different. We save towards retirement/college and we pay off our credit cards monthly and have no debt except for our house payment. So, we feel like we can afford to go places and do things like museums or theme parks. We don't do these things constantly but we do travel once a year and go to some kind of museums, theater, or music a few times a year. We also make just about all dinners at home and my husband packs a lunch each day. I'm not sure if you are saying you cannot afford these things or if you are saying you don't want to spend the money on them. To me these experiences add to the enjoyment of life and teach the kids new things so it's worth every penny!


answers from Dallas on

We don't budget it but are aware of what we are spending. We also are a no debt family.

Hubby and I run our business from our home and most days we will go grab something out for lunch just to "step away" from the office. We do eat out a lot (not the fast food places..... quality restaurants) and spend quite a few bucks on dining out.

We've been members of a high end country club for about 15 yrs which has monthly dues around $600. By the time we get the monthly bill, it is around $1000, give or take..it fluctuates depending on how many times we dine, play golf, entertain clients and the time of year.

We don't feel a need to justify what we spend. We are fortunate, however, we have planned for years and years to get where we are.

However, if we were not in the financial situation we are in..... then spending on things like we do would not be a good financial decision because you should not put your entertainment expenses ahead of the household expenses. Staying out of debt is the biggie. Sometimes just going through the park and a great way to relax, have fun, and get fresh air!



answers from Los Angeles on

It's up to every family to evaluate what they feel is worth their money. Now that I have kids, my entertainment budget centers around them. My husband and I used to go on weekend trips, out to movies and dinners, bars and dancing... now we buy annual zoo passes, disneyland passes, Huntigton Gardens pass, etc.

We go to maybe one movie a year... until I took my daughter to Tangled and realized she is actually old enough (3.5) to sit through a movie and really enjoy the whole experience of big screen, audience, popcorn and all that. So as your kid grows you may find your entertainment budget shifting aruond toward his interests.

I love finding free or cheap things as well! For example, my kids love the local library and how simple is that. Everyone is different. I am kinda like your friend, often bemoaning how "broke" I am when... well, I live in a great house, have two working cars and obviously enough money to do fun family stuff when we want to, within reason. Everyone has the pressure of paying the bills every month. Who knows, your friend could be committed to putting X amount into savings every month and that's why she feels they get down to the last of their "spending" money by the 31st. It's impossible to really know how some other family is doing financially because everyoen prioritizes different things and has their own interpretation of what "broke" or "scraping by" means.



answers from Columbus on

We don't budget our entertainment (but we should), We do try to be very frugal, though. This follows our general trend toward frugality (DH still uses the same 25yo broken lazyboy chair for his computer chair, lol).

We hardly ever go out for dinner (maybe once every 2 months, if that) and get pizza from the pizza place (or other takeout) maybe 1x per every 6 weeks.

We tend to have people over for dinner, rather than go out for dinner. We use Netflix (love Roku, and it's way cheaper than cable) instead of going to the movies.

We aren't super social, though, so I think that the pressures aren't there as much for us.

We do "splurge" on stuff like zoo memberships for the family, but make sure that we go enough times so that it pays for itself.

We always check for the free community events (like, our library has free storytime, the state capitol has free events like Santa/lighting the Christmas tree, etc.)



answers from Huntsville on

We will do things when we know we can afford it. Bills must be paid first, and groceries, gas, etc. Sounds like your friends need to sit down and work out a budget for themselves, and they should be setting aside some for savings!

It's good to get out & have fun, but you don't always have to do things that cost a lot of money (movie theaters? yikes!). Plenty of things, as you mentioned, are free or cheap and just as fun!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions