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marblesEverybody's on a budget these days, but that doesn't mean we have to give up having family fun! In fact, you might just find that spending less money turns out to be more fun. Really!

Just think about the stories your grandparents used to tell ... how awesome did their childhoods sound? My grandfather's early years were apparently a bigger barrel of laughs than an episode of The Little Rascals, and that was during the Great Depression. Back then, a bag of marbles was the closest thing a kid was gonna get to a Wii.

And maybe that was a good thing!

So, keeping that in mind, check out these 5 Ways to Save Money Without Spoiling the Fun:

  1. Start a collection. Kids are naturals at collecting interesting found objects (ahem, free objects). Either as a family or individually, pick items that are easy to find -- but not too easy -- and small enough to display, then go on weekly expeditions to find interesting specimens. A few ideas: Cool rocks, seashells, marbles, coins. If you want to spend just a few bucks, you can hit the tag sale circuit and look for stamps, bottle caps, and the like.
  2. Go back in time. No need for a big vacation! You might think you know everything there is to know about your town, but a trip to the local Historical Society will prove you wrong. Find out interesting factoids about your city, then visit the locations. (So that's what that grocery store used to be!)
  3. Have a movie night! Between tickets, popcorn, and candy, I spent more than I would on a nice grown-up dinner the last time I took my kids to the movies. Good thing watching movies at home is fun, too, especially if you make it into an event. Little kids can make tickets, big kids can make popcorn. Be sure to turn off all the lights! To make it even more authentic, consider including some treats you wouldn't ordinarily offer (Twizzlers bought at the store sure are cheaper than the ones you get at the movie theater!).
  4. Visit the pet store. Provided you've got some willpower behind you (don't take the cute bunny home! Just admire him in his cage!), a trip to the pet store can be a surprisingly eventful excursion, especially for younger kids. Like the zoo, kind of, except there's no fee for admission (and no pricey souvenirs beckoning).
  5. Make your own art museum. Got paper? Like, a big, giant roll of paper? Pick a theme, like "Safari" or "Circus," and sit the whole family down with a variety of markers, crayons, and paints to make a super-long mural. When everybody's done, sit back and invent stories to go along with the pictures. (Snack on leftover popcorn from Movie Night if you like.)

What does your family do to save money while still having fun?