By Julie Provost

9 ways military families can have fun on a tight budget
(Photo: U.S. Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

Raising a military family on a budget can be tricky. Between braces, sports and everything else that comes with kids, expenses add up. As a family, you also want to make sure you can make memories and have fun together. Military families know how special that time is.

Here are nine ways to have fun on a tight budget:

1. Free events

Take advantage of all the free or low-cost events that are going on at your military installation. From egg hunts to community nights, your duty station has a lot going on. They are also an excellent way to connect with other military families at your duty station.

2. Free community events

Go beyond your duty station and find what is going on in your local area. These events also a good way to learn more about where you are stationed and the people who live there.

3. Matinee movies

If you plan to see a movie, look into a matinee or find special deals. If there is a dollar theater in your area, look at what they are showing before you plan your movie night. Most military installations offer movies that are cheaper than regular tickets and sometimes even have free showings. Pick up a schedule and plan for a fun and affordable movie with your kids.

4. Military discounts

Wherever you go–especially if you will be traveling–look for military discounts. A lot of places offer 10, 20 or even sometimes 30% off their prices for those with military IDs. It always pays to check before you plan or book anything.

5. Eat before you go

If you want to go to an event, eat a big meal before you leave. It can be expensive to eat out, especially for bigger families. You could easily spend $30-40 just on snacks. You can also bring snacks and drinks if the venue allows.

6. Memberships

Sometimes spending a bit of money once a year will save you money in the future. Buying a family membership to a local zoo, museum, or amusement park can allow you to go as often as you would like without having to spend a lot of money to do so. Ask for memberships as Christmas gifts from extended family.

7. Budget for the weekends

Make sure to always budget for the weekends or any fun you would like to have. Having an exact number of what you can spend when your family does something makes planning a bit easier. Sit down with your spouse and figure out what you can spend each weekend or month on fun activities.

8. Date night in

Instead of spending money on a babysitter and a night out, have a date night in. Put the kids to bed early and make a nice dinner. Have some good conversation and watch a movie together in your own home.

9. Enjoy simple memories

Know that you don’t have to spend a lot of money or go a lot of places to make memories with your family. Pack a picnic and spend the day at the park, go for a long walk or bike ride, spend the day at your local pool, or get together with other families and enjoy your time together. Having fun as a family is all about being together, and simple can be a great way to spend your time.

Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at