Parenting, as anyone who has children can attest, is not inexpensive. Food, insurance, clothes, entertainment, education, and the endless requests for every new toy. Even though my son doesn’t get everything he wants, he appeals for every fun-looking new toy that advertisers manage to place on his radar.

I am astounded at the ticket price just to get in our local amusement parks and zoos, much less do anything once I pay for parking and admission.  The pricey “fast pass” addition is almost mandatory if we want to actually get on any rides; and I would need a second job if we wanted to eat at any of the local zoos and children’s museums.

So, I, like many other parents, I suspect, have found some ways to save money and still keep my kiddos entertained. I call it “Momming, On the Cheap.”

Here are a few ways we save:

Goodwill, the new museum. Just browse the easily accessible aisles full of toys from today and years past. Many will have been helpfully pre-played with, so my children can experience what their use and function was. I don’t have to stress if they break anything, since it won’t cost all that much to buy it. Their clothing racks are full of styles from past eras. Their aisles are walked by colorful people of all walks and stations of life.

Halloween store, the new amusement park. We spent a happy hour wandering around the recently opened Halloween store. All throughout the store, there were colorful masks and costumes, and buzzers my kids could step on to activate ghosts, radioactive zombies, and ominously singing creepy children.

Petsmart, the new zoo.  Aisles and aisles of temperature-controlled comfort, and animals from rescue cats and dogs, to fish, parrots, lizards, mice, and guinea pigs. Parking is usually convenient, and entrance is free. Sometimes there are moving attractions, such as a pre-teen with her lab on a leash, willing to stop and introduce her and let my son pet her dog. Sometimes there are pens out by the front, with rescue puppies waiting to wag their tails.  The Doggy Daycare area has tons of doggies interacting, playing, and sometimes even pooping (always good for a laugh!).

Costco, the new restaurant.  I don’t mean lunch at the food court, though it’s hard to beat taking home a pizza and feeding us for a day or two on it, I mean going to Costco on a typically busy day and wandering around once, or twice, or three times and grabbing a sample of food each time. During their peak hours, this can be enough to fill those little tummies—and my not-as-little-as-I-wish-it-was tummy.

So, save those dollars and Mom, On the Cheap!