If weekends and winter vacations have both you and the kiddos feeling punchy, there’s no need to break the bank for family fun. Try some of these frugal activities on for size.

Nature Crafts:                                                                          

Children love nature crafts, and there are a few that work just as well for grownups as they do for young people. When it comes to entertainment value and a quality end result, consider crafting red twig wreaths for New Year’s gifts or suet and seed cakes for a frugal backyard birding adventure. Of course, there’s always the classic pine cone, peanut butter and mixed seed version as well. They’re cheap, kids dig ‘em, and hunting for the pine cones themselves can be turned into an impromptu family scavenger hunt.

Skiing with Rover:

Planning a downhill adventure with your canine would be a definite disaster, but cross-country skiing is an activity well suited for furry, four-legged family members to participate in. Granted, Fido will be on foot, but he’ll be thrilled to be included. If want to splurge a bit, put on your pet travel planning cap and head out for a winter camping trip. Many lodges offer affordable yurt rentals with kitchenettes included. Find one willing to kick in a cross-country trail pass as well, and you’ll be all set for an affordable family getaway.


Our Labrador really enjoyed participating in daily snowshoe hikes with her long-term sitter while David and I backpacked around the world a few years ago. So when we got back to Maine, we purchased his and her snowshoe gear and turned it into a regular family activity for winter. Using winter trails in state parks, the Nordic center in nearby Fort Kent and several old local logging roads, we had plenty of access to free and affordable family fun that all of us could enjoy. Also, if you purchase the shorter kind of snowshoes with the rounded ends, they fit easily into the trunk of even a smaller car, eliminating the need to purchase ski racks altogether and providing anytime access to a fun winter sport. This makes it a perfect activity to relieve travel stress during a cold-weather road trip.


Old fashioned? Maybe. Tons of fun? Absolutely. And since you only need warm clothing and a sled to participate, this is about as affordable as it gets. Toboggans might not be the safest for Fifi to ride on with you, but boat sleds allow both furry and human children to catch a thrill on the neighborhood sledding hill. Don’t have the funds for a new sled this season? Grab a free box from the grocery store and disassemble into one flat piece. Voila! A free sled. Simply sit on top and hold one of the flaps up in front of you while you whiz along.

Board Games by the Fire:

When the weather outside is frightful, a fire in the fireplace can definitely be delightful. This is also a good idea when Junior has the sniffles. Put on a pot of chili and get your Yahtzee groove on, or go for the gusto with the older kids for a multi-hour session of Risk. As long as you have board games to suit the age ranges of the children participating, you’ll be all set.

Movie Marathons:

Fire up the streaming video and have a morning pajama party, complete with a movie marathon. Perfect for a drizzly-weather Saturday or that first day of winter vacation. Popcorn and hot cocoa are suitable frugal treats that most kids enjoy without complaint. These work well if you have a series of movies such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Use the time between movies for intermissions, with outside play sessions or a lunch of hot soup breaking up the routine.

Do the winter blahs have you down? What are your family’s favorite activities for winter?

Myscha Theriault

Myscha Theriault

A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.