Coming up with different ways to entertain kids without breaking the bank has always been a challenge for me. As I type this my two and half year old keeps handing me balloons to blow up so that he can let them deflate while they fly through the air. I feel like I am going to pass out as he squeels in joy and hands me another balloon to blow.
When my kids and I are feeling stir-crazy and need to get out of the house, and at the same time not spend much money, I take them on a thrift store outing. I have a favorite one that has a great toy selection. I give them a budget of a few dollars and we spend about an hour there while they check everything out before picking out the toy they want to purchase. The great thing is that they get to play with the toys first and the thrift store doesn´t care.
I try to plan our outing when I need something as well. When my coffee pot stopped working we planned a thrift-store outing. I got a new-to-me coffee pot for a fraction of the cost of a new one and my toddler got garbage truck for $2.50 and my 11 year-old found a Nerf gun for $3.00.
The trick is to find a good thrift store because there are also ones that don´t have a good toy selection, or they don´t like kids to play with the toys. It is also important to put the toys back that we don´t buy. I don´t want to wear out my welcome.
Going to the thrift store with my kids teaches them that not everything needs to be new for them to enjoy it. It also teaches them how to budget their money and it is cheap entertainment.