Fun on a Budget

A single parent’s $50 “holiday for a week.”

  • Joanne’s daughters as children. Joanne McNeal

When my daughters were in elementary school, I had a week’s holiday from work, but our budget allowed us only $50 to spend. I thought hard. What could we do for that small amount? We couldn’t stay in hotels, or drive very far – that was too expensive.

After much discussion with the girls, I saw a rubber dingy on sale for about $45, and it came with oars and a hand pump. So I bought one, and every day we planned our trip, packed lunches, and then headed off in the car with our dogs to local lakes. We went to Elk Island Park, or Alberta Beach, where we blew up the dingy by hand and mouth. Then, we took turns either rowing on the lake in the dingy, or playing at the water’s edge at the beaches. We tried fishing, but couldn’t bear the thought of killing one, so we were actually glad we didn’t catch anything. We swam, played games in the sand, and walked through the woods, finding flowers and other interesting things. The dogs loved going to the lakes with us, and swimming to retrieve sticks. Sometimes we built a small fire and roasted marshmallows.

Of course it takes gas for the car to get there, but back then gas was cheap, and all week we used less than one tank of gas. Somehow we made our $50 last a week, and it was fun and simple. We were together -that was the best part. We planned our day together, and relaxed together, and talked and played games. I am so glad we had those simple times together. The girls and I will always remember it – it was FUN!

My daughters are now grown and are doing very well in their careers, and I am now a grandparent. But the girls often talk about their memories of these simple times. I am convinced that while almost everything costs some cash, it takes more caring, creativity, and planning than money to raise children on a small budget. Times together are priceless.

Joanne lives in McCauley.

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