Picnics provide great family fun

Dining al fresco is an enjoyable way to break bread, but if backyard barbecues have grown stale, parents can always plan picnics in local parks

Raising children is no small task. Parents face numerous challenges when raising their kids, and while it may not be the biggest hurdle they face, the cost of raising a family can sometimes seem daunting.

A 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that a typical middle-come American family spent just under $13,000 annually per child. Those costs included housing, food, childcare, health care, and the various other expenses associated with raising children. Multiply that number by 18 years and parents can expect to spend $234,000 per child by the time the youngster graduates high school. That's before parents write a single college tuition check. The cost of raising children is no less significant in Canada, where Loans Canada, a nationwide financial services firm, estimates that raising a child from birth to 18 will cost parents just under $254,000.

Since the costs of raising children are so substantial, it's no surprise that parents are often on the lookout for budget-friendly ways to have fun as a family. The following are a handful of ways that families can have fun without breaking the bank.

Picnics

Dining al fresco is an enjoyable way to break bread, but if backyard barbecues have grown stale, parents can always plan picnics in local parks. Park admission is probably free, and parents can save even more money by packing picnic-style foods, like salads and sandwiches, rather than using grills provided by the park (parks may or may not charge fees to use grills).

Family days

Local attractions like zoos and museums may designate a certain day of the week as "Family Day." Admissions might be discounted on these days, and some attractions may even allow kids to enter free. Take advantage of these promotions whenever possible. In addition, inquire about family memberships at local attractions. Such memberships may offer year-round entry for the whole family for an annual fee. Depending on how often you visit the attraction, paying an annual fee can save you a lot of money compared to paying regular admission prices on each visit.

Festivals

Community festivals are another great way for families to get out of the house without taxing their budgets. Community festivals typically do not charge for admission. Parents should not downplay the benefits of free entertainment, as a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average American spent just over $2,900 on entertainment in 2016.

Camping

Campsites may charge fees, but such fees are nominal compared to the costs associated with more traditional lodging, like hotels. Camping is a fun activity the whole family can enjoy, providing a great weekend getaway that won't cost parents too much money.

Parents whose budgets are stretched thin can still find affordable ways to have fun as a family.