1. Plan your family vacations early and book travel packages at the Natas fairs, and if necessary, combine with another family (with a child of about the same age) to go on trips together.
2. Every week, empty out your pockets/purse of loose change and get your little one count it and put it in a jar or their piggy bank. You’ll be surprised how much you can accumulate after a month. Junior will also learn the value of thrift from a tender age.
3. Alternate weekly trips to the movies and dining out with watching DVDs at home and going on a picnic.
4. Reading provides hours of engaging entertainment. To remind yourself to live within your means, read local lighthearted chick lit, Budget is the New Black, by Claire Betita de Guzman ($16.50 before GST, from major bookstores). Sabbie, a high maintenance PR girl, loses her job and discovers the thrill of thriftstore finds. Sounds familiar? Read on…
5. Instead of meeting your mummy friends at a café, take turns to host gatherings at each other’s homes. Your toddlers will learn social skills while you catch up on gossip. Plus you can swap and learn fun recipes to make with your friends. Or tell everyone it’s a potluck.
6. De-stress by taking a jog or watching TV, instead of shopping.
7. Spa treats can strain on your resources — so go the DIY route. Watsons’ new collection of house-brand toiletries has an extensive range of face, body and hair care products you can avail yourself of at home that won’t put a hole in your pocket. Create your own in-home spa with its signature Green Tea facial range, Bird’s Nest essence mask or try the popular Beer hair treatment. With prices starting at just $8.95, you can indulge yourself anytime! Plus peewee might enjoy getting messy with mud packs.
8. Children get as much fun at parks and pet shops as they do at the zoo ― and they’re free.
9. Instead of costly indoor play centres, check out wonderful outdoor playgrounds like the children’s playground at Pasir Ris Park (mini-maze) and West Coast Park’s Adventure Play Area, the arrival plaza at Sentosa Cove Village, a tilted-train at Tiong Bahru Park and a three-tier playground at Changi Village with poles to slide down. Your mini-action-terrors will be happily occupied for hours at the many play structures.
10. Keep a lookout for our museums’ open-house days, usually on public holidays like National Day, Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Chinese New Year. You’ll enjoy free entry to the exhibits, where junior can make a beeline for the interactive displays.
11. Get your toddler to make cards and presents for family birthdays. A batch of home-baked biscuits, a hand-decorated plant pot or a framed handprint are cheap but meaningful, personal gifts.
12. Your neighbourhood library offers an abundance of books ― whether your mini-reader digs dinosaurs or loves lions. Junior can also attend free storytelling sessions and affordable holiday activities. Go to golibrary.nlb.gov.sg to check programme schedules.
13. You’ll be surprised how much fun your kitchen cupboards contain. Pots, pans, spoons, tins ― you name it, they’ll bang it! If you collect bottle caps, they can put them in containers and pour them out, count them and just play with them.
14. Buy some balls. Whether your tot is crawling after it or kicking one about, a ball is a classic toy for kids of all ages that lasts and lasts.
15. When you go out, bring along drinks, snacks and, if appropriate, a picnic ― don’t waste money buying refreshments for a day in the park. Look out for picnic-able events like Ballet under the Stars at Fort Canning (reserve Shakespeare in the Park for slightly older kids).
16. The best toys in life are free ― really! Children love to stretch their imagination ― so, turn a box into a bus or boat, or fill an old water-bottle with rice to make musical maracas. And we’ve yet to meet a tot who doesn’t love ripping pages out of magazines.