Since I started this series last month, we’ve celebrated everything from chocolate and hockey to concerts and backpacking. Today, Pennies and Dollars is here to share with us what he considers his best money spent this
month year. For him, it’s not just about spending well once. It’s about stretching dollars to get the most bang for your buck.
Best Money Spent – Paying For Itself
I’m going to break the rules a little bit, and talk about the best money I’ve spent this year since our family is still reaping the rewards! The best money I spent this year was buying a family membership to our local science center and zoo for $168 in January. Less than a month into it, it had already paid for itself.
But what makes it such a good purchase isn’t the fact that it paid for itself so fast, but the freedom you have to go whenever you want. Countless times now, we’ve swung by the zoo or science center for just an hour because that was all that we could fit in our schedule. We’ve gone several times in the middle of winter just to walk through the small indoor rainforest section in an attempt to break our cabin fever. It was like a mini tropical vacation! Prior to this, we may have gone twice a year- it was just too hard to justify $34 for a single trip on our small “fun” budget, especially when you can do the whole zoo in less than 2 hours.
Extra Perks Home and Away
The memberships also come with little added perks, which are a nice cherry on top. The zoo offers Member Mondays, when members get free train rides and can bring a free guest. The science center also offers various member-only events throughout the year. The membership would be great by itself, but is even better with these little perks.
The memberships also come with reciprocal benefits are great for vacations. We’ve been able to do several fun things on our vacations for absolutely no extra cost thanks to the reciprocal benefits. When you’re trying to do a vacation on a budget, it’s great to have an extra arsenal of free alternatives to all the attractions screaming for your money!
Every state has several participating zoos, science centers, museums, children’s centers and other attractions, so we just keep a list handy on vacation and make a point of primarily hitting up places that accept our membership. We’ve hit the children’s museum in Omaha, Nauticus and the Battleship Wisconsin in Norfolk, the Norfolk Zoo, the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, the Richmond Science Center, and the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids.
Sometimes these reciprocal locations make great pit stops to break up our trip and give us an hour or two to stretch our legs while still entertaining the kids. Other times they can be a destination unto themselves. Either way, it’s nice to always have ‘free’ activities to take the kids to, whether we’re at home or on vacation.
More for Your Money
For someone like me who has a real hard time spending money on fun things without feeling guilty about it (something I’m really trying hard to change), a membership like this is perfect. It gets us out of the house more often. It’s fun for the kids. It gives us quality family time. It gives the kids an opportunity to do lots of hands on learning. And I get the satisfaction of getting real bang for our buck.
So Tell Us…What does your spending look like for November? What is your best money spent?
Note: These memberships seem like the perfect gift idea, too, for people who are trying to shy away from stuff. I’m definitely looking into this for my newphews!
Second Note: If you’d like to join in this series whether you are a blogger or a reader, drop me a note in the comments or connect with me at shepicksuppennies (at) gmail (dot) com.
My nieces usually have the ‘caretaker’ option for the zoo pass–for a little extra $$, they can go with ANY adult, not just the parents. So my sister can pawn them off on grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, or anyone with the time and inclination for a fun day with two adorable kids.
Have you heard of the POGO Pass? It’s also a great deal if you have kids, and there’s usually a Google-able discount code for 60% off, so for $40 you get to go to 16 different amusement parks, sporting events, classes, laser tag, museums, zoos, etc. for a whole year! (This is in Phoenix, YMMV depending on where you live.)
What a cool concept of a caretaker option! I wonder how wide-spread that it. My in-laws have a family pass to our local nature center. I love that we can snag that!
That Pogo pass sounds like a fantastic deal! Ditto on the caretaker option. There are so many great options out there!
T @ TheTirelessWorker.com
Hi! I’ve had a pretty ok November thus far. Spending only on the essentials so far, food, transport and etc. I also get very guilty about spending on little gifts on myself. Even after finally buying something, I still find myself thinking about the amount spent. I really need to change and start to enjoy a little! (Of course appropriately)
I’m so guilty of that, T. I just made a long past-due appointment to get my hair highlighted. It’s $65 that I really don’t want to spend…but my students are telling my I have a nice ombre style now. It’s time. 😉
Mrs. Picky Pincher
This really isn’t what I expected, but I gotta say, it sounds like you made a pretty good purchase there! I feel like a lot of people purchase memberships and then don’t do anything with them, which is wasteful. But hey, if you go often enough you can really make your money back and then some, especially if you’re frugal while you’re there.
Mr. Picky Pincher went to the zoo recently and purchased a season pass that’s good for a year. The pass is the same cost as one day of admission, so you pay for the cost alone if you go to the zoo just one more time in the year. After that point, you’re saving money by basically getting in “free.” If you take advantage of them, memberships can be awesome!
That’s so true. I sometimes struggle with giving myself too much credit for thinking I’ll go often (hello, gym membership).
Full Time Finance
We too do the science and kids museum memberships with reciprocation. Its come in very handy during travel. I would suggest though reading the fine print, sometimes the site has to be a certain distance away from the selling location in order for it to work.
Excellent reminder to check the fine print. We love the Bank of America Museums on Us pass, but you definitely have to check out all the details to get the maximum benefit 🙂
True! Although here in Iowa, our population density is so low that it isn’t an issue- the next closest science center is several hours away. But can definitely see that being an issue in bigger cities!
My partner and I bought a pass to our local museum earlier this year, and it has also been a great purchase. We will stop by for an hour or two on weekends when we’re feeling bored, and it’s a nice outing that’s already paid for.
Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions
I love the idea of possibly using this as a gift idea too and the elementary science educator in me is all about the hands-on learning involved here! It is not happening in most schools with the focus on ELA and Math – so anything you can do to enrich your children in these areas is incredibly important!
The best money I’ve spent this year is on a new garage-door opener. I know that’s lame, and certainly doesn’t compare to buying a family membership to the local science center, but not having to manually open the garage door every time Mrs. G and venture out is a godsend. Thank you for a very thought-provoking post, P&D. I like the cut of your jib.
My husband would agree with you so much, Mr G.! He had no idea why I was so insistent on looking at attached garage houses when we first started house hunting. He grew up in a home with no garage. Now, I think it’s one of his favorite spots! He’s all about garage and garage door everything!
Graham @ Reverse The Crush
Cool idea for a post. I’m wracking my brain trying to come up with what was the best money spent this year. I’d probably have to say my blog. I switched over from a blogspot address to self hosted in early 2016 and it’s definitely been worth every penny. The cost was really quite low compared to all the time and online relationships it has helped develop.