Frugal Family Traditions

by Debt Destroyer on October 12, 2009

This past weekend my family said “Goodbye to Summer” and “Hello to Fall” (Not just because we turned on the heat for the first time either).

In what is becoming a yearly family tradition we took a hiking trip in a state park which allowed us to enjoy some beautiful fall foilage.   I understand that in some parts of the country it is no big deal to look at trees, but here in the northern plains it is.  Such a big deal in fact, that we are willing to drive 90 min (one way) to get there.

As a kid, my family also did this.  We would join up with my uncle’s family and have a fun-filled day hiking through the woods, finding snakes, collecting leaves, and trying to cross the stream without falling in (My cousin would fall in every year).

The best part of the trip was that we’d get to go to Ike’s Chicken Shack afterwoods.  It was a buffet, but it also had a zoo, an arcade, and a old-time movie theater(3 Stooges, Laurel & Hardy).

Add all of this up and it made for a super fun day full of wonderful memories!

So of course I’d like to treat my family to the same kind of fun.  Sadly Ike’s closed down a while ago, but the hiking trail is alive and well.  So for the last couple of years we’ve been packing up and hitting the road on the first weekend of October.

This year we added a picnic to the mix and the kids were SUPER EXCITED! Who would’ve thought a thermos full of tomato soup and some stale crackers could garner such feelings?

I’m glad they were extra excited.  Because the weather wasn’t ideal.  It was cool and there were off an on light rain showers all day.  But we didn’t let that stop us.  In fact the foul weather kept the crowds away (yes, we get crowds in South Dakota) so we practically had the place to ourselves.sica-hollow

It was great!

It was a little early to catch the full beauty of leaves changing color, but that didn’t stop our good time.   My wife took some super fun photos (something that you can never have enough of) of the kids & I pretending to explore a hidden jungle while on the lookout for dangerous creatures.

It didn’t even bother us when our picnic got rained on.  In fact we took a vote and declared that we’re going to do this every year.  Of course that means every year until the kids get too cool to hang out with their parents.

But that’s not all…

Our “fall family weekend” wasn’t over yet though.  The next day we went to a pumpkin patch that our town puts on.  We heard about it before, but never went.  Boy were we missing out!

It’s not a real pumpkin patch, but still really fun. Let me explain:

1000 pumpkins are shipped to the fairgrounds.  Then different local groups team up and set up games and events for the kids to do (story time, face painting, train rides).  Of course, the main attraction is that they get to pick out a pumpkin and decorate it.


Did I mention, that it’s FREE!

We had so much fun that we decided that we’d try to combine these two fun fall activities every year.  The best part is other than a $6 park fee and a half-tank of gas, this was a pretty cheap weekend.

Which makes sense, most traditions usually are affordable.  It’s all the other stuff that costs money.

And what do we remember? The traditions!

Last holiday season I mentioned some of my family’s Chistmas traditions or at least the ones we’d like to have.  Well, we’re always looking for some more, so imagine my gratitude when a couple of weeks ago REAL SIMPLE had an article with some fun suggestions for new family traditions.  Here are the ones that my wife and I thought that we’d try out to see if they stick:

  • Happy Half-Birthday  Celebrate a half-birthday with hamburgers and hot dogs sliced in half, half-filled glasses of soda, and a half-chocolate/half-vanilla cake. In the middle of the party, belt out “Happy Birthday,” but stop singing halfway through the song.
  • First Snow Festival
    The first snowfall of the year merits a warm bowl of “melting snowman soup” (potato soup with mini carrot noses and olives or peas for eyes).
  • Thanksgiving Turkey Parade
    After hours of waiting (hungrily), announce your bird’s grand entrance with a parade. March the turkey through the house, with your eager young guests trailing behind. Musical pots and pans optional but encouraged.
  • Santa’s Toy Swap
    Along with cookies and milk, leave old toys under the tree on Christmas Eve for Santa to take back to the North Pole, where his elves can repair them for other children.

While all of these sound fun, the one we’re really excited to try is the Santa Toy Swap.  As mention earlier, my kids have too many toys, this sounds like a great way to “thin the herd.”

How about you?  What are some of your fun family traditions?   Any off the wall ones?

Until next time,


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Carry October 13, 2009 at 9:25 am

Family traditions are great because they create such beautiful memories :) I like the idea of celebrating a “happy half-birthday”!in the end, it’s not about celebrating but getting together!


Debt Destroyer October 13, 2009 at 11:17 pm

@ Carry – That does sound like a fun one.

Both of our kids have winter B-Days and the weather frigid cold weather usually puts a damper on any celebration. So we thought we’d try this idea out on a half year b-day party next summer.


celticbuffy October 14, 2009 at 9:26 am

Glad to hear you guys had a great weekend! Sorry I missed you this past weekend! I love to hear that you are busy creating traditions and making memories! (And taking pictures of them!)

I wish I had heard of the Santa Toy Swap when my kids were younger! We certainly could have given Santa lots of toys to take with him. :)


Sharon October 14, 2009 at 12:59 pm

We celebrate half birthdays and have for quite some time now. My kids LOVE it, even my oldest still looks forward to it and she is 23! We usually buy a token gift (a book, cd, etc.) and celebrate with half a birthday cake, pie or whatever sweet the recipient wants. What makes it so wonderful is the chance to celebrate in a different month and season of the year. My half birthday is May, and I LOVE it! (Yes, parents get half birthdays too!) We started this because my one daughter’s birthday is January 5, so close to Christmas, I wanted to give her an opportunity to celebrate in July. It ended up being our favorite tradition!


Debt Destroyer October 14, 2009 at 10:56 pm

@ Celtic Buffy – You didn’t miss much. You can ask A. we were hardly around.

@ Sharon – That settles it, we’re starting half birthdays (which is good because mine is coming up soon)!!! Everyone is my family (except me) has a b-day within a month of Christmas, so hopefully they’ll enjoy it as much as your daughter has.


Oscar October 15, 2009 at 7:57 am

The santa toy swap is a great idea! Why haven’t others thought of that? haha! I would love to try that this year. Thanks for the idea!


Juicing October 15, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Isn’t it cool how some of the most fun things to do are really cheap too? Sounds like an incredible weekend.

I’ve never been to a pumpkin patch (maybe when I was very young and don’t remember). I should really look into that because that would be a great (and inexpensive) way to spend a fall weekend!


Debt Destroyer October 19, 2009 at 12:52 pm

@ Oscar – I know it. The Santa one jumped out at us too. We are excited to give it a try this year.

@ Juicing – It was a fun weekend. I only touched on it in the post, but the main idea I was trying to get across was how cheap the “special moments” in life are.


Mrs. Accountability October 21, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Reminded me of frugal family get-togethers my sister and I used to have with our children years ago. Thanks for the reminder and it sounds like you all had a great time!


loopslike January 14, 2011 at 3:25 am

In what is becoming a yearly family tradition we took a hiking trip in a state park which allowed us to enjoy some beautiful fall foilage. I understand that in some parts of the country it is no big deal to look at trees, but here in the northern plains it is. Such a big deal in fact, that we are willing to drive 90 min (one way) to get there.


Jonathan@Friends&Money October 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Really great to hear about your family traditions. I think that getting outdoors and having fun with family is where it’s at. For us we love going for winter walks just before Christmas, and trudging through the snow…….


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