Saving Money at the Fair

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Save Money At The Fair

Save Money at the Fair

Note from Tawra. This was originally published in 2009

Last weekend, we went to our town’s fall celebration. Usually we don’t go to these things but the kids are older now (11, 10 and 6) and they’ve never been to an amusement park. We weren’t going to go this time but found out there was a $20 special where they could ride all the rides for 4 hours. Since we don’t usually take a vacation we thought they might like to go on some of the rides.

Even then, we couldn’t justify spending $80 for the 4 of them (Mike and the kids) to go so we asked the kids if they wanted to pay for some of it. They said sure. So Mike and I gave them each $6 and they paid for the rest out of their own money.

Just as we got there Mike and David got sick, so they took the baby and went home while I stayed with the other two. It was a small area and I was starting to get really sick (with my CFS) so I sat down at a table to watch while they rode the rides. As I was sitting there, I was so shocked at the waste.

Parents would buy each child his own funnel cake. The kid would eat 1/4 of it and then throw it away. Another kid got a huge 44 oz. drink, drank 1/4 of it and threw it away.

Now first of all, you have to be insane to pay $5 for a funnel cake in the first place but if you do buy something like that split it between everyone. There is no reason a child needs that much food or drink just for himself.  Growing up, I never remember having my "own" item of something like that. We always shared. Our kids did decide to use their own money and buy some cotton candy but we came home and made our own funnel cakes, which cost about .50 for 6 of them.

The two older kids had a great time and loved the rides but this definitely won’t be an all the time thing for us. It’s no wonder people are in debt when they spend $100+ at these types of things!



Photo By: omaromar


  1. Gloria says

    Amen! Kids who learn early the value of money and not given everything make much happier and emotionally stable adults.

  2. Rachell says

    I agree! We live in an area that has several small towns and there is always a fair, fest, or something going on within driving distance. These don’t usually charge to get in but there are tables of trinkets and toys for sale, pricey games and crafts, and the food is so expensive. The most affordable way for us to attend is to go in the afternoon right after a good hearty lunch. In fact, we have learned that Sunday afternoons can be especially nice and slower (less crowds)than Saturdays. We budget an amount we want to spend and that is all we take with us.
    Keep the great advice coming!

  3. says

    We also attended the fair with free tickets for entrance given through the schools (even homeschoolers receive these). We homeschool so we went on Monday which was $1 day (which is now $1.50 day) for rides and most families were busy with school and work so the crowds were small. We gave each child I think 6 rides and we took our own food and water in a back pack in case we got hungry. We also ate before we left home. We told all the kids we would get cotton candy when we went out the gate. Right outside the gate the cotton candy is 1/2 price. We all shared a large bag. We usually stop for a drink on the way home. A 6 pack of drinks from the grocery store with cups of ice or fountain drinks from a cheap convience store nearby. I have 6 kids at home and even with all our preparations we still spent about $100 including parking for all of our activities. I thought we did well. A family could easily spend $100’s of dollars in a single afternoon. Last year was our first Fair and my kids were thrilled. We had a fun time but once a year is definitely plenty for me!

  4. Natalie says

    Oh yeah! Tawra, I was thinking about what you said,
    “Growing up I never remember having my “own” of something like that. We always shared.” It just dawned on me after tonight’s dinner that individuality can lead to excessive and wasteful behavior. I’m back in school, I sub teach part time, my husband travels (sometimes a lot!) and like tonight, occasionally my parents will bring a take/bake pizza over, we provide a salad and drinks, and we all have an evening together. Now this is the important part. Used to be that when my mom and dad would do this to make one night of my husband away a little less tiring for meal prep and offer some company, they would bring two, sometimes three, family size pizzas. Combo/veggie for me and mom, meat “lover” for grandpa, and half cheese, half pepperoni for the grandkids. What? WHAT?! Thankfully we saw the light some time ago, so tonight there was one family pizza. 1/2 combo, 1/2 pepperoni…in the oven and everyone chatted while it cooked. Adults ate the combo, kids ate the pepperoni and for those that wanted cheese they could pick the toppings off. And no leftovers! Excessive individuality can be really expensive and spoil us in ways beyond our tastebuds! But when we take the excessive individuality out, we can uncover some wonderful connections because of being made to share. Take care, God bless you and the family! Natalie

  5. Natalie says

    Oh yeah also! Your funnel cake recipe is simple and it rocks! I found that in your cookbook a few years ago and when the kids are asking to go the “KrispyKreme” or “Doughboys” for donuts, this is hot and has a similar flavor that satisfies a hot fried donut craving, but without starting the car, spending extra money, and WITH doing something in the kitchen with the kids!

  6. Tina Barrett says

    I have found that if my kids have to spend their own money they are much more conscientious of wear it goes.
    If we plan a trip to the fair or other special event where there will be games, items for sale,etc. we tell them in advance what the budget is. If they want to spend money on something that is not in the budget it has to come out of their pocket. It usually only takes once or twice of wasting money on something that is lost or broken before we leave, or returning home empty handed and penniless that makes them more willing to stay on budget next time.

  7. says

    Hi there,
    Just to let you know I do follow your blog (thanks to the e-mail subscription).
    You are completely right about the waste of throwing away food and drinks. Nick and Elsa also order always only one meal and one drink for their 2 girls so they can share it. They are not big eaters and now they always think they have eaten all. It is something they already do as from the girls were very little and they do not know better than to share it.
    Is is not done to throw food away!
    Hope the baby is fine, already 4 months old!!!
    Love and a big hug, Trees

  8. Karen Vellenga says

    We always did the share thing with our kids which took a bit of explaining sometimes (we fostered too so got used to explaining our system).

    I found the kids bought into it real fast when I explained our budget for fun / treats / vacations.

    We always saved for a one week trip to Florida each year (we drove our own van, looked for deals – & sat through our share of time share presentations (with free breakfastand arcade for the kids)and packed a lot of the food, drinks & snacks etc. We always stayed in a place with kitchen which saves a bundle even if you buy stuff like bagged salads and prepared lasagnas. We usually went in January/ February when a lot of the theme parks offer 2 days for the price of one (never Disney – but Univeral/Sea World/Busch Gardens always had a deal.

    We also camped for a week nearby each summer closer to home.

    Once the kids went once they saw that it was way better to save for a really cool trip that to waste our money on junky food / toys on a weekly basis.

    We still made the odd stop but I also made of point of sourcing good recipes for the junk food they loved.

    I could always make way better pizza, burgers, milk shakes etc at home and if it was homemade i could afford to make enough for them to invite their friends.

    Fairs were always way to expensive but we treated the midway games like the plague and in our area there is always a wrist band day when the kids can ride all day Friday for a small fee – something they always wanted to do once they reached the age where they wanted to hang out with their friends. And thats what allowance and part time jobs are for.

    We found that once kids learned how to prioritize when making decisions about the ‘fun money’ it made it way easier to explain the bigger budgeting / saving picture.

  9. Karen Vellenga says

    One thing i forgot in my previous post on vacations. When staying near the theme parks in a wonderful hotel with pools, paddle boats, tennis courts, walking trails, etc we always seemed to have the place to ourselves during the day.

    Other families were at the theme parks every single day of their stay. What overload – we would enjoy one or two days (second day free remember) and spend the other days enjoying the pool and the warm weather.

  10. LAM says

    Those fairs can be so expensive if you are not careful! I worked with a woman who went to the State Fair and she said between her and her boy friend they spent $400.00! I’m like how can you spend so much! Our fair comes in October too right before holidays! It is incredible that so many people don’t even THINK about money until they can’t pay their bills!

  11. Arthur Aturulewski says

    Our state fair is coming and on opening day everyone gets in for only a buck! It’s always less crowded on opening day – which is a big plus! We don’t ride any of the rides (we’re too mature), however we do enjoy the exhibits— the animals, the quilts, the desserts, etc. We don’t buy any food because we are permitted to bring along a picnic lunch which we share up in the grandstands while watching the rodeo, the demolition derby, the pow wow, etc. We spend less than $10.00 and have a terrific time! Who needs all that junk food anyway?!?!

  12. lorin says

    We like everything about the fair, especially the food and the rides. Ours is a county fair and the admission is not bad. My two sons bought armbands that were good for a few hours and we buy food from the local high schools trying to raise money. Everybody’s experience is going to be different, you just need to do what works for your family.

  13. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    In addition to frugality, homemade is a better memory anyway. My school friends remember my bringing funnel cakes to school in 1970 and keep asking for them.

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