Nfld. & Labrador

$20 Lady: The all-ages, low-cost, home-entertainment bonanza

Dara Squires finds some inexpensive ways to bring the family together, and to entertain everyone at the same time.
Snacks and a night of watching movies do not have to cost an arm and a leg. (CBC)

I have a confession to make. Usually when I do a $20 challenge, I actually spend the $20.

This time: I didn’t.

Part of it is that my bank account was nearing zero; part is that this past weekend we were perfectly happy just hanging at home, gorging on candy and watching cheesy and scary family films on Netflix.

Mostly, reporting on how my family entertains itself indoors for less than $20 might not be the right story for your family. If your kids are older or younger, our choices won’t work for you. Or maybe you have the kind of kids that love museums (my eldest hates them) or the kind who hate running around and yelling (mine love doing that).

So instead I’m rounding together all of my experiences plus those of other parents I asked to give you a huge plan of attack for when boredom strikes and it’s too miserable outside to be at anything outdoors.

Making a treat out of Movie Night

Our big indoor activity just about every weekend is a little thing I call Movie Night in Canada.

Columnist Dara Squires notes that Netflix's flat rate makes it easy to find affordable family-friendly entertainment. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Throughout the week, my kids aren’t allowed candy or soda or even a lot of TV. On Saturday night, we gather together as a family, with chocolate, chips, candy and a glass of soda for everyone, and we watch a movie.

This is also the only time the kids are allowed to eat in the living room. It’s a mind-blowing treat for them.

Our Netflix subscription (we don’t have cable) is $7.99 a month. The junk food is usually another $8 to $15. Overall, it’s a cheap date night for the kids.

If you’d rather get out of the house, though, Cineplex offers family favourites on Saturday mornings for just $2.50 a ticket. Also an affordable movie plan.

Other inexpensive options

Back when I thought I could hammer culture into my children, the best outing was walking to The Rooms on a Wednesday evening, taking in the free admission, and finishing the evening with a special treat on the way home. It’s also free the first Saturday of each month (except in summer).

For younger kids, any day of the week you can find a playgroup operating somewhere in the city. For the active-minded, the Active Sports program runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There’s also MUN’s Physical Literacy program on Saturday mornings. Both are free and aimed at the under-six crowd.

If you’ve got a mix of ages or older kids, a trip to the Y — where a family pass of $13 for the day gets you access to the pool, the gym, and the programs — can’t be beat.

There’s always McDonald's, where your school-age kids won’t admit it but still love the playspace, especially if you buy an ice cream afterward.

Also, just about every karate class or fitness class for kids offers a free first class. Next week we’re hoping to check out Crossfit Killick and take in a free class.

There are more ideas, really, than I can report on in this column. What I’d recommend is that you check out the Facebook group Kids Friendly Activities in St. John’s and especially this post where other parents gave all of their ideas for under-$20 entertainment.


Dara Squires is a single mother of three, working, living, and scraping by in St. John’s.