Eat out less. We usually save restaurant visits for special occasions because a restaurant meal costs much more than one prepared at home. But the benefits of eating at home aren’t just financial. When you make your own meals, you can control what ingredients go into them and prepare food in healthier ways than you’d typically find at restaurants. Our decision to eat out less often forced me to learn to cook better, and I’m glad I did, because I discovered how creative the process can be. Now our family enjoys cooking together on weekends. Even our youngest child pitches in to help wash vegetables or mix sauces.

If restaurant meals are breaking your budget, try eating all your meals at home for a certain period of time and see how much your family comes to enjoy it.  A creative, healthy meal that you all cook and eat together can be a richer experience than eating out in any restaurant.

Take a “staycation.” The adventures you can have on trips help you grow in ways you couldn’t otherwise. But you don’t have to travel far to find new adventures. A new word has been coined by the media reporting on our recession lately: “staycation.” That’s a vacation you can enjoy without having to leave your local area. When you don’t buy expensive airplane tickets, stay in hotels, or incur any other expenses related to traveling to places far away, you can save a lot of money. Beyond that, though, you can discover exciting places in your region that you may have overlooked before. We live in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. For just the price of a subway ticket, we can see everything from America’s largest museum (the Smithsonian) to famous national landmarks. But we’d miss out if we viewed those attractions only as tourist sites for out-of-town visitors. No matter where you live, you’ll find a lot to explore nearby if you do a bit of research. Check out the parks, art galleries, museums, theaters, sports venues, and other places close enough to visit on day trips.

When you have an attitude of constantly seeking new adventures close to home, you’re more likely to notice what God is doing in your ordinary life. Great travel experiences can happen anywhere – not just in a glamorous, faraway place like on a safari in Kenya or in a bistro in France. Great miracles are the same way. Some of the most enriching experiences you’ll have will be close to home.

Eliminate extras. Unnecessary indulgences like manicures, fancy coffee shop drinks, and high tech gadgets that do what you can do yourself can waste a lot of your hard-earned money.  When you let go of them, you learn how to separate what you truly need from what you merely want. That will do a lot to help you see your life from a more healthy perspective.

Like most families, your schedule may be full of lots of good activities. But just because they’re all good doesn’t mean that you should keep doing all of them. You can save time as well as money when you cut back your family’s ongoing activities, from weekend golf games to after-school music lessons for the kids. Letting go of activities that are good but not the best for your family right now will free you all from the stress of constant busyness and give you more downtime with each other. That can only strengthen your relationships, even as you strengthen your bank account by spending less on activity fees. We decided to have our daughter drop an expensive dance class for a season when we were facing high medical bills. But the benefits weren’t just financial. Our daughter could eat dinner with us on the evenings she would have been at class, and we all enjoyed a relaxing time together, knowing that she didn’t have the pressure of having to rush through her homework before going to class or gobbling a hurried meal late at night after returning from class.

Take a hard look at your current schedule to figure out what activities you can drop to give your family something even more valuable: downtime together.  It’s often during that free, unscheduled time that the best conversations can happen between you.  Downtime also gives you each a chance to rest and recharge, so you’ll be more likely to enjoy the activities you do decide to keep in your schedule. Eliminating extras leaves room in your life for more blessings.

So don’t despair if your bank account is low. Your satisfaction can be high if you’re willing to make some sacrifices and trust God to give you what money can’t buy.