Making A Magical Childhood On A Budget


Making magical memories with my kids is something every mom wants to talk about. Talking about the budget constraints around making those magical memories, not such fun small talk, but a reality for most of us.

As a mom all I want to do is create magical memories for my family. There is no greater joy than watching my children light up when engaged with new experiences, but recently- I feel like I have been swiping my card more and more to make the magic happen. 

I am a mom on a budget. I love the magic but I am not always so in love with the price tags. 

At the beginning of 2024 I made a resolution, I am going to keep the magic and lower the price tag-but how? The “how to” part gets me. 

Learning how to make magic on a budget is an ever evolving skill looks like I am going to need to learn to lean into my community. 

I have developed these three strategies to help me start my family’s journey of childhood magic on a dime, and I hope they help you, too!



Invest in memberships that work for your family

Since my oldest son was born my husband and I have invested in at least one membership per year. 

Now that our oldest son is turning 3 and we have a 4 month old daughter- we want to invest in at least 2-3 memberships that will benefit our family’s needs. 

When figuring out what memberships to take, we break down our decision into these questions: 

  • What is the cost per visit with and without the membership? 
  • What is the realistic amount of visits we will have in a year? 
  • Does this membership engage with my child’s interests? 
  • Does this membership have and include events as well as diversifying of attractions that will keep my kids engaged in learning new things? 
  • Would this membership meet the development and engagement needs of both kids? 

If we can answer yes to most of these questions we take the membership. 

My husband and I make an active goal to utilize each membership to the fullest- making a commitment to use the membership at minimum 1 to 2 times per month. 

A few of our favorite budget-friendly memberships:

  1. Phoenix Pogo Pass: A POGO Pass is a unique one-time ticket purchase that gets you at least one admission into a ton of local family attractions around town. POGO Pass is only offered in 6 territory markets, and we are SO lucky that Phoenix is one of them. Use code “eastvalleymoms” for the best discount on these passes. 
  2. Uptown Jungle: $19.99 membership/month with a three month minimum is the best value for summer in Arizona. 

Free fun from your city or town

We are so lucky to live in the East Valley- there is a true abundance of free and low cost resources that are aimed towards families. 

More than storytime at the library 

The East Valley is filled with beautiful public libraries. Where you can bring your children to get lost in a world of books. Our children want our presence and time- I find the best way I connect with my children is snuggling up with a book. Reading with silly voices to engage us together in the story. 

My family takes weekly visits to local libraries where we play on computers, play with toys, read books and bring books home. For school aged kids, there’s Lego build clubs, woodworking workshops and craft pop ups at the local libraries all the time (check out our FREE events calendar for these unique library programs).

The library also offers many classes and programs for free during the week- which has helped me meet members of the community as well as let me create some magic for my kids. 

Parks have more than just playgrounds 

Speaking of free magic, let’s talk about PARKS! 

I have never lived in a community with so many public parks. The East Valley has a wide range of parks that meet the needs of kids and adults of all ages and abilities. The East Valley community takes immense pride in the creation and maintenance of each park- each park is truly a magical space. 

There are so many ways to bring magic to the park: scavenger hunts, chalk, picnics, bubbles, sand toys. 

Here’s a few unique park offerings:

  • Book walks: Monterey Park in Mesa offers a storybook walk, where the walking path has storybook “page” sculptures to tell a full story along the park
  • Fishing: Greenfield Park in Mesa has a fishing pond that’s free for kids under 12 (no fishing license needed!)
  • Airplane viewing park: Falcon Field’s airport terminal has added a viewing deck of the runway, a few toy planes for kids to climb on and binoculars to get close-up views of the planes taking off 
  • Feed the ducks at Riparian Preserve 

Parks and Rec Free Events in Gilbert, Mesa and Chandler

Lastly, let’s talk about the East Valley Parks and Rec services. What an amazing resource for the whole family! The Parks and Rec department of each city has something for EVERYONE seriously! 

A few FREE events different parks and recs departments offer:

  • Free Art Fridays: a three hour arts and crafts event for kids 0-6 once/month with five art stations, three sensory bins, live kids music performances and free music classes 
  • Guided Bird Walks: Once/month (except in summers)  the Riparian Preserve offers a ranger-led morning walk to teach kids about the different birds in the area
  • Lunch time concerts in the park: Most of the cities have lunchtime concerts for families to pack a picnic and enjoy live music. Mesa and Gilbert offer lunchtime concerts, and Chandler and Gilbert offer evening concerts. 

Now you may wonder how to find out about all these free events–we post these all in one calendar on the blog right here. I love that we have a central calendar for the five cities featuring only FREE events

City Rec Classes for Kids

I want my children to experience everything from sports to art to theater and more! But, I don’t want to break the bank- this is where I have found the East Valley Parks and Rec departments to be essential. 

I have been able to find classes of every interest from sports to art to music for my kids at very affordable prices. Before my family takes on the commitment of investing in after school lessons, my kids are able to test the activity without breaking the budget. 

These aren’t just for toddlers, either! The Mesa Arts Center offers neat tween and teen classes for interests including blacksmithing, jewelry making and drawing. 

I have found ways to create magical experiences for my family on a budget. I hope some of these tips have helped you think of ways to create a wonderful childhood for your family. At the end of the day the magic comes from you and the love you bring to your family. You are doing amazing mama! Your family is so lucky to have you!


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