Stretch budget as end of 2012 nears

lpemberton@theolympian.comNovember 11, 2012 

I love a good bargain.

Thanks to reused materials, hot-glue-gun skills and creativity, we only spent about $10 a kid on Halloween costumes. We probably could have gotten by cheaper, but our 5-year-old insisted that he needed a new plastic ax to spiff up last year’s knight costume.

Saving money is especially important right now for us, as we try to adjust to a new car payment and prepare for the holidays. We’ve been examining our budget, and finding all sorts of ways to trim our spending.

Sadly, one of the first things to go was my, ahem, daily (yes, sometimes twice-a-day) latte habit. I’m trying to make more coffee at home and my espresso stand visits have been limited to paydays, special occasions and times when hot coffee is basically a means for survival, such as rainy Saturday morning soccer games and super-stressful workdays.

We’ve also set the thermostat in our house at 68 degrees, instead of using a program that warmed the house up to 70 degrees during certain times of the day.

And for the first time in more than a decade, we probably won’t outline our house in Christmas lights. We don’t have the money to replace them with low-energy ones, so we’ll probably focus on decorating the inside of our house this year.

The good news is that there are plenty of free and practically free activities during the next couple of months that are perfect for South Sound families. Here are some you might want to try:

1. Watch salmon spawn. The Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends through Nov. 25, as well as on Monday (Veterans Day) and the day after Thanksgiving. (The trail is reserved for school groups during weekdays.) Volunteer docents will be on hand to answer questions about chum salmon and their lifecycle.

The trail is off of the Old Olympic Highway (U.S. Highway 101), near mile post 357, between Olympia and Shelton. For more information, call 360-412-0808, ext. 101, or go to

In addition, Stream Team Stewards are hosting a Chum Salmon and Cider Celebration from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Nov. 18 at the McLane Creek Nature Trail, off Delphi Road, west of Black Lake near Olympia. For more information on that event, call 360-754-3355, ext. 6857; go to or look it up at

2. Visit a museum: Enjoy the sights and activities of several Seattle museums for free during “First Thursday” on Dec. 6. Participating museums include the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (206-543-5590), the Seattle Art Museum (206-654-3100), the Wing Luke Museum of Asian Pacific American Experience (206-623-5124) and the Museum of Flight (206-764-5720). Hours vary.

In South Sound, the Children’s Museum of Tacoma (253-627-6031) offers “Pay As You Will” admission during its regular hours, and the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia (360-956-0818) offers free admission after 5 p.m. on the first Friday of each month. The Washington State History Museum in Tacoma (253-272-3500), the Tacoma Art Museum (253-272-4258), the Museum of Glass in Tacoma (253-284-4750) and LeMay-America’s Car Museum (253-779-8490) offer free admission during select hours on the third Thursday of each month as well.

3. Catch “Downtown for the Holidays.” This annual Olympia event includes a Santa parade, tree-lighting ceremony, gingerbread house contest and seasonal entertainment. It runs from noon-5 p.m. Nov. 25. For more information, call the Olympia Downtown Association at 360-357-8948.

4. Celebrate the season at two events in Lacey. First, there is the South Sound Community Orchestra Holiday Concert at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave. SE. The free event also will feature the Rose Garden Choir. Then the city will host its annual Lighting of the Christmas Trees at 6 p.m. Dec. 6 at Huntamer Park, 618 Woodland Square Loop SE, Lacey.

For more information on either event, call Lacey Parks and Recreation at 360-491-0857.

5. Watch a family movie on a big screen. Pierce County’s Family Friday Movie Night will be held at Chambers Creek Regional Park’s Environmental Services Building, 9850 64th St. W., University Place. “Arthur Christmas,” rated PG, will play from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Dec. 7. Admission is $1 a person, although children 3 and younger are admitted free. For more information, call 253-798-4141 or go to

Lisa Pemberton is one busy mama, raising three children while working as a reporter at The Olympian. Reach her at

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