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Movies, dinners out, amusement parks, ball games, exciting vacations…these are just a few things that usually come to mind when we think of "family fun." All these fun things, however, come at significant costs to today’s families. Most of us are more concerned with keeping the car filled with gas than with our next extravagant vacation. When budgets get tightened, the first thing to go is generally entertainment, and during tough economic times, most families need to find creative (read: cheap) solutions for having fun together without breaking the bank. Ambitious ideas include creating a campground in the backyard, turning your living room into a "movie theater," or putting on plays and talent shows with things you already have in the house. Of course there are plenty of less time-intensive ideas, as well. Here’s one in particular that we love:

One sweet and sentimental idea to try is writing letters to your "future selves." Along the same lines as a personal time capsule, "letters to ourselves" can be a fun, lighthearted, and imaginative activity for kids. For parents and teens, the activity is often nostalgic and even inspirational. Put on some mellow music, gather everyone in the same room, and arm each person with a piece of stationery and a pen or pencil. The only directions are "Write a letter to yourself that you will open in exactly five years" (or five months, one year, on your 10th birthday, or whatever works best for your family). You can all decide together as a family where the letters should be stashed. In the attic? Under the sofa? Buried in the backyard? Keep the letters private but take turns guessing what each other included in the letters. You’ll be sure to generate a little excitement by creating a little suspense. You’ll all look forward to "hearing from" yourself the next time you open that envelope. And of course, most importantly, you’ll be starting a memorable family tradition…without spending a dime.

Make the whole process even more exciting by purchasing a packet of personalized stationery for each child that represents who they are at this time in their lives. You’ll spend less than a weekend retreat and have something you and your children will cherish for years to come.

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