Thrifty Thursday: Free Summer Reading Programs for Kids!

I’ve always loved to read and one of the things that I love about summer is all of the great summer reading programs that are available for kids!  Here’s a round-up of all of the summer reading programs I know about:

Barnes & Noble’s Summer Reading Imagination’s Destination ~ Kids in grades 1-6 can read any 8 books, record them in their journal (along with why they would recommend the book), and then bring their completed form to a participating Barnes & Noble location between 5/24 and 9/6 for a free book!  Details are here.  Many Barnes & Noble stores also offer a weekly story time and craft for kids.  Check here for an event in here your area.

Book It Summer Reading Challenge Sweepstakes ~ Read five books between 6/15/11 and 8/15/11, submit the completed form and enter to win a prize pack that contains the following:  tote bag, water bottle, mini flier, mini ball, sunglasses, jump rope, book light, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and a $20 Visa gift card.  Details are here.

Borders Double Dog Dare Challenge ~ Read 10 books between 6/1/11 and 9/5/11, complete the form, and bring the form into a local Borders or Waldenbooks store to get a FREE book.  Details are here.

Chuck E Cheese ~ Print the Reading Rewards calendar, read every day for 2 weeks, and get 10 free tokens!  Food purchase is required (I think in the past, a drink has counted as the “food purchase”) Details are here.

Half Price Books Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program ~ Print out the reading log, have your kids read for at least 15 minutes each day between 6/1/11 and 7/31/11 and track it on the log, and once they’ve read for 600 minutes, and turn in your reading log between 7/25 and 8/7 to get a $5 Back to School Bucks summer reading reward!  One “top reader” per age group will also receive a $20 Half Price Books gift card.  Details are here.

HEB Summer Reading Club ~ HEB is a grocery store in Texas, so this promotion applies to Texas residents.  Read 10 books, log them on the form, have your parents initial the form, mail in the form, and receive a t-shirt in 3-4 weeks!  Details and the form are here.  Your form must be post-marked by 10/1/11.

Pottery Barn Kids ~ Visit your local store on Tuesdays from 11-11:30 am for story time!  Members receive an official Book Club Passport at their first Story Time and a special gift after attending five story times.  You may want to contact your store first to make sure they participate in this promotion.  Details are here.

Rainforest Cafe Rio Reading Rewards ~ Print the calendar, read 20 minutes per day for one month, and get a kids’ meal for $.99 with the purchae of an adult entree.  Details are here.

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge ~ Read books, log your minutes, meet your reading goal, and enter to win prizes!  Details are here.  You can also submit an essay about your most special family moment, and you will get a free book plus be entered to win a trip for your family to Sea World!  Details are here.

TD Bank ~ If you have a TD Bank in your area, read 10 books this summer, log the books on the form, take the form into your nearest TD Bank branch, and $10 will be deposited into your Young Saver account!  Details are here.

Don’t forget to check out summer reading programs at your local library!  Our local libraries offer a summer reading program where kids earn rewards for reading books plus they offer story times for various age groups weekly throughout the summer!

If you know of any other summer reading programs, let me know!

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information



Save big on bowling this summer!

AMF Bowling

If you’re looking for ways to beat the heat and have some summer family fun on a budget, AMF is doing their best to help! They have released several new coupons to cut the expense of family bowling night.

Here’s what is currently available:

*Save $5 per person (up to 10 people)

*Save $20 off your next game of 4 or more people

*Buy one game, get a second game free!

To find out what locations are participating near you, check here (all you have to do is enter your zip code).

Some locations are also offering 2 free games of bowling each day for kids his summer!  To find out how this works and see if a location near your is participating, click here!

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.

Cinemark Movies for 75 cents on Monday!

I posted previously about saving money on movie tickets this summer and various theater chains that are offering free or very cheap movies.  Here’s another deal that may be available in your area:  select Cinemark Theater locations offer 75 cent admission for parties of three or more on Mondays!  Find out if your theater is participating in this 75 cent admission promotion here (sadly, mine is not). 

My Cinemark location also offers an “Early Bird 1st Matinee Showtime” every day of the week if you view the first showing of the day.  Tickets are only $5 (compared to $7.25 during the day, $9 in the evening, and $9.50 on the weekends).

(Thanks Frugal Fabulous Finds!)

Tip of the Day Tuesday: Stretching your vacation budget

Now that summer has officially started for me, I am looking forward to our family vacation in a few weeks.  Since we’re on a budget, every dollar counts, and we look for every little way that we can find to stretch our vacation budget.

I have posted before about cash back sites such as Ebates, Shop at Home, and My Points.  I use these sites all of the time when I am shopping online, but I didn’t realize until recently that you can also book hotels, airfare, and rental cars using these sites!

We ended up finding a deal on a hotel that is part of the Marriott chain of hotels (we typically book through Marriott because we can usually find affordable prices at one of their chains, the rooms are typically clean, and they are family friendly).  I looked at the “cash back” offerings at all three sites and Shop at Home had the best incentive – 3% cash back, so I booked my reservation using their site. I am also a member of Marriott Rewards, and they have a promotion right now where you earn a free night at a Marriott hotel for every three “paid” nights from June 1st through August 31st, 2010 (you have to activate this promotion by June 30th in order to take advantage of it).  I also had a “bonus” promotion on my account where I will earn an additional free night for two “paid” nights from July 1st, 2010 through September 30, 2010.  So, we’ll earn some free nights that can be used toward another vacation!

I also cashed out for gift cards from some of the sites I belong to so that I can offset some of the meal expenses.  I got:

$25 “Darden” restaurant gift card (valid at Olive Garden, Red Lobster, etc.) from
$25 Chili’s gift card from MyPoints
$20 Chili’s gift card from MySurvey
$25 Cracker Barrel gift card from my banking rewards (we earn rewards for debit card purchases through my bank!)
$10 Wendy’s gift card from my banking rewards

Here are some of the other “travel related” sites you can book services through using Ebates, My Points, and Shop at Home:

*1-800 Hotels
*Alamo Rent-a-car
*Days Inn
*Dollar car rentals
*Doubletree Hotels
*Embassy Suites
*Enterprise Rent-a-car
*Holiday Inn
*Jet Blue
*La Quinta
*Motel 6
*Quality Inn
*Southwest Vacations

How do you stretch your vacation budget?!


Thrifty Thursday: Summer fun for kids on a budget!

Summer vacation has already started for many families and mine is just around the corner (only two more days to go).  One of the big questions I’m hearing from a lot of people is “What can we do for free or cheap this summer?”  I plan to post weekly ideas about the things I’m doing for free or cheap with my kids this summer, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

*Board games – My kids absolutely love it when we get to pull out the board games and we have a closet full of different ones that I try to rotate through so that they don’t get tired of playing the same thing over and over again (although for some reason they never seem to get tired of Candyland).

*Go Bowling ~ A number of bowling centers are offering two free games of bowling each day this summer.  Adults can purchase a discount “family pass” so they can participate, too!  Check out the list of participating free bowling centers here to see if there is one in your area (sadly, there is not one in mine)

*Build and indoor fort – Grab your pillows, blankets, and sheets, and get creative! If you need some ideas, here are some great articles:
Building an indoor fort (from

How to build an indoor fort (from

*Camping ~ August 14-15th you can get free entrance fees at more than 100 national parksCheck here for a list of additional free entrance days by state.  Here’s a tip – many national parks never charge an entrance fee, so you can plan inexpensive visits year round!

Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

*Crafts and other activities ~ Here are some websites with free or cheap ideas and printables:

DTLK – this is one of the first “kid” sites I discovered when my daughter was about 2 and we were working on skills like coloring and learing the alphabet – they have lots of great printables and kid friendly craft ideas

Enchanted Learning – lots of great printables and activity ideas for preschool-aged children and school-aged children – we subscribe to the magazine also, but you can get great kid craft ideas and kid friendly recipes online, too!

Make and Takes – I subscribe to this blog and love getting my “daily fix” of craft ideas and kid friendly recipes!

Make and Takes

No Time for Flashcards – lots of great, affordable, ideas for kid fun!

No Time For Flash Cards

*Websites where you can purchase craft packets or other activities for a reasonable price:

1-2-3 Preschool Projects – Order a sample activity for free or order themed boxes or activities for the entire month. Prices for the activity packets and boxes are affordable, but they do kind of “get you” on shipping. – lots of great preschool activities and ideas for making bags and swapping them with your friends

Oriental Trading Company – they have lots of great craft packets for preschoolers and school-aged kids. My daughter loves the “activities” I have gotten for her from here. Many of the activities come in “units” of 6-12 which means you can make things for family and friends or it provides a source of entertainment if you have a playdate. Don’t forget to order through Ebates to get 3% cash back (and a $5 bonus using this link if you haven’t signed up with them yet)

*Indoor picnic – instead of eating lunch at the table, spread out a blanket and have an indoor picnic. This breaks up the monotony and my kids love it!

*Movies ~ Check out this list of movie theaters that are offering free or cheap movies this summer

*Read ~ Encourage your child’s love of reading by checking out this list of summer reading programs for kids where you can earn lots of freebies!

Do you have a budget friendly summer fun idea to share or another Thrifty Thursday tip?  Feel free to link up below!

For more Thrifty Thursday ideas, check out Coupon Teacher, Madame Deals, and Life as a Mom.