Building Memories on a Budget

Dyed in the wool finance experts may scorn the expenditure of money on building memories. After all, they claim, isn’t it better to put that vacation money into your retirement savings – so that you will have it and all of it’s growth when you get old?

But there are many ways to build memories, travel being just one of them. Not all methods require large expenditures of money.

As I sat this morning in the bedroom looking over the furnishings and pictures in the room I had designated ‘the ancestor room’ because of all the heirloom objects and pictures of past family members, I contemplated the price of building memories.

The child’s ice cream table and chair set that I had played with as a child, that my Mom had played on as a child and that now my grand children use when they visit holds the demi tea set my daughter in law gave me one year for Christmas. My Grandparents spent some good money on that table and chair set way back in the 1920’s. Little did my Grandparents know how many memories that ice cream table and chair set would birth.

My son had only married his wife the year before I received that demi tea set – and she was eager to please her new Mother-in-law (ahem… me). I had an antique booth at the time and was wanting a tea set to display on top of my antique child’s ice cream table and chair set. I’m sure she paid a fair amount for that set. It is lovely – with a beautiful flowered pitcher, a creamer, a sugar bowl and 6 settings of cups and saucers. It is delicate – beautiful white china – very fragile.

Little did she know that spending money on that tea set would set the stage for wonderful bonding and many happy memories of tea parties between me and her not-yet-born children.

First my grandson sat with me, starting at age two, and pretended to pour and drink tea at that table. We had happy toddler conversations. He was in awe of being trusted to carefully handle the breakable china and he learned the delicate art of etiquette in drinking tea. For three years we pretended to have tea together and then we added his new sister.

The three of us continued to sip our pretend tea, with the older boy becoming less interested in the tea and more interested in climbing up the exercise bike that stood in the same room. My granddaughter and I also had deep and happy toddler conversations and she was also happy to be trusted to handle the fragile tea set and learn the art of tea time.

At last they tired of pretend tea, so we took the entire table and chair set outside along with the tea set and had a real tea – complete with sugared iced tea and cookies. They loved it, I loved it. The tea set survived it.

Last week, when the grand children came, the first thing my 5 year old grand daughter wanted to do was have tea – so we did. Happy memories for many years, for the price of a china tea set.

Last year, for our fortieth wedding anniversary, we took our kids and their kids to Yellowstone National Park for a week. It was our very favorite vacation of all time. It was expensive – as we paid their way for most of it, but the price for us was well worth the chance to share one of America’s very best and oldest treasures with our family. We bonded in ways different than we could have otherwise.

Some of our memories are built around precious things, others are built around places, some cost a great deal of money and others do not.

Building great memories doesn’t have to have a huge price tag.

You obviously are building memories each and every day of your life. Who you build them with and what kind of memories you create are up to you.

The memories that stand out are the ones that serve as markers. Doing the same thing day in and day out does build memories, but the markers are made by the extraordinary times. You can have extraordinary times without spending a lot. Here’s how I think you can do that.

Do something different.

My boys and I used to drive to a local creek or river and go crawdad hunting when they were grade school age. Since we lived in a subdivision, it was quite different for us to wade along river banks and catch those little crawdads!

Once or twice a summer, we would get with the neighbor and her two kids and spend a day at a local lake’s swimming beach – complete with picnic lunch.

Better yet, you can do something different – but do that different thing every year. Establish a tradition. As a child at Christmas, my Mom’s folks always had a Christmas recital. Every family member, no matter how young or old, did something for the rest of us – read a scripture, told a story, played a song on the piano or accordion or sang a song.

Now, I am establishing the tradition of holding Grandma Rie’s Money Camp each summer with the grandkids.

Share stories about yourself and your family.

Some of my most memorable evenings were spent in the old metal lawn chairs at Grandma’s farm – outside on summer evenings, listening to Grandpa tell stories about his life.

Go somewhere different.

Traveling to places you haven’t been or seen has built in memory making possibilities. It doesn’t have to be someplace far away, it could even be the local county fair or state park by your house.

Learn together.

Tackling a new subject together builds bonds and shared memories. My spouse and I took German lessons together early on in our marriage, I still remember the fun we had practicing and the excitement of going to class together.

Have a different kind of conversation.

For the past three years, our extended family (Grandparents, parents, grandchildren) have met as a family to have a different kind of conversation. We call it our family meeting and we use that time to talk about things we ordinarily wouldn’t. We talk about what our family believes in and values; we talk about what our strengths and weaknesses are; we talk about how we can help one another as well as other atypical topics. The meetings stand out in our memories.

Do something with different people.

“Make new friends, but keep the old” is part of an old girl scout song. Making memories with new friends stands out – serves as a marker in your life. Keep connecting and your memory making machinery will never get rusty.

What do you do to build lasting memories and bonds- and at what price?

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