It all started with Christmas 2011. We were given a $20 gift card for Chuck E. Cheese. Neither of us were eager to introduce the place to the kids, so it hung on the fridge, month after month. Recently, in a clutter removal effort I decided to list in on Craigslist for $13. Not one email, nadda. A few days later I happened across a coupon; $19.99 would get us 1 large pizza, 2 drinks and 25 tokens. Hmmmm, I clipped it out and set it aside. Then, a few days later my daughter and I returned from doing errands while my husband and son painted a wall in his room (purple, his favorite, and something that was part of his 4 year birthday celebration). My husband simply raved at how mature our son had been, doing great work, in fact, his paint work was better than dad's. A reward was in order for such hard work. Inspiration hit!
"Let's have lunch, and then I have an idea". Once some healthy leftover were consumed by all, I floated my idea by my husband. Let's put the kids in the bike stroller and walk to Chuck E. Cheese. He was all for it, and so we were off. The walk took about 30 minutes, and when we arrived a challenge faced us. The parking lot was absent of a bike rack or any obvious place to park and secure the stroller. We improvised and were ushered in the door. Being "tagged" as a family with ultraviolet ink was.....odd. But hey, it was an adventure. My husband and kids gravitated towards the "rides" section, and I went the counter with the coupon and gift card. With tax the total was $1.09. I paid in cash. And not another penny was spent. The pizza was okay for frozen pizza....please don't try and tell me they serve anything other than frozen food there, I won't believe you. Instead of two sodas they let me get a coffee instead. The 25 tokens were more than enough. Our kids were too young for most of the games, and slightly stunned by the mania of the place. Most tokens were enjoyed by me, playing ski ball, and my husband reliving childhood moments on video games. Oddly we amassed quite a few tickets for prizes at the counter.
Inside a Chuck E. Cheese -- an experience most parents
have these days, but not one I am eager to repeat.
No, we did not turn them in for over sized sun glasses or rubber toys. My kids have everything they need and nearly most of what they want. And our home does not need another drop of clutter. So I handed the tickets out to a young boy who had been so polite to my son. At first he was shocked, then beamed. We went for the experience, not the stuff. And it felt great to put a smile on a child's face.
So there you have it, a frugal way to enjoy two hours at Chuck E. Cheese. Use a gift card combined with a coupon. Don't spend a penny more. Focus on the experience, and give any game tickets away to a kid who may not have as much. You'll feel great. Oh, and it helps if you can walk there....burn off some calories and save a little gasoline.