Summer is upon us—a potentially busy time for Moms and Dads. Kids are out of school and the weather and longer days are beckoning us all to spend more time outdoors. The time is ripe for some exploring as individuals, couples, and families. You might finally have some time to go to that museum you’ve wanted to take the kids to, or spend a lazy afternoon at the zoo. While there, you might even think about whether or not to purchase an individual or family membership to enjoy more of the venue at a lower cost over the next year.
I have never actually purchased a membership to somewhere, save for the Houston Museum of Fine Arts when the price was $10 for one year. Who could resist that cost? The reason I always hesitate is because I don’t know that I will use it enough to make the cost worth it. For example, after purchasing the Museum of Fine Arts membership, we only went to the museum once more over the course of the year. And Thursdays are free at this museum, so we certainly could have taken advantage of that with or without paying for a membership.
So, how do you determine if memberships are worth it? I think it depends on several variables, only one of which is the cost of membership itself.
Can You Afford the Cost Upfront?
Being able to purchase things upfront can save you money later. But if you truly cannot afford it, then it is no bargain for you. Try to displace costs elsewhere, such as your current month’s entertainment budget (if you have one). You can find free things to do for one month in order to pay the cost of a family membership that will last a year. Perhaps you have a vacation fund and can use part of it to purchase a membership. Can you do a week of freezer/cupboard eating and take that week’s grocery budget to pay for membership?
Can Guests and/or Others Use your Pass?
It is more likely you will reap the financial benefits of a membership in terms of savings if the membership comes with a guest pass and/or someone other than you can use the membership. For the first, if you have friends in town it will cut down on costs. And if someone else can use your pass, then you could even split the cost of membership.
Does the Membership Replace other Entertainment Costs?
If you know that purchasing this membership means you will cut down on the costs of entertaining you and your family (because you will go to this place instead of somewhere else when you are bored or looking for something to do), then a membership can be a great tool for you.
Are there Convenient Free Days?
Did you check and see if the museum/attraction you want to see has a free day? Is it on a day where you can go with your family, even if just meeting up after work for a few hours? Paul and I met up once last year at the Museum of Fine Arts and had a lovely Thursday evening near the end of a workweek. If you cannot make it to any free days available, then perhaps a membership is a way for you to save some money.
Will You Use the Passes Past the ‘Break Even” Point?
Here’s a rundown of the cost of membership versus the cost of a one-time ticket for Houston museums/attractions:
|Museum/Attraction||Cost of Single Ticket (purchased online)||Cost of Membership||Frugal Alternative|
|NASA||$17.95 adult, $13.95 child||Family of four, $94.80 (one year)|
|Houston Zoo||$13.00 adult, $9.00 child||two adults and up to three dependent children plus 1 single guess pass, $94; individual plus one guest pass, $65||Free First Tuesday of the Month|
|The Health Museum||$8.00 adult, $6.00 child||Five family members, $60; Individual Plus One, $45||Free Thursdays 2:00-5:00 p.m.|
|Houston Museum of Fine Art||$10.00 adult, $5.00 child||Family membership for two adults and all children under 18 in household, $85; Individual membership, $50||Free Thursdays|
|Houston Museum of Natural Science||$15.00 adult, $10.00 child||Two Adults and up to 4 children, $115; Individual, $60||Free Tuesdays after 2:00 (main exhibit halls)|
|Children’s Museum||$9.00||Up to three individuals and one adult $85;||Free Thursdays 5:00-8:00 p.m.|
|Splashtown||$30.99 48” and taller; $27.99 48” and smaller ($5 processing fee per ticket ordered)||$59.99 per person||The beach?|
Do you have family memberships? Have you made use of them as much as you wanted?