My Expensive Lesson: Research Prices First

Last week was our spring break, but since we have a beach trip this June and a Disney trip this fall, we were stuck at home. I wanted to be sure the girls had a fun experience, though, even though we didn’t have plans to travel (or spend much money).

MFJ‘s daughter was with us, as well, and Brenia was thrilled to have a friend each day. The week was planned, and it was brilliant (if I do say so myself). The schedule was laid out and filled with fun, free(ish) activities.

We kicked off the week with a big, exciting trip to Bouncer Town. They have free wifi for momma and tons of fun for the kids. It was $25 (including drinks) well spent for 4 hours of play! I was able to use the (mostly) uninterrupted time to get a jump on the week’s work, since I knew my writing time would be few & far between the rest of the week.

Tuesday, I planned a super fun Hot Locks doll party for the girls—it was a sponsored house party, cost next to nothing and gave the little girls a little something special while the big girl was away with friends. On Wednesday, we took advantage of our family membership to spend an afternoon at the Children’s Museum. Thursday was a yucky, rainy day spent indoors with pre-planned crafts while I compiled grocery lists.

It was all leading to our Friday of Fun—MFJ had the day off, and we were planning to do something with the girls. After a week of low expenses, I was ready to spend $50ish on an exciting outing to cap off the spring break. For weeks, we told the girls we would go somewhere awesome on the last day.

We landed on Dave & Busters—my sister raves about it, my oldest had talked about it for weeks after a birthday party, and I thought it was genius—we can spend hours at an arcade for nothing more than a roll of quarters. The younger girls were unbelievably excited—what’s more fun than a huge room full of games?

As it turns out, Dave & Busters = casino, not arcade. Quarters? Oh, heck no! They’ll take $20s, if you please.

For just over an hour of play, we spent $108 loading $25 on game cards for each girl. Yes, that’s right—they charge you for the card! There are no prices on the machines. Just an odd, seemingly random number of credits. 10.7 credits to play this game. 13.3 credits to play that one. 16 credits (whoa—a whole number?) to ride this ride. 12.4 to ride that one.

And, tickets spewing out of half the machines at random intervals.

For our $108, we got 1 hour of chasing after the girls through a loud, obnoxious, poorly lit room and 4 bags of absolute junk prizes. Featuring? Tootsie Roll banks. Hey, at least there was chocolate! Had I researched the prices before announcing our destination? We would most certainly have chosen something else.

For $108, we could have purchased a zoo membership for an afternoon of animal wonders & many more throughout the year! For $108, we could have purchased a carload of bubbles, kites, games & toys to spend an amazing afternoon at the park. For $108? We should have had $108 worth of fun.

Lesson learned.


  1. kelliinkc says

    Wow! Ouch!! I feel your pain. I hear people gushing about this place al the time. If it makes you feel any better, I have been considering taking my kids to Dave and Busters for a treat and now thanks to you, I’m not going to. You and your blog have saved me a lot of money then!! Why do you think folks promote the place so much? Is it so that they can feel less like they got taken/fell for it by seeing others fall for the money pit trap as well? Thanks again for this post!! :-)

  2. JenS says

    Try Incredible Pizza Company instead. Much better prices on the games even if the prizes to be had for tickets are silly and chintzy. I take my little girl (18 months) to the mommy and me mornings and for $10 we get breakfast and lunch for both of us and $5 on a game card. I’ve not gone in the afternoon or evenings, but I’ve looked at the prices and they seem much better, plus it includes and all you can eat buffet (with a whole lot more on it than just pizza).

  3. says

    @Kelli I’m so glad to hear my mistake can save you so much money!

    @Jen That was suggested to me last week after we left. Unfortunately, our gluten allergies typically keep us out of anything with the word “pizza” in it.

    Next time I want an arcade, I’m thinking Ben & Ari’s – the games are only a quarter and the pizza is kept in a separate room! ;-)

  4. says

    Yes, for $108 you could have done something else… but I’m sure the kids had fun and every experience is unique. Don’t think of it as money wasted; instead, think of it as an experience.
    I always tell my kids that it’s great to try something at least once (as long as it’s legal). =)

  5. says

    I’m glad you had A good spring break!

    I like the way Jersey mom put it, a unique experience. As long as your children were happy and you got some laughs out of it, Id say your week was a succses.

    Happy holidays, I’m jealous about Disney trip :P


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