It can be a challenge to start out as a new troop with only a few pennies in the new bank account when there are so many exciting things you want to teach and show the girls right now! Cookie sales aren’t until later in the year and you may have been just forming your troop when fall product (Snacks & Magazines) sales started—missing the boat (this year!) on that money-earning opportunity.
Not to worry! There are still some great ways for your troop to stash a few more pennies away in that bank account, but most importantly, there are even more ways to have fun for FREE!
After all, one tenet of the Girl Scout Law reminds us to “use resources wisely.” Our creative founder, Juliette Gordon Low, even sold her pearl necklace to provide funds for her first Girl Scout troop! Here are five dollar-wise ideas to get your troop started off on a thrifty path to fun (without raiding your jewelry box):
1. Collect Troop Dues
Many new troops opt to collect dues in small amounts to provide seed money to get the troop off the ground. The amount is set by the troop and can be annual, monthly, or per meeting. This is a great way to make sure you have funds to purchase uniforms, guidebooks, and supplies for badges and activities.
When I led my daughter’s Daisy troop of 14 girls, we started out collecting $5 per month per girl in dues and had the families purchase uniforms the first year. We have been able to decrease the dues amount each year as the girls’ Cookie and Snacks & Magazines earnings have increased. They now pay for almost all troop expenses on their own. Talk about go-getters!
2. Share the Snacks
It’s a good idea to have a snack during Girl Scout meetings (especially for our smallest sisters). Pass around a sign-up sheet at the first meeting (or during your family meeting) encouraging families to provide a snack, saving troop funds for other fun supplies and activities. (Be sure to check for food restrictions or allergies for each girl.)
3. Score Some Deals
Did you know that JOANN has a new Girl Scout discount program? Thanks to a new partnership between Girl Scouts and JOANN, Girl Scout members can save 15% on eligible purchases every day. Don’t forget to ask the families in your troop if they have access to discounts for stores/services that can be shared with the troop.
4. Get Group Discounts
Take advantage of the discounts offered at many theaters, museums, and other events for large groups. Have a small troop? Partner with another troop in your service unit to increase your group size. It’s great to mix troops of different ages and backgrounds—be a sister to every Girl Scout!
5. Don’t Forget About the Free Stuff
It’s always free to go on a nature walk, but did you know that many local Minnesota State Parks have free naturalist events too? Your troop could learn about bats or take a closer look at the Mississippi River at Fort Snelling State Park this fall.
If the timing doesn’t work for your troop to join a public event, you can also contact the naturalists at your closest state park directly and set up a private event for “free to unbelievably affordable.” My troop went fishing with a naturalist on the banks of the Mississippi River through the Minnesota DNR’s I Can! program one summer night and all we had to provide was the bait. What an experience!
Hold your meetings in a free community center or library, ask your families to dig in their cupboards for extra art supplies, use recycled materials…the list goes on! Remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to give your girls a memorable Girl Scout experience. Having fun singing songs, laughing, and making memories together will go a long way!
Catherine Mandle – Catherine is a Volunteer Resource Specialist at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She was a Girl Scout as a child and is now the treasurer for her daughter’s Junior troop (which she started and led for their first three years). She has dual bachelor’s degrees from the University of Minnesota in anthropology and American Indian studies. Catherine is a Minnesota State Fair award-winning knitter and always has multiple knitting projects going. She has two children with special needs, including autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and food allergies. She also camps and hikes with her family as often as possible.