Hints & Tips on how to survive the summer holiday as a parent!
Having the kids off school for several weeks can be daunting as a working parent; among plenty of other things, you have to try and figure out the childcare, which is really expensive! As kids, we all used to love the school summer holidays, right? It was the best time to be a kid, weeks off school, you'd get to go on family days out, muck about with water guns on hot days in the garden, play games inside on a rainy day and generally have a blast, but now as parents, we get to understand the summer break can cost a lot of money; the cost of living crisis has squeezed our wallets even tighter and were all looking for cheap holidays, free days out, and ways to get a better deal to make sure the kids have a good time, so we've come up with what we hope are some great ideas to keep costs down, but fun levels up!
I'm a working parent; how can I keep the kids looked after over the summer holiday without spending a fortune on childcare?
I have a 6-year-old son, and it costs us over £50 a day for his childminder to look after him while both his mum and I have to work, and even activities laid on by the school are £40 a day (which annoyingly, for us, don't run all day so this means you need to try and figure out how to get him at 3 pm when you don't finish work till 5 pm), which means we would be looking at between £220 and £250 a week in childcare costs if we weren't lucky enough to have grandparents nearby to help lighten the load, and of course, being able to use up some annual leave to spend time together as a family and save the childcare costs!
Summer holidays aren't new; we always know that the kids will be off school for many weeks during the summer, and so it does mean we can make plans way in advance to make sure we have childcare sorted for the kids that aren't old enough to be left home alone, but of course, even with the best of planning, there is often something that happens that causes hiccups, and so you have to rush around finding a solution!
Solutions aren't always easy, though, so what options might you have for low-cost childcare?
Coordinate with Other Parents: Reach out to other parents in a similar situation and see if you can arrange a childcare co-op. You can take turns looking after each other's children during the school holidays, providing a cost-effective solution for everyone involved, our family does this when possible, and it can really help if you team up with 4 other parents. Each parent looks after the kids one day a week. You've covered the whole working week at minimal cost, if any at all, and potentially you might only need to take 1 day a week holiday from work to cover this, so only 6 days over the whole of the kid's summer holiday, so it saves your annual allowance.
Seek Help from Family and Friends: If you have family or friends nearby, consider asking them for assistance. They might be willing to help during the holidays, especially if you reciprocate the favour when they need support. For our family, we are fortunate as we have both sets of grandparents local to us, and they very kindly lighten the load by taking our son out on trips for a day several times over the holiday, meaning we don't need to worry about childcare. This is both cheaper, but I also think it's really important, as they won't be around forever. I want my son to spend as much time with his grandparents as possible, but I appreciate this isn't always possible for everyone.
Flexible Work Arrangements: Talk to your employer about the possibility of flexible work arrangements during the school holidays. You can explore options such as working from home or adjusting your work hours to accommodate your childcare needs. Most bosses understand the situation; they are likely in the same situation!
Check Community Programs: Look into community programs, local organisations, or churches that offer free or low-cost activities for children during school holidays. These programs might provide a safe and engaging environment for your child while you work.
Contact A Local Youth Centre or Recreation Centre: Some youth centres or recreation centres might offer affordable day camps or summer programs for children. Check with these organisations to see if they have any subsidised options. As a kid, I used to go to the local leisure centre, and they had all-day programmes where you spent the day doing lots of different sports and activities, which was cheap and good fun!
The HAF programme, which stands for Holiday Activities and Food, funding is primarily for school-aged children from reception to year 11 (inclusive) who receive benefits-related free school meals (FSM). HAF is funded by the Department for Education, and the programme's purpose is to ensure children and young people are entertained, active, educated, safe and fed during school holidays. Local authorities are asked to ensure that the offer of free holiday club provision is available for all children who receive benefits-related free school meals in their area. If this is of interest, contact your local council asap, as spaces are limited.
If you’re eligible for universal credit, you can reclaim 85% of your childcare costs, worth up to £1,108 per month if you have two or more children.
Keeping Costs Under Control
Having the kids off school during a cost-of-living crisis can make budgeting and saving even more challenging. There are plenty of ways to keep the kids busy without breaking the bank. Here are some extra hints and tips to navigate the situation and save money during the busy summer months:
Charity Shops and Secondhand Shopping: Consider buying clothing, toys, and other items from charity shops or through online secondhand platforms. You can find great deals on used items, helping you save money while still, at the same time, your kids enjoy getting new things to play with or use.
Meal Planning and Bulk Buying: Plan your meals for the week ahead and make a shopping list accordingly. The kids being home does increase the amount of food being consumed, so you'll likely be buying more groceries; so by planning meals in advance, it's easier to work out your budget better and incorporate the extra food into your food shop, and by planning in advance, even lunches and breakfast, you'll not be stuck for meal ideas and potentially spend more or end up with a takeaway! If you'd have to take your kid's food shopping with you, look into getting groceries delivered instead from a supermarket (avoid the fast delivery services of groceries as the prices are typically much more expensive!); that way, you'll not be coerced by the nippers into adding more items into the trolley than you intended to, which can really add to the cost of your shop; and make good use of supermarket cashback apps and retailer loyalty schemes, not, of course, forgetting making use of the more conventional cashback sites and apps as well, to make sure you are saving as much money as possible.
Refrain from Impulse Spending: Avoid impulsive purchases, especially during summer sales and promotions. It's very easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement of summer and all the summery things you can buy or do to make the holidays more fun, but take a moment to evaluate whether you truly need the item or can afford an activity before buying it, if you have to use a credit card, that you'll likely not be able to pay off in full when the bill comes in, then sleep on it before spending out, as you may well decide it's not an expense that needs to be made!
DIY Entertainment: Instead of going to expensive theme parks or attractions, organise DIY entertainment at home, like a garden movie night or family game day; perhaps explore local woodland or a park, but if you do want to head out to a real theme park or attraction then look at offers to save some money, such as the Heinz Free Day Out offer or the Kellogg's 2 For 1 ticket offer found on cereal boxes.
Don't buy lots of new books; make use of your local library for free books for the kids to read; don't forget they often have audiobooks and even movies you can borrow as well, plus many libraries have special events during the summer that you can take the kids to that are both free and entertaining!
Check local retailers for free events; for example, Ikea offers a range of free activities for kids, giving the parents some time out! Check out our 20 Things to do with the Kids guide to keep the nippers busy this summer!
If going out and about on the train, do a quick online search for a discount code for cheaper tickets; it can really save a small fortune! There are 8 National Railcards in the UK that can save you 1/3 on train travel around the UK, and check out Trainline for the latest deals and discount events; it's saved our family a small fortune on trips to London!
Cheap Family Holiday Ideas
Can't afford to go on a 'proper' holiday this year? I feel you, I'm going nowhere this summer, sadly, but there are cheap and thrifty options to have some fun and get out and about without forking out for a couple of weeks sunbathing on a beach in the Maldives! For thrifty parents, there are plenty of enjoyable and affordable holiday ideas to consider. Here are some budget-friendly holiday options that can create beautiful memories without breaking the bank:
Camping: Camping is an excellent way to enjoy the great outdoors without spending too much money. If you don't have a tent, you can rent one, and look about for affordable campsites, but if you can't afford to stay at a campsite, then maybe camp out in your back garden, or perhaps a friend's back garden, you'll still have a great time, plus you have use of a proper loo!
Road Trip: Plan a road trip to explore nearby attractions and scenic spots. Pack a picnic lunch and visit local landmarks, museums (many are free, especially the London ones), or natural wonders.
Staycation: Instead of going away, consider having a staycation at home. Discover your local area like a tourist; head off on day trips to visit a local park, nature trail, museums, and free events.
House Swap: Look into house-swapping with friends or family who live in different cities or countries. This way, you can experience a new place without paying for accommodation.
Volunteer Vacation: Consider volunteering as a family in a different city or country. Some organisations provide food and lodging for volunteers, and it can be a rewarding way to spend your holiday; you'll get to discover different cultures and see what somewhere is like as a resident rather than as a tourist.
Beach Getaway: If you live near a beach, a beach getaway can be a low-cost option. Spend your days building sandcastles, swimming, and enjoying the sea breeze. Maybe head to a beach you haven't been to before, and if you fancy a bit of travelling, maybe plan a trip where you go to a beach in the North, East, South and West of the country and compare which beaches you liked the most, even better if you can find a campsite near each beach to stay at!
Farm Stay: Look for farm stays or agritourism opportunities in your region. Some farms offer affordable lodging and activities for families to experience life on the farm.
Free Events and Festivals: Check out local calendars, websites and Facebook groups for free events and festivals happening during your holiday. This could include concerts, fairs, and community gatherings.
Budget-Friendly Destinations: Look for destinations that offer a range of affordable accommodations and dining options. Research budget-friendly cities or countries that align with your interests. Deals such as the SunSavers £9.50 per person holidays could be an inexpensive way to get away for a while.
Hostel Accommodation: If you're comfortable with shared accommodations, hostels can be an economical choice, especially in popular tourist areas. Some hostels specialise in family stays, so taking the kids isn't a problem.
If you are able to go away for a while, look at the prices of an Airbnb over the price of a hotel room, you may find that an Airbnb can be much cheaper, especially in Europe!
Eating out can stretch the budget; if you are lucky enough to go away and avoid expensive tourist trap areas, or even hotel restaurants, you'll often pay a premium to be able to go locally to where you are staying; it's worth venturing a few miles away from the busier tourist areas as prices will often be far lower, and potentially you may discover far better, and more authentic food! If you're staying in the UK, take advantage of the kids eat free or for £1 deals many restaurants offer; it can save a fortune!
If going out to bars are restaurants for a tipple, avoid the bigger branded drinks; see if there are local variations, which can be much cheaper and are just as nice!
Heading out to the cinema is a fab way of keeping the kids happy and busy but look about for discounts on cinema tickets. Most cinemas offer special deals during the summer to get 'bums on seats', but if you can't find a specific deal, then check out sites such as Groupon, which often offers discounted tickets, Kids Pass, which offers up to 30% off Cinema tickets, but is a chargeable subscription, but do offer a 30-day trial for just £1 which is good value, especially as they also offer loads of other discounts as well, including cheaper meals out, which can save you up to 25% off your food bill, or special kids eat free deals. Don't forget that if you are going to the cinema or any other attraction, avoid buying food and drinks onsite; take snacks and drinks with you that you can buy from a supermarket for a fraction of the cost of buying from the venue; food and drink are where cinemas make their biggest profit and Im sure they will be thrilled you take your own goodies with you, but most accept this is going to happen especially these days!
If you have a garden, even a super cheap paddling pool can offer hours of fun for the whole family, and with the weather not being that great so far in the UK, many supermarkets and other retailers are slashing the cost of summer-themed garden equipment to clear it out, so you may be able to grab a bargain; I've seen £20 pools down to £5 to clear already and the summer holidays have just started!
Should you spend your savings on travelling or outings this summer?
Remember, a memorable holiday is more about spending quality time together as a family than splurging on extravagant activities. With a bit of planning and creativity, you can have a fantastic holiday without breaking the bank and wiping out your savings; many people set up a separate bank account or money pot and put money away every month, especially for holidays, so if spending now will leave you without savings for emergencies, then it's better to start saving now for next year and then have a budget set aside that can be spent without potentially leaving yourself short.
Refrain from hitting your credit card; an expensive day out whacked on the old flexible friend is soon forgotten, but the financial difficulty of paying it off can go on for months, even years!
Hopefully, these money-saving tips will help a little; summer holidays are expensive, but a little bit of tweaking the budget and thinking outside the box can really help, and I know that I really appreciate our son's teachers more, having spent weeks with our kid, I for one don't think teachers are paid enough for what they must go through! Why are kids always far better behaved at school than at home?!