Ladies, I don’t want to alarm you…but the summer holidays are fast approaching.
On the one hand this is great – you get to spend the (hopefully!) sunny days doing things with your kids. Ice creams by the seaside, picnics by the rivers, trips to the zoo and the adventure parks, or just enjoying their company through the long, lazy days. The summer holidays are what childhood is made of.
On the other hand – they’re very expensive. The cost of day trips and outings is swiftly reaching prohibitive levels as rail fares increase and, while some attractions try to maintain affordable prices, others have entrance fees which would make Bill Gates wince. Then there are the inevitable costs that a summer of freedom for your kids will incur – the wear and tear on shoes and clothing, the clamour for the latest toy or game which they can play with their friends, and the extra food needed to replace the meals they aren’t getting from school.
All in all, the summer holidays can leave your purse feeling worryingly light. However, there are ways to cut costs without ruining the fun – ensuring that you’ll save money for the big, memory-making events (and emergencies!).
Save on Food
Food prices have been rising faster than wages for a few years now, and the situation does not look set to improve. This is stressful for parents, who have to worry about getting enough nutrition for their growing kids, and can be a real drain on family resources. However, there are ways to reduce your spending on food without compromising on the quality and quantity of what you’re feeding your kids.
How? Well, learning how to really cook is a good start. Most of us can throw together a reasonable selection of dishes, given the right ingredients – but we have lost the skill our grandmothers had of being able to work wonders with what was to hand. Rather than going out and buying a fresh round of ingredients for every new dish, take stock of what is already available and see what you can make from it. You’d be surprised at how much you can do with the most unlikely set of ingredients once you take the time to truly learn about the properties and qualities of these foodstuffs and their methods of preparation. This will also ensure that what food you have does not go to waste and have to be thrown away – you’d be amazed how much money you can save through simply not wasting food you’ve already purchased.
There are a multitude of ways to preserve ingredients in order to prevent wastage, so a little fridge-and-kitchen reorganization, combined with a touch of culinary cunning could be the money-saving ticket you need. Of course, if you have the time and space you could always grow your own vegetables. Seed costs a lot less than the finished product, and – depending on how big your vegetable patch is – you can potentially keep your kitchen well stocked with your own fresh produce for an entire summer, thus saving at least as much money as a pleasant day out would cost!
Save on Days Out
Taking your kids for days out is a great way to spend the summer holidays. Not only does it present them (and you) with opportunities for a great amount of fun and even learning – it also tires them out nicely in time for you to enjoy a relaxing evening with a glass of wine! However, many of the bigger and more well-advertised attractions are extremely expensive. In order to save for these but still ensure that your children have a great time, it might be advisable to look into some of the UK’s many free or reasonably-priced attractions. Throughout Britain, there are a multitude of free museums which – far from being the stuffy repositories of dusty artefacts you may think – are fascinating and enjoyable experiences which make a strong effort to appeal to children. For example, Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum (free entry for all), provides children with ‘bee bags’ which can be pulled along like bright, bee-shaped child-sized suitcases and contain an array of toys, as well as ideas to help children really get the most out of the museum.
There are plenty of other child-friendly attractions with very low or non-existent entrance fees dotted throughout the country – from Devon’s Donkey Sanctuary to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and Nottinghamshire’s Sherwood Forest Country Park (green Robin Hood hats available on request…). Indeed, just a walk in the countryside, a paddle in the river, or an afternoon splashing in the sea can be a wonderful way to spend time with and entertain your kids. Studies consistently prove that children truly benefit from spending time in nature – which is something that can be provided completely for free!
Save on Travel
Travel costs add up, and can come as a shock. However, if you are prepared to do a bit of advance planning, you can shave pounds off your journey. Booking rail tickets early with websites like thetrainline.com can save you a good deal of money on the day, while buying with a family and friends railcard can take even more money off. Some train companies offer group discounts. Alternatively, Megabus offer extremely competitive prices for travel between major UK cities. If you have to drive, then carpooling is also an excellent way to both save on petrol and firm up some old friendships.
Written for Mojomums by Emma Dexter – Mum of two. Emma is a freelance writer who works from home writing about a whole host of subjects. She is particularly passionate about family matters.
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net