Remember when you were a child, how you’d look forward to the holidays and how those summers seemed to last forever.  Now you’re a parent it’s a bit different isn’t it?  For thirteen weeks of the year children aren’t in school and that’s great, because after all, you only get one childhood and you shouldn’t have to spend all of it behind a desk.  However, for parents, it can be a real challenge.  Even if the weather isn’t good, you don’t want your children glued to a screen the whole time.  But once you start taking them out and going places then you start to spend money!

Of course, there are plenty of great things that you can do for free, such as bike rides, walks, free exhibitions and activities, but even so, you’ll do well if you can get away without the odd ice cream or over-priced drink.

There’s no getting away from it, no matter how ingenious you are, the school holidays are going to cost you money. So here are some top tips to help you budget for the next one.  This way, you’ll be able to enjoy it as much as the children, without worrying the whole time about spending money that you haven’t got.

Collect Vouchers

Money-off vouchers are a great way to cut the cost of outings and they may even get you doing things that you hadn’t thought of.  Be on the lookout for vouchers in magazines and fliers and check the internet regularly to see what’s on offer.  Collect as many as you can, you don’t have to use them all, but make sure that you’ve read the small print to check when they are valid and their conditions of use.  We’ve probably all seen parents at the entrance to an attraction, who’ve just realised that their vouchers aren’t valid and who are going to end up paying full price because they don’t want to let the children down.  You can get vouchers that cover a variety of things: attractions, travel, meals out or even just a few picnic treats.

Make sacrifices

All good parents put the wellbeing and happiness of their children first, so if money is tight you may have to give up some of your pleasures so that your children can enjoy theirs. Do you buy a takeaway coffee every day?  Think how much money you’d save if you didn’t.  If you are in the habit of going out for a meal with friends now and then, why not try some home cooking instead?  You’ll have just as much fun, if not more, and you’ll save a stack of money.  Cut out the takeaways, lose a few pounds and save even more money.  You could stop that gym membership and do your exercises at home.  You don’t need to make yourself miserable to save money, just take a hard look at your inessential expenses and see where you can cut down.

Get your credit cards under control

You might consider locking any credit cards away in a drawer.  Paying for items in cash will make you focus on what you need and not what you want.  Switching to a 0% credit card can help you pay off your current debt by transferring from one or more cards that you pay interest on, to a new one at 0% interest rate for a set period.  Be aware that it’s important that you clear the balance before the interest free period ends, otherwise you’ll find yourself paying a high rate of interest.

Cut down on your expenses

Look at all the ways in which you might save money.  Could you walk or cycle instead of driving everywhere?  Could you save money on your weekly shop by comparing local food prices on websites like mySupermarket in order to find the cheapest deals?  How about reducing household bills by using less energy?  Switch to LED bulbs and turn off the lights when you’re not in the room.  Use natural light where possible.  Turn down the heating a little and wear a jumper instead.  Cut down on unnecessary electrical appliances.  Take showers instead of baths.  We all waste money at one point or another; so it really pays to look closely at what you spend and see where savings can be made.

Save some money each week

‘Some chance of that’, I hear you say, but it’s amazing how much money we let slip through our fingers on small impulse buys.  Saving just a little each week soon mounts up. It may not be enough for a new car, but it will certainly buy the kids a few ice creams and some more besides.

Are there ways in which you can make a little extra money?

When you’ve exhausted all the ways in which you can save money, then it’s time to consider ways in which you can raise money.  If your employment offers the opportunity for overtime, then that is an obvious one to go for.  Make sure that you keep the additional money separate because otherwise it will certainly get swallowed up.  Although not practical for many parents, taking on an additional part time job is also a great way to generate some extra cash.  Perhaps taking on deliveries after work or on a Saturday morning.  If there don’t seem to be any part time jobs that suit, then offer your services as a babysitter or dog walker.  It’s always worth exploring what’s on the Internet to see if there’s any other ways in which you can generate a small additional income.  If you have things in your home that you no longer need or want, then you should consider taking a stall at a car boot sale or putting things on eBay.

If all of this sounds like hard work, don’t be put off.  It’s exhilarating seeing a holiday fund mount up and when you’re out with the family, making memories that will last a lifetime, you’ll know that it was all worth it.  The only trouble is, come the end of one holiday, you’ll have to start saving for the next one!


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