Making your money go further during school holidays
How far does your money stretch when keeping your children entertained during the school holidays?
Children. At home. For 6 weeks.
Although neither of my 2 are in full-time education just yet, I am in the same boat (my local pre-school closes during school holidays) and I find myself having regular pangs of guilt that my children may not be experiencing or doing enough to keep them entertained during these periods. I’m sure it’s the same for every parent, regardless of whether they work or stay at home.
And the problem is that this guilt leads to money being splashed on potentially a huge array of activities, which isn’t good for the bank balance. That’s why, when the website, vouchercodes.co.uk, challenged me to a ‘mission impossible’ of sorts, I leapt at the chance.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to entertain your children for one week or weekend during the summer holidays. The catch? You have to use voucher codes to see how much further your money will stretch…
Those lovely money-saving people gave me £80 to help me with this challenge and here’s how it went (plus some ‘top tips’ at the end):
Monday: With Olivia preparing to start primary school next month, Monday was the day to buy any final school uniform. With branded cardigans and PE kits bought, we headed to the largest shopping centre near us for a spot of lunch and shoe shopping. Refuelling at Cafe Rouge, I used their 25% off the food bill voucher (available on vouchercodes.co.uk), saving around £5 from the final bill.
Tuesday: Tuesday was cinema day. My husband was home so we thought we’d all chance it together. My local cinema (an Empire) has cheap cinema tickets every Tuesday (£4 each) so, although we didn’t use a voucher code, we still saved £ten on the trip (and good thing too. William got ants in his pants half-way through the movie).
Wednesday: This was our lazy day. The car was having its service, which meant we were housebound for most of the day. With it being so hot we really didn’t want to do too much anyway, so had fun visiting the local park and taking a dip in the in-law’s swimming pool.
Thursday: We had a wet Thursday so didn’t venture out anywhere. Luckily, I had ordered an online shop (using a vouchercodes.co.uk discount) earlier that week. Among the items were some Betty Crocker cake mix and icing ingredients so we set to work. I’m pleased to say our cake-making was a success!
Friday: Friday ended up being the busiest day of all. Having been emailed a voucher for free adult entry when buying one full priced child ticket, we spent a rather lovely afternoon soaking up the rays and mooching around the local farm and craft village. My parents came along too so we were able to use 2 vouchers, saving us £16 on the entry price.
After the farm, we headed to the local Harvester for an early dinner. Technically, I didn’t spend a penny on this because my dad picked up the bill but we did use a £5 voucher that had been emailed to my husband as a result of him signing up to the restaurant’s newsletter.
During the week, I spent around £69.45 to entertain my 2 young children (this excludes any petrol costs and the full online shop – because I would have needed to buy food regardless so isn’t a special holiday expense – but does include the cake mix and icing ingredients). But, if I hadn’t have used the various voucher codes and discounts that I did, that cost would have been approximately £ten0.45 instead (again excluding petrol costs and the full online shop but including the cake mix and icing ingredients). That’s a rather healthy saving!
Tips for making your money go further
Here are some tips from me on making your money go further during the school holidays:
Look for voucher codes
Sites like vouchercodes.co.uk can be useful for finding discounts for both online and off-line purchases. It’s always worth checking them out, just in case. Also, some websites are jumping on board the smartphone and tablet trend and producing apps. These can be very handy because you’ll have virtual vouchers in the palm of your hand when you’re out and about. You can easily look up vouchers when you’re having a day out to decide which eatery or shop is offering the best deal. This worked well for me when I was out shopping with Olivia and William on the Monday. The one downside? Not every voucher is necessarily available via the app so the choice can be limited.
Sign up to newsletters
A lot of companies offer vouchers if you sign up their e-newsletters. Do it, especially if you visit certain places or establishments regularly. You can get some pretty good discount deals landing in your inbox.
Consider setting up temporary email addresses to take advantage of some shopping discounts
It can be really handy to take advantage of some the shopping discounts that are available. The main problem with them though, is that they tend to only be valid on your first shop. But, there’s nothing stopping you from creating a temporary email address using a service like Hotmail or Gmail, and then using it to effectively sign up as a new customer. That way, you can still use those “£ten off your first shop at [insert store name]” discounts.
Invite parents/in-laws on your days out
Depending on your relationship with your parents and/or in-laws, you might want to invite them on days out with you and your family. This can be a win-win situation: They get to spend time with their grandchildren, your children get to spend time with their grandparents and you get to relax because the relatives will help look after the kids during the day out and might even pick up the bill for the day.
Don’t feel bad if you have a day indoors now and again
Your children don’t need to be taken out and about every single day during school holidays to be entertained. Sometimes, they can be just as happy having some time to indulge in simple interests, like curling up with a good book, playing their computer games, watching a film or, if your children are younger, playing with Play-Doh or sticker books. I’m pretty sure someone once said that it’s good for children to be bored now and again anyway, because it helps them to learn how to deal with it so don’t feel bad if there are days when you don’t have the energy or money to take them here, there and everywhere.
Do you have any more tips to share?