The joys of the school holidays: six weeks stretching ahead to keep your children occupied without breaking the bank.
Sadly, chucking children outside with lashings of ginger beer, and instructions not to return before tea time and foiling minor crime, seem to be frowned on nowadays.
Here are five frugal things we’ve been up to so far this summer.
(And if anyone discovers a time machine, allowing me to blog simultaneously with child-wrangling, do let me know.)
Signing up for the library reading scheme
Libraries in general can be a frugal lifesaver – books, magazines, DVDs and internet access on tap, and often activities for younger offspring. The Summer Reading Challenge, when children are bribed to read six books with stickers and key rings, is another winner. This year’s theme is Animal Agents, and gives a reason to get out of the house, borrow books and let your children hold forth about their favourites to patient volunteers. Tech-savvy children can also sign up online to get book recommendations and enter competitions. Best of all, it’s completely free.
Preparing packed lunches
One major money-saver on any day out is taking your own packed lunch. We rarely seem to set foot outside the front door without some kind of sandwiches, or at least a bottle of water. Sure it can be a pain lugging it all around, but your bank balance will thank you. I use a couple of squishy zip up insulated packed lunch bags, which are super light. Think these ones are similar. For tips on what to take, check out my post on thrifty packed lunches.
Exploring free activities on offer
It’s always worth checking out free activities, before busting out for the likes of theme parks. We did a day trip to St Elizabeth Olympic Park, meeting up with friends at the Tumbling Bay adventure playground. I thought the kids might be a bit old for the sand and water part bang near the Timber Lodge cafe (handy loos), but no, they played for ages with the water pumps and lock gates. There’s also a brilliant part with rope bridges, tree houses and slides. Meeting up with other people definitely helped keep them entertained for longer.
Taking advantage of cheap train tickets
Our trip to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was more affordable because Greater Anglia trains were running an offer with children’s off peak return tickets for just £2. The only slight hitch is that you have to pay at a ticket office, rather than booking online in advanc. However, I could still use my Network Railcard to get a third off my own ticket, so our day return train tickets from Manningtree to Stratford cost less than £20 for the three of us.
Nabbing games and craft stuff from charity shops
Before heading off on holiday, we always swing by the local charity shops searching for books, games and craft stuff. These help cope with inevitable rainy weather without spending a small fortune. This year my son (believe it or not) was particularly taken with this Button Bag craft kit, a bagain for £2 rather than the normal £8.99. He proudly made his own mini-owl. NB best attempted when you have the time and patient to help with cutting out, threading needles, rethreading needles and generally averting disaster.
Now over to you – any thrifty tips to survive the summer holidays? Frugal favourites to keep the kids entertained? Do share your ideas in the comments, as I’d love to hear!