The six-week break with your kids over the summer should be a time for you to relax and spend time with your family. But with the added costs of childcare, days out and missing work, it can become a struggle financially.
“When I’m not working, I’m not being paid,” says Joanne Dewberry, from Dorset, a self-employed small business owner and freelance writer. “It can be hugely daunting. The summer holidays are an absolute nightmare, there is no getting away from that. You go from six hours child-free everyday to 24/7 for six weeks.”
Dewberry, who is mum to seven-year-old Olive, nine-year-old Megan and 11-year-old Charlie, has to try compromise with her husband, who is a gardener, to balance both their jobs throughout the year. She tries to work longer hours in winter and fewer in summer, but navigating this can be tricky.
For Natasha Vale, 31, from Stourport-On-Severn, Worcestershire, financial struggles are apparent during the summer holidays too, but not because she’s losing out on work. The stay-at-home mum to twins Isla and Esme, both seven, five-year-old Bray and Luna, who is 22 months, says she finds the holidays really hard to budget for. “Money over any half-term is certainly a stretch but the summer holidays really do impact us financially,” she says. “It’s such a long period of time to provide additional activities and food compared to the ‘normal’ daily routine of schools.”
During the summer holidays, Vale says her family can use up to four pints of milk and a loaf of bread a day. “My children enjoy fruit and yogurts too so, with four children, the cost of this alone soon mounts up,” says Natasha. “Our shopping bill can increase weekly due to the fact that we are eating more at home or eating out.”
And it’s not just food, days out are also a big cost for Vale. She struggles with the fact most family tickets apply to two adults and two children or one adult two children, when she has four children. Her husband works, so she is usually venturing out as one adult with four kids and often can’t buy a family ticket. “It all soon adds up,” she says.
Fiona Brown, 38, from Essex, is also self-employed as a career coach. “Affording childcare and taking leave is a worry for us,” says Fiona, who is mum to Seth, four and Zachariah, two. “It means a financial loss. It’s a very long period of time so I have to look at whether I can still make appointments with clients and worry that I won’t get any work down.”
Brown feels there is a pressure to be doing things all the time during the summer holidays, such as activities, days out, and “having that extra ice cream”. All these things can add up and make a dent in your wallet. Not only that, but Brown says many activities don’t cater for different age groups, so her two-year-old can’t go to the same activity as her four-year-old - so one of them loses out. “There is definitely a pressure to go out and keep them entertained that can be really difficult for a long period where they’re out of routine,” she adds.
Over the years, Joanne says she has found ways to reduce her spending over the holidays. “You’d be surprised how buying an extra packet of juice cartons, bottles of water and storing those for the summer can make your finances go a lot further,” she says. “I usually have something in the car boot (lollypops, crisps, juice) which helps reduce the chance I’ll spend money in parks and also can help increase the length of an activity because, believe me, it can all soon go downhill if they get thirsty!”
Planning is also crucial in ensuring Joanne has budgeted enough for the holidays. For the past six years, she has spent time leading up to the summer break organising and booking her kids onto free activities and holiday clubs. This also involves squirrelling away money “even if it’s just a few £1 here or there”. She sets herself budgets for days out, so she doesn’t overspend, and tends to organise something quite expensive in between lots of free things like utilising local parks, bike rides, river fun or the local library. Joanne prints off the six weeks on a calendar and starts filling activities in advance so her kids know what’s coming up. “Having a plan stops you getting to the point where you are starting to panic,” she says. “I literally start preparing for the summer from after half-term in May.”
Brown tries to work little and often from home with her kids, making sure she still gets to spend time with them, but also manages to get some work done. “I book childcare in advance and book my diary up weeks in advance so I know where I am at any given time,” she adds.
To save on days out, Vale tries to be savvy where she can to avoid the costs becoming unmanageable. She uses Tesco Club Card points, which can go towards days out, and does a lot of research to find local activities to do. “During the half term in May for example, we visited three farms and a park, we baked and did lots of craft activities and managed to do all of that for the under £40,” she says.
How do you manage to keep your kids entertained during the summer holidays without splashing too much of the cash? Get in touch and let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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