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August 2011

Saving Summer

As if we did not realise already that children cost a fortune and life is getting more expensive, summer and its potential expense arrives.

It’s been a difficult year for many with food bills getting higher and the cost of filling the car increasing. It used to be for our family that spending over £100 in Tesco was a rarity, now it is common. And I cringe every time I fill up at the pumps; how much?!

With summer now half gone and money getting tight for many how do you entertain increasingly demanding children until school starts again. And how do you do it without spending a fortune? A recent survey suggests that we will spend £660 per child this summer keeping them entertained and on childcare. £660 per child and we have 3 of them! One thing I would suggest is knowing your budget and what it is you can afford to spend this summer (try not to go into the red). If you can know your weekly budget for entertainment then you can plan the events and try to keep to that budget.

Here are some things that we have done and which may be of help;

Have friends round or meet them in the park (if the weather’s good). One sure way we have found to keeping our kids entertained is having their friends around. They soon disappear and are kicking a ball, playing chases, hide & seek etc. They entertain themselves, though at times need a little instruction or encouraging.

Summer schemes – many councils and organisations are running summer schemes and these can provide great times of fun for your children. Check the local press and council, and look online for details. If you use childcare vouchers, you may be able to use them for the summer scheme, don’t forget to ask as it may save you money of the entrance fee.

Make a list of things you could do and plan the summer with your kids. Get them involved and see what they want to do. Lots of different websites, such as will have information on what’s on, so make a big list and let your kids (with your input) decide what they want to do. I find this way helps them to understand better the cost constraints and how difficult it is to do everything. Spread the events out about so there is something ‘big’ every week.

Bring a picnic and be back for tea. Eating out can be expensive and is not always appreciated by the kids. Pack a fun picnic and if meeting with other families agree that you will all do this so that none of the children feel that they are not getting.

We joined the National Trust this year and managed to get 25% discount as well. It cost us £66 which is taken by direct debit over the year and this will entitled us to free membership to a number of places over the year. It was really good for our holiday in England as it meant free entrance to many places and we did not have to pay for car parking in National Trust car parks. For families it can be expensive to pay for entrance fees; now we can get into National Trust properties for free.

Thinking ahead the National Trust membership will allow us free entrance to Castle Ward in October for their pumpkin fest so hopefully we will continue to save throughout the year.

Take many deep breaths (and maybe some calms too!). Even with all of the above, I have found this year that our children have become more demanding and don’t have the same ability to play on their own as I remember we did as children. Changing society, me not teaching them enough? Who knows? But as the summer comes to it’s midpoint we have been encouraging them more and more to play by themselves, to find something to entertain themselves (apart from a DS), to use their imagination.

Not sure how successful this will be but we will keep trying. Whatever you have planned for the rest of the summer, have a great one.

Jason Holmes is a Certified Financial Planner and owns Lumen Financial Planning, a local fee based financial planning company. He can be contacted on 028 3831 2995 or

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