No need to splash out to keep the kids happy: MISS MONEYSAVER helps you with the cost of living crunch
Do you dread school summer holidays? It is a challenge for parents — and grandparents — but this year, with sky-rocketing petrol prices, rail and plane strikes and energy bills soaring, is a tough one.
So you’re not alone if you’re struggling to think of ways to keep the kids entertained over the summer on a minimal budget. Many parents I know are planning to get round the cost of travelling by spending most of the holidays in their local area, with a few special trips here and there.
Happily, there are some good deals around to help with this — like the great offers at London’s West End throughout August, where children aged 17 and under get a free ticket when an adult pays full price. Plus, two extra children can get in half price on the same deal.
My neighbour, Sarah, took her seven-year-old to see Mary Poppins and it cost her only £30 for both of them. You can see what other shows are available at officiallondontheatre.com/ kids-week/
Many parents I know are planning to get round the cost of travelling by spending most of the holidays in their local area, with a few special trips here and there
If you live outside London and want to come in by train, it’s best to use the Family and Friends railcard (£30 for a year or £70 for three years) and you get a third off adult fares and 60 per cent off kids’ fares.
There are also free days out to be had, courtesy of Kellogg’s, this summer. Grab the unique code printed inside any pack of Kellogg’s cereal then upload the code to Merlinfun.com to select one of their attractions — including Legoland, Alton Towers and the Sea Life Aquarium — and book a date.
Most councils run Summer Activity Programmes in partnership with the Department of Education. Search ‘School’s Out for Summer Activities near me’ for a list of all holiday clubs, camps or workshops.
Hull offers a handy £10 Junior Swim Card, enabling kids to enjoy unlimited swimming in any of Hull’s public swimming pools during the summer holidays. They also offer holiday camps, including a hot meal, and netball taster sessions led by England Netball. Go to hcandl.co.uk.
Another example of help from the local authority is in Northumberland, where families can get free travel for kids this summer. An adult with a valid ticket or pass can take up to three children aged 11 and under with them on any journey within Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and Durham for free, with participating bus companies. Find out more at Northumberland.gov.uk.
The local library is a treasure trove of fun, with most offering free story-telling sessions for kids. Most local authority art galleries are free and give out activity packs. Lots of councils also offer free swimming sessions for kids. Check your local authority website for details.
Do also keep an eye on the local paper and listen to local radio for tips and deals in your area. Talk to other parents, carers and grandparents about what they’ve found and are doing (either face-to-face or via Facebook groups, Nextdoor.com or your local WhatsApp group).
It’s also worth using deals sites to see what’s on offer. On Hotukdeals.com right now, for example, there’s a link to a free bus pass for families (and singles) in Kent. It’s part of its Reconnect programme. Families of up to four people can travel by bus for free.
My friend, Rachel, in York says she and her friends get through the summer holidays by sharing as much as possible. ‘We set up “summer swaps” as a group,’ she says. ‘Basically, we pool resources by listing what we have that we can swap with another family, like roller skates for outdoor badminton, paddling pool for a rounders set, pop up tent for face paints. For those who need to keep the kids occupied but don’t want to spend, this is a great way to keep them entertained.’
For sports fans, a few commercial organisations are also offering activities to children, either for free or very cheap. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has free tennis sessions for children, so check out its website at clubspark.lta.org.uk/ for what’s on offer near you. Some events are free, others are paid for, so be sure to check the small print.
Recently, I met a man who works for Premier Kicks, a charity run by top football clubs around Britain that runs free football training and general sports events for local kids from vulnerable families.
‘We even have football boots and trainers that kids can wear if they can’t afford those,’ he told me.
There are 90 Premier League, EFL and National League clubs running these sessions at over 700 venues around the country.
Go to Premierleague.com and look for Premier Kicks to see what’s happening in your area. You could be setting up a future Marcus Rashford or Alessia Russo for the country!
It’s smart to start Christmas shopping now
It’s July so it must be time for . . . Christmas! Well, not quite. In fact, there are ‘only’ 156 days to go until the big day.
The thing is that, as you know, one of the best ways to save money is to buy out of season, so now is a great time to pick up bargains.
Make the most of the cut-price ranges like Asda’s Just Essentials range, which includes sage and onion stuffing for 30p, batter mix for 25p and mixed fruit for £1. At Tesco, you can save for Christmas and get a cash bonus with its Clubcard Christmas Savers account. You can get an extra 6 per cent by topping up your account with cash to turn into vouchers.
It’s July so it must be time for . . . Christmas! Well, not quite. In fact, there are ‘only’ 156 days to go until the big day
The hot summer is also the best time to buy Christmas presents in the sales and at charity shops. Many charity shops in posher areas have donated gifts that make perfect presents. These tend to disappear from November onwards.
Now is also the cheapest time to get the house sorted for the winter. If you have a dicky boiler that may break down, it could be the best time to replace it as there are offers around.
E.on and British Gas have offers on new boiler installation. E.on’s is £1,995 at 0 per cent finance for up to four years and British Gas is offering boilers at various prices with 0 per cent finance for up to three years and £200 off for their own customers.
Or get a local plumber to install an even cheaper boiler. Put the job on Bark.com and see who offers the best deal.
For the boiler, I have an offer with Boiler Central. Use the code JASMINE150 on its website boilercentral.com for £150 off any of the boilers in its range. Offer ends on August 14, 2022.
Cash back! Get shares in a company just by shopping
I’ve written before about picking up loyalty points and rewards when you shop, but how about earning shares in the company just for shopping there? WeShop, an online retail company challenging Amazon, is offering exactly that if you shop through its new app or website.
The app currently has 500 retailers selling through it and it is uploading 1.2 billion items every day, from fashion and electronics to food.
Every time you buy something you get 20 per cent of the value of what you have bought in shares in the company, letting you develop investment in WeShop without any effort. You also get shares (10 per cent of the value) if you recommend an item to a friend and they buy it. Then, if you refer a friend to the app with your unique code, you will get 1 per cent of everything they spend in shares for as long as they shop.
If you live near Leeds, enjoy eating sweets and could do with some extra cash over the summer, Haribo has the temp job for you. At its Castleford and Pontefract depots, it is looking for staff in production and packing. Pay equates to £11.16 per hour, there’s possible overtime and you get 20 per cent off all sweets! Go to haribocareers.co.uk and click on ‘production’ to find out more.
If you had holidays cancelled during lockdown, you have weeks left to use the compensation vouchers, or cash them in. If you don’t use them before September 30, you’ll lose the money. The Civil Aviation Authority says unspent ATOL Refund Credit Notes currently total £54 million.
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