Perhaps it is because we now have to pay for Eli to get into the majority of attractions whereas last year we didn't, or perhaps the kids have just needed to get 'out' more but whatever the reason, I have certainly realised that we will need to be more prepared next year to survive the summer holidays financially.
So here are my top tips for things I have learned about how to manage money over the summer, and things I will definitely be putting into practice this time next year. And probably over half terms and the Easter break as well!
1. Plan, plan and then plan some more
I fell foul of this in a major way this summer and just didn't plan ahead. Last year I had a colour-coded spreadsheet with ideas for free days out, paid days out and other fantastic ways to keep us all occupied. I didn't stick to it but having the plan in place meant less last minute decisions which often prove to be the most costly. Knowing in advance the things you might want to do, how much they are going to cost and whether you can afford them or not is always going to be more beneficial for your overall finances then doing things on the fly. It could even be useful to sit down some months in advance and give your finances the once-over i.e. checking your credit score, where you are at with ongoing bills etc.
We are huge fans of budgets and have one for each month, often several months in advance. We can be quite cavalier with our spending if we don't take the time to watch and justify where our money has gone and having a budget is a great way to do this. It's also useful to see how much spare money you have going in and out and what you can afford to put towards big events like holidays and Christmas and so on.
3. Start saving
Whilst I wouldn't say start saving now for next summer, I do think it's never too early, especially if your finances are tight and big expenses need to be carefully factored in. Again with checking credit scores and working out budgets, you can see exactly how much money you could potentially save towards the things you want to do. Click here to check your credit score now if this is something which would be of interest to you.
4. Keep your eyes open for bargains
A bit like shopping for Christmas (there's that C word again!), there's nothing wrong with grabbing bargains when you see them. I noticed an increase in the number of emails from voucher and money saving websites in the run up to the holidays offering discounts on local days out and experiences. In fact I bought one today! A bit late to the party but still...perhaps keep your eyes open for discounts and vouchers as the holidays get closer.
5. Don't feel the pressure
I asked Meg and Eli today what the best part of their holiday had been so far...aside from their actual holiday in France they both said spending time with family...in other words, something which was completely free! I think as parents we can feel the pressure to spend lots of money on fun days out for our children when actually, they aren't necessarily the things which stick in our children's minds. Next year I will definitely be working on a 'once a week' ratio...as in only once a week will I pay to do something whether that is soft play or a trip to a local farm. Whilst they are great and do often wear the kids out, so do plenty of free attractions and it's worth making a note of what is happening in your area and taking advantage.
What are your money saving tips?
Disclosure: this is a collaborative post.