‘I’m a tight mum – here’s how to occupy your kids cheaply during the summer’
A money-savvy mum has shared her wisdom on how to keep kids occupied throughout the long summer holidays ahead, all without spending a fortune.
With the ongoing cost of living crisis continuing to take a toll, many parents will be concerned about making sure no money is wasted when it comes to child-friendly summer activities.
Emma Stretton, who prides herself on being a “tight” mum, has now offered some top tips on how to ensure young children are well-entertained once schools break up for the summer, all while keeping a close eye on your budget.
The mum-of-two has put together a list of fun but thrifty activities, including creating games in the park, asking pals to babysit, and searching through cereal boxes for 2-for-1 deals.
Emma, 37, said: “I’m just quite tight and I don’t like wasting money so I just think of ways around having to spend it. I’m also motivated by teaching my children you don’t have to spend money to have fun and that doing things together is more valuable.”
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Turn window shopping into a fun activity
Emma advises keeping an eye out for free local events to cut back on car usage, setting some time aside for some Google research beforehand.
For those who can spend a little extra on fuel, Emma recommends having a browse through sites such as Days Out With The Kids, which will list various family-friendly activities.
She also suggests a spot of window shopping, revealing: “This is possibly a little bit shameless but I have been known to spend an hour in Pets At Home letting them look at the guinea pigs, rabbits, and fish.
“IKEA is also a big favourite for me and for them. Last summer we took our son to the Tesla garage at the Trafford Centre with no intention of buying a Tesla. But it was great to let the kids sit behind the wheel.
“Dobbie’s Garden Centre does Little Seedlings clubs, free gardening classes for kids, and so I’ve signed them up for a morning doing that this year too.”
Other suggestions include taking your kids to the local park and bringing along bikes, scooters and footballs for an afternoon of outdoor play.
The local park could also provide the ideal setting for picnics, “adventure walks” or challenges where kids hunt for certain hidden objects among the greenery.
Emma said: “There are so many parks on the doorstep that it just makes sense to pitch up and let them play. Find new ones near you so they don’t get bored and take a picnic so you aren’t spending on shop-bought lunches.
“We also do adventure walks where I’ll make a list of things to look out for like conkers or snails and they’ll go off hunting for them. The library is a forgotten gem. When the boys were little, we did rhyme time for free once a week.
“Then as they got older we would go and find new books or just play on the wooden train. The bonus is that once at home they can sit and read their library books for another activity.”
Organise buddy-ups and toy swaps
The costs of childcare can add up all too quickly for parents trying to stick to a budget, and so Emma encourages fellow parents to “buddy-up” with friends with children once a week to save on cash.
She’s also proposed organising toy swaps, noting how children will all too often “get bored of toys easily.”
Emma added: “We’ll have a day in the holidays where they have to decide what to give to charity. I can guarantee they will suddenly love all their toys and start playing with them. You can also arrange toy swaps with friends to freshen up what you have.”
Shopping “smart” and rustling up “fake” favourite meals
Emma advises using supermarkets with self-scanners so you’re not in for a nasty surprise at the till. She also suggests keeping to a strict shopping list, keeping children involved by getting them to find things in the aisles.
Aldi and Lidl get Emma’s seal of approval when it comes to more purse-friendly snack alternatives and alternative spins on favourite snacks.
For example, Emma recently made homemade sausage rolls, saving more money than she would have done had she just gone to Greggs.
Make use of loyalty schemes and discount tickets
A number of deals will usually require you to buy an adult meal, but may see the bill halved or even children eating for free.
Emma herself has previously paid for trips to Alton Towers for a fraction of the price, and also connects her Sainsbury’s Nectar Card to her bank account, clocking up points each time she spends.
Shoppers are also recommended to look out for handy 2-for-1-ticket deals on the front of cereal boxes.
Emma continued: “I’m a big fan of loyalty points. “Even McDonald’s has a reward scheme on the app where you can get free coffees or food.
“My bank pays me money every month as part of a reward account and I save my Boots and Nectar points every year so that by Christmas I can buy a few gifts at no extra cost.
“You can get most reward cards as an app on your phone now so you don’t even have to carry cards around. Never say no to a loyalty scheme.”
Do you have any clever tips for saving money during the school summer holidays? Email us at [email protected]
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