14 July 2014
Budgeting for summer holidays
It won’t come as a surprise that summer holidays can be an expensive time for parents. Six fun-packed weeks filled with days at amusement parks, trips to the cinema, afternoons at the leisure centre, jaunts into town and the occasional fast-food pit stop can make summer a seriously costly period, second maybe only to Christmas.
It’s important to have family fun during the summer months and these holidays provide an ideal opportunity to get together with loved ones to enjoy some quality time. But too much fun and frivolity can lead to a serious summer overspend and ultimately a hefty hole in the bank balance.
So what can you do to ensure this summer’s entertainment bill doesn’t leave you penniless for the winter?
The key to successfully navigating a summer of spending is to plan carefully and budget ahead of time. Work out how much you can sensibly afford to spend over the entire school holiday period and take care to ensure you stick to that amount. Being disciplined will considerably reduce the likelihood of a nasty surprise come September.
Once you have your budget in mind, it can be helpful to split the holidays into week-long chunks and allocate yourself a set amount to spend during each period. Spread your set amount over the things you’ll need to pay for (lunch, snacks, transport, etc.) and don’t forget those ‘extras’ or non-essentials that can help to keep the kids entertained. It’s important to factor in treats, after all!
Another top tip for keeping summer spending in check is to take advantage of Wales’ abundant fun-packed and free activities. Our country is blessed with beautiful beaches, pretty parks and magical museums, castles and cultural hotspots, most of which are available to enjoy without charge. It’s never been so easy to check out what’s on, as most council tourism teams have information-packed websites and guides to local activities. Sharing your time between free activities and the occasional paid for treat can be a really useful tool for keeping the family entertained without breaking the bank.
Naturally, even a free day out isn’t without expense as having fun is known to build up an appetite. While there’s no getting away from the cost of refuelling the troops, this expense can be mitigated by a bit of basic planning. Preparing a packed lunch, throwing a bunch of snacks in a rucksack and filling a few bottles of squash at home can help remove the need for expensive tuck shop treats.
Such helpful hints can be a blessing when out and about near to home but what about venturing further afield?
As simple as it may seem, leaning on friends and family can be a hugely enjoyable and cost-effective way to get away from home without paying a premium. Visiting and staying with your nearest and dearest can remove the need for expensive flights and hotels. Staycations are an increasingly popular choice for summer holidaymakers as cutting costs on travel and accommodation can free up funds for other fun activities.
If you do decide to go abroad, as many of us will, it’s important to remember that money spent on credit is money that will need to be repaid. Credit cards are a really useful tool for travellers but money spent on credit should always be accounted for in your summer budget. Adopting a buy now, pay later approach can quickly blow your budget out of the water and lead to unwelcome bills once the summer is over. Of course, another approach would be to save your pennies ahead of time to ensure there’s a little bit extra already in the account for the sangria and suncream!
As with all sensible spending, the key to a financially stress-free summer is to prepare in advance, budget carefully and stick to your guns. Everybody needs a holiday and the summer provides the perfect opportunity to relax and let your hair down. A bit of prior planning and a semi-cautious eye throughout can go a long way to protecting your finances from the post-summer blues.