UK parents are set to spend £468 each on entertaining the kids this summer, adding up to a whopping £6.2 billion over the course of the summer break. It may sound like a lot, but it's actually lower than it has been in years – yet it still highlights the importance of making your holiday money go further.
The research, from Post Office Money's annual Parents' Summer Spending report, shows that the expected costs associated with the summer break have fallen by 14% from last year – when expenditure totalled £546 – and are some way below the figures for 2015 (£600) and 2014 (£492) as well.
However, spending remains 17% higher than in 2012, when Post Office Money first conducted the research, and the latest annual drop could simply be down to over-optimism: 33% of parents admitted that they spent more than expected last summer, so the fact they expect to spend less this year may suggest that they're planning to keep a closer eye on the budget – but whether they stick to it is another story.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, over half of parents surveyed (52%) are worried about covering the cost of entertaining their children during the school holidays, and given how much they're planning on doing this year, it's little wonder. Two in five (40%) parents expect to spend the most on visiting attractions, 37% say that family meals out will be the biggest cost and 28% expect to spend the most on treats for the kids, while for 22%, the biggest expense will be a holiday abroad.
Then there are the additional costs associated with the summer holidays, with parents expecting to spend an average of £43 on other people's children as well as their own, together with £78 on childcare and £97 on fuel – which bumps up the total cost of summer to £686.
Unsurprisingly, many parents are looking for ways to keep their budget in check for the months ahead, and some are willing to make a few sacrifices to cover the cost. For example, 26% say they would consider sacrificing buying new clothes and 21% would be prepared to give up going out during the evenings and at weekends, while 22% would sacrifice saving during the summer period.
However, others may be taking it even further, as Owen Woodley, managing director at Post Office Money, explains:
"There can be many hidden costs over the summer months, and while two in five parents we spoke to have the cash to cover these additional costs, many do not. Thirteen percent of parents told us they are planning on dipping into their savings, 9% will draw on their credit card, and some families are even saying they're likely to miss bill payments or take a mortgage holiday to help manage this overspend."
Some of these are particularly concerning, as they can store up issues for the future. Missing bill payments, for example, can impact your credit score, and taking mortgage holidays could mean it'll take you longer to be mortgage-free. Dipping into your savings could be worth it if this is the kind of thing you're saving for, but just make sure you work on replacing those funds thereafter.
Using a credit card could also lead to a potentially difficult situation, so it's vital to be sure you're using it the right way. Plan ahead and look for a card that offers 0% interest on purchases, for example, or if you'll be able to repay the balance straight away, opt for one that comes with cashback or rewards. The former option could be particularly suitable if you want to spread the cost of your summer spending, but just make sure you can repay the balance before the 0% deal comes to an end.
If you're really on the ball, you may even want to plan for next summer by opening a regular savings account, allowing you to save regular amounts over the coming months that'll mean you needn't worry about funding issues a year from now.
Ultimately, it's all about being prepared, whether you're planning for this summer or the next one. "Planning in advance to find the best ways to cover any shortfall now can help relieve financial pressure and avoid negative financial implications further down the line", said Owen. "By using the next couple of weeks to consider the different options available to them, families can help relieve themselves of the worries connected with their upcoming summer spending."
Post Office Money has handily come up with these five top tips to help you prepare for your summer of spending and ensure you don't go overboard when it comes to entertaining the kids:
1. Budget. Outline your expected weekly spend during the summer, based on what you're doing and where you're going. This can help you stick to your budget and avoid any unexpected overspend.
2. Plan to use credit, just in case. You may not want to use credit, but it's always worth being prepared on the off chance you encounter a shortfall – you don't want to risk going into an unauthorised overdraft, as that could cost you far more.
3. Get a 0% purchase credit card. You need to make sure you've got the right credit card for your needs, and in this case, it'll probably be a 0% interest version, as it'll give you longer to repay the balance without being caught out by interest charges.
4. Track down deals in advance. You can often find plenty of deals at this time of year, from 2 for 1 offers at theme parks, cinema trips and family days out to "kids eat free" offers in restaurants. Scour the net for vouchers and discount codes to get started.
5. Book in advance. If you're travelling by train (or even ferries or planes) you can often keep the costs down by booking tickets in advance and avoiding travelling at peak times.
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