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Half-term is with us, and for many parents, that can only mean one thing – trying to keep the kids entertained, without spending a fortune in the process. Given that it can cost at least £60 per day, it's little wonder so many are looking for cheaper options…
According to research from Equifax, parents pay an average of £144 for childcare during half-term and an additional £179 to keep them occupied, equating to over £60 each day. The entertainment spend could be a conservative estimate, too; additional research from American Express found that parents had planned to spend £276 per child last half-term purely on keeping them entertained, with that sum including things like toys, treats and the latest gadgets.
Days out can be the most costly, found American Express, clocking in at £74 per child, but with many families wanting to organise these kinds of activities to make the most of the time off together, it's vital to make sure your money can go as far as possible.
Keeping an eye on the purse strings doesn't mean you have to avoid all fun, however. David Pugh, managing partner of financial planning firm Lemonade Money, says: "With some creative planning, it can be feasible to spend pennies rather than pounds and enjoy some quality time together."
This could include anything from playing make-believe games (complete with pillow forts and dens made out of bedsheets) and setting up at-home science experiments, to heading to your nearest woodland or nature reserve. You could also take advantage of your local library or plant a child-friendly windowbox, and make sure to check out the 'what's on' listings in your local area – there are plenty of activities to do for free at this time of year, it could just come down to finding them.
There are bound to be times when you really do need to spend money, but even then, you'll want to be savvy about it. David continues: "If you are planning to treat the family to a day out, use sites such as Groupon, Wowcher and Voucher Cloud to secure great savings and sign up to weekly alerts to get the latest deals.
"Also, save cereal box coupons or ask about National Rail offers for discounted entry to some of the bigger attractions. These deals can save you a small fortune and if you take your own drink and food, you'll spend even less."
A few vouchers here and there can make all the difference – with discounts for things like cinema trips and museum visits often available, you could truly entertain the kids without spending over the odds.
It could pay to think outside the box, too. Why not take a look at your loyalty schemes or cashback balances? Chances are, you could have enough points or accumulated cashback to treat your family, and many reward schemes even allow you to redeem points against specific activities. And that's not all, as Jenny Cheung, director at American Express, said: "Remember to put half-term spending on a rewards or cashback card, too, which can then go towards making the next school break less costly."
It's that kind of forward planning that could pay dividends in the future, and you may want to add to that by putting small amounts into a dedicated savings account so you're truly prepared for the next school holiday. That way, you'll already have the money saved without needing to dip into your income, ensuring plenty of half-term fun without breaking the bank.
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