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Summer guide to entertaining kids on a budget

Lisa Graveling

Written by Lisa Graveling, head of marketing

The summer holidays can be a juggling act for parents. You want to fill your days ‘making memories’ but need to manage everyone’s financial and emotional wellbeing too.

Here are some top tips on how to survive, and enjoy, those long weeks until September:

1. Budget

Make a plan and try to stick to it. I balance free activities (visits to parks are a favourite in our family) with more expensive days out. Work out what you can afford to spend over the whole of the holidays and then divide it equally over the weeks. 

Our budget calculator can help with this too.

2. Plan ahead

Research how much days out will cost, including transport in advance. 

Check National Rail and your local bus providers for details of free children’s tickets too. 

Check for discount codes or vouchers from sites such as: 

And lots of attractions now offer annual passes so you can visit during other holidays.

3. But don’t over plan! 

Planning quieter days is just fine. Pyjama days are a firm favourite with kids and let me get the house back into some sort of order too! 

Don’t beat yourself up about screen time either; perhaps have a TV day and build that all-important sofa den?

4. Make the most of the great outdoors 

Okay, so the great British summer weather can sometimes go against us but on the sunny days, why not head outside? 

Free activities include a park day, a walk along the river to feed the ducks,  playdates at a friend’s house or even consider a local beach clean or litter pick.  

Some charities like Family Holiday Association and YHA summer camps can offer help with subsidised camping trips or a free respite break too.

5. Libraries and museums

Lots of local museums offer free or low-cost workshops over the summer holidays and the library is always free. Cinemas and theatres also do reduced-rate tickets. 

These are all great rainy-day activities and many allow you to take your own picnic and have indoor areas for this too.

6. Feeding the hungry hoard

The holiday requests for snacks are never-ending. Here are some ideas for keeping the costs down: 

  • Stockpile bulk-buy items, if you can 
  • Plan meals in advance 
  • Take a shopping list with you on the big shop 
  • Pack up last night’s dinner leftovers as a picnic lunch for the following day 

Food surplus apps such as TooGoodToGo and Olio are great and I’m always on the lookout for the reduced food in the supermarket.

7. Get September ready

September is here before we know and it's time to buy the new school uniform. Have a look in local charity shops, chat with parents who might have uniforms to pass on and some schools are now doing swap shop uniform events too. 

Check with your school if your children really need a branded piece of uniform – would a plain jumper without the school badge be okay? 

Some councils provide one-off grants to help with the costs of purchasing uniforms so do check with your local council.

8. Be kind to yourself 

It’s okay to not be okay all of the time. 

If you can, make some time for yourself to unwind, relax and talk to other parents, friends, and family. And reach out and talk to someone if you’re struggling. 

Organisations like the NSPCC and Samaritans can help as well.  
We’re here to help 

If you’re struggling with money, remember we’re here to help. Call us on 0345 141 4663 and ask for a referral to our Financial Inclusion team for any money worries.  
Over to you! 

Tweet us and share your money-saving ideas on how to manage the summer holidays. 

Originally published in August 2021, updated in July 2022 for relevance. 

Help with money

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Home Energy Scotland or call 0800 808 2282 (Scotland)

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