Finance

Half Term Parenting – Are the Best Things in Life Free?

[Image - Tirza Van Dijk]

Now that the half term has rolled around, parents have that tricky job of keeping their kids both occupied and entertained – but how much are you actually spending?

Having to face up to the inevitable boredom many kids will express, parents are often forced into coming up with solutions that are either imaginative or extremely expensive. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Post Office revealed that parents are set to spend £200 entertaining their kids this half term. Whether or not this is a sign that entertainment now comes at more of a price or that the younger generation take a lot more pleasing than we did, finding out the exact figures could still come as quite a shock!

Covering the costs

The famous expression, ‘the best things in life are free’ feels apt here, but only in the sense that it shows just how much doing activities with our kids has changed. Looking further into the stats, we find that nearly two thirds of parents (62%) are concerned about covering the costs, 31% will dip into their savings, 22% plan to work overtime in order to make up the shortfall while 37% plan on taking a ‘savings break’.

The worry is that this isn’t just the usual case of parents spending too much on their kids – we are all guilty – but a trend leading to potentially dire financial situations. Part of this could be that the spending isn’t confined to just one area of outlay, trying to find the balance between adequate and affordable is happening across the board.

Expenses explained

The top five expected half term expenses range from eating out (30%), entry to theme parks/attractions (27%), petrol (25%), cinema trips (22%) and sporting activities (21%). However, not only do these activities mean extra spending on the kids but simultaneously less money around for parents; cutbacks made include (39%) on new clothes and (23%) on day-to-day spending.

As if all that wasn’t scary enough, the evidence shows this still isn’t enough to satisfy the majority of kids this half term. Maybe entertainment and costs go forcibly hand-in-hand? Either way, this a great time for parents to look towards fun options that don’t hit the pocket quite so hard. Free half term events at local parks and even going for a walk are fantastic activities, not to mention a lot healthier than sitting in a cramped cinema and nowhere near as stressful as a busy theme park.

What’s the answer?

Being financially savvy is also sound advice, especially as according to Henk Van Hulle, the Head of Savings and Investments at Post Office, the ‘Autumn half term break comes at an inconvenient time for UK parents’, finding itself wedged between the summer holidays and the Christmas break.

‘All parents want to make sure their kids enjoy their holiday, but it’s important to budget for the extra expenditure to avoid feeling the sting later.’

Van Hulle also warns that ‘it’s important to be realistic about what you can afford and be aware that options like credit cards and overdrafts may carry their own fees and end up costing you more.’

Whilst it all seems like doom and gloom, there are plenty of effective ways to save money and be able to afford such investments. Van Hulle advises to put ‘a small amount into savings each week or month so you’re prepared for family events and holidays such as these.’

The thought of having to finance your kids’ entertainment this half-term can seem like a daunting one but there are simple ways of having a great time without the cost – not to mention methods of saving beforehand. With a little care, you should be able to strike a balance between paying for your children’s activities but not going overboard and spending what you don’t have.

Christmas is only a few months away and looking at the bigger picture, maybe it’s best to use this half-term to try out some simple activities which both the kids – and your wallet – will love.

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