How to survive school holidays without breaking the bank

How to survive school holidays without breaking the bank

School is out! Kids shout ‘Yippee!” and parents groan inwardly, wondering how they’ll ever get any work done without spending a fortune on childcare and keeping everyone entertained.

Enjoying the school holidays as a family is absolutely doable. The key is to be prepared.

Preparation is essential if you want to have an enjoyable school holiday. Think ahead. What do your kids normally fight about in the holidays? What causes tension in your family unit? Is it money - kids wanting things you just can’t afford; things they insist everyone else in the class has already?

Preparation starts with getting together your holiday survival kit. If supermarket shopping with your kids is a bit of a nightmare, (as it is in my family) sign up to do it online.

Then from the peace of your own bed, you can do a big supermarket order when the kids have (finally) gone to sleep.

Here are my top seven useful things to consider if you want to survive the school holidays:

  1. a multi-pack of crisps, muesli bars, or biscuits, a big bag of mixed dried fruit or other semi-healthy kid-friendly snacks.

  2. a couple of big bags of apples, oranges, bananas or any other reasonably priced fruit your children will eat.

  3. a ‘keep cup’ for yourself - something sturdy and unbreakable so you can have your favourite hot drink with you whenever you head out as a family.

  4. A big pack of popsicles or a tub of ice cream and some cones. Or you could make your own ice blocks at home - flavoured with lemon or orange juice, concentrated cordial, frozen berries or whatever floats your family’s boat.

  5. As many water bottles as you have children, plus two more.

  6. Some cheap accessories that go with whatever your kids are interested - for example, food colouring and sprinkles if your kids are bakers, a couple of cheap footballs or tennis balls for the more athletic kids, paints and crayons for the more artistic members of the family. Hit the Warehouse, or the $2 shop. 

  7. Finally, look at your network of friends and family. Is there someone out there who has an older teenager who would like to bake biscuits for a morning with your six-year-old? Do you have a friend with kids of a similar age that you could arrange a childcare swap with? For example, you offer to take your friends’ kids for one day, and they agree to take yours for another day. 

This can be challenging when you’re new to an area, but it’s always worth politely asking the question.

Just as important are my top 5 ways to burn through your cash when out with your kids. Avoid, avoid, avoid:

  1. Buying fizzy drinks or juices at $4-$5 a pop. Deep down you know these are not good for your kids’ teeth or your budget - so hard as it may be, just say no. When they moan “But I’m thirsty….” produce one of the six water bottles and wait for the whining to die down.

  2. Buying takeaway coffee for yourself. Yes, I know this is a bit controversial and it’s something I’ve often been guilty of as a mum, but just one cafe or takeaway coffee a day will add up to over $50 over the two weeks of the holidays. 

    Money well spent? Maybe, maybe not. If you really love your coffee, have the latte and economise somewhere else. And definitely bring a keep cup with you (some places offer up to 50C off if you bring your own cup). Plus, you (might) get a warm glow from saving the planet. Win win.

  3. Overpriced kids’ activities that you could easily do at home. You know what I’m talking about - those activities for small children which are so great when you’re a new parent and you need to make ‘parent’ friends. There will be bubbles, and music and possibly a parachute for the kids to roll around in.

    Let’s be clear - I’m not knocking these classes, as they’re a great way to meet other mums and dads when you’ve just had a baby or you’re new to your neighbourhood.

    But once you’ve done all that, why not invite a few friends around and do it at home? All you really need is some dishwashing liquid and a duvet cover to be the parachute! You really don’t have to spend up to $20 for an hour of sing-a-long nursery rhymes.

    If you’re new to the area and don’t know many people yet, look up your local library for free kids’ activities. Often there will be everything from music classes to story time - both a much more affordable option than the more commercial classes I talked about above.

  4. Buying tickets at the gate of the attraction. Sometimes you just want to splurge and treat the kids with a trip to the pool, water park, climbing wall, zoo or other high-ticket attraction. This is something you want to plan in advance - start searching for tickets online at least a couple of days before you want to go.

    Often the online ticket price is quite a bit cheaper than the price you pay if you just rock up at the gate. And you can also see when the attraction will be busiest and when are the quieter times - such as 9am on a Wednesday.

  5. Staying home every day and watching tv. This may be a relatively peaceful option for you as a parent, but we’re lucky enough to live in a country where going to the beach, the park, the river or the lake is still free. Pack some towels and some sunscreen and get out there.

    You will all feel much better than if you stay cooped up indoors. Plus, you the parent will enjoy a much needed rest from all the squabbling and bickering that goes on inside the house.

Somehow it’s much easier not to fight with your sister when you’re distracted by a rope swing or a soft play area.

Good luck and remember - you’ve got this!

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