EMERGENCY APPEAL. UK poverty is rising. We urgently need your help.
Act now

Summer Savers series: How to save money in the school holidays

Children in the field
Claire Wong, Digital Content Producer and Copy Specialist. A white female with long brown hair and a blue, long sleeved top, smiling
Claire Wong

Digital Content Producer

9 ways to stay on budget this summer 

Summer is almost here Summer Saver, and for families of children in school, that means the summer holidays too. If you’re aged between 5 and 17, summer holidays probably feel like one of the best times ever: no early mornings, no sitting in classrooms, just weeks of sunny weather and time to relax. However, for parents it can be a whole different kettle of fish!

From organising activities to feeding everyone, often while juggling work and childcare, the school holidays can feel daunting and potentially expensive. To ease a bit of that pressure, here are some of the ways you can save money in the school holidays.

In this blog of the summer saver series, we want to remind you of these tips we have shared in the past that are still relevant and can help you prepare for this summer.

Free or discounted food for families this summer

The cost of feeding the family over the school holidays can mount up quickly. Whether you’re figuring out how to manage without free school meals, or simply worried that too many days out with the kids could lead to overspending in cafes and restaurants, there are a couple of simple things you can do to keep costs down.

1. First, if money is tight and affording food is a worry, you can find out if you can access support with this. 

If you live in England, you may be eligible for food vouchers via the Household Support Fund. (Go to your local council’s website and search for food vouchers’ to find out if they’re available.) 

In Scotland, the Scottish Welfare Fund is available to help low income households. Additionally, the Scottish Government funds free school meals payments during the school holidays; all families who already receive free school meals will receive a payment from their local council. 

Similarly, families in Wales who receive free school meals have had this provision extended to cover school holidays since 2020. At the time of writing this blog post, the Welsh government has not yet confirmed if this will extend to the 2024 summer holidays, but you can find more information on their website.

In Northern Ireland, unfortunately the Holiday Hunger provision of free school meals in the holidays has come to an end. However, if you have younger children in your family (up to the age of 4) you could be eligible for Healthy Start vouchers to access free milk, fruit, vegetables and vitamins.

2. Second, to save money on those days out, look for kids-eat-free deals at supermarket cafes and restaurants. These often involve an adult buying a full price meal and then offer you a kids’ meal for free or £1. The next blog of our summer saver series will be all about food and sharing the latest deals so stay tuned.

Ideas for fun, cheap activities with the kids this summer

One key way to save money in the school holidays is to make yourself a plan! The last thing you want is to be put under pressure by bored children complaining they’ve got nothing to do, making you feel like you need to take them out somewhere expensive or buy them new toys.

Why not make a list of activities for the summer and stick it to the fridge so that when the cries of Muuuuuuum, Daaaaaaaad, I’m bored’ begin, you’ve got ideas at the ready?

3. Free events at the library. Libraries tend to put on a good range of activities for children, from storytime for younger ones to clubs where older kids can learn to code, plus music and craft activities. You’ll find details on your local council website or library social media pages. 

4. Make a scavenger hunt. This is a great outdoor activity to make a trip to the park more exciting. 

For younger children: collect 10 stones and paint them bright colours (paint pictures on them if you’re feeling creative). Hide them around the garden, park or house and challenge them to find all ten.

For older children: choose somewhere you can go for a walk for free, like the local park. Give them a list of things to look out for e.g. can you find a yellow flower, a feather and an oak leaf, count the steps up to the bridge, count the lampposts, find the name of the person on the memorial etc. Award points for every item found.

5. Plan a trip to a museum. These are usually free, but if you’re heading to a busy museum (e.g. any of the ones in London) it’s a good idea to book ahead as this will often allow you to skip the queue.

6. Make your own ice lollies. Get the kids involved in this and let them enjoy a low cost summer treat. If you don’t have your own ice lolly mould, no problem, you can just use empty yoghurt pots (make sure you wash them first) and old lolly sticks. Fill your containers with diluted squash or fruit juice. You can even add bits of fruit if you want. Put them in the freezer for a few hours (overnight works well) and you’ll have homemade ice lollies to enjoy.

7. Go outdoors as much as possible. It’s free, and it makes ordinary parts of the day a novelty. Lunch becomes a picnic. That chaotic hour before bedtime becomes a chance for a short walk together to calm down. On hot days, put some plastic bricks or other waterproof toys in a tray of water as an easy way to cool down.

Save money on childcare in the school holidays

8. Before you book into an expensive summer camp, check if your local church is running any camps or activities this summer. These tend to be significantly cheaper than other options, and can provide your kids with several hours of games, crafts, music and competitions. Make sure to check out our previous blog here of what churches are offering.

9. Find out if you’re eligible for tax-free childcare. If you’re a working parent with kids under the age of 12, you may be entitled to tax-free childcare during the school holidays, which could help reduce the costs considerably. Check the Childcare Choices website for more information.

The school holidays can be a challenge, but hopefully they can also be a time for some fun as a family together in the sunshine.

If you have other worries about money issues, you can find information on accessing your nearest foodbank here. Or have a look at the Money and Debt advice section of our website for more ways to make your money go further, this summer and beyond. 

Ruth holding a sign that reads 'There is so much need. I'm at my limit.'
Ruth, Co-Debt Centre Manager

We urgently need your support to reach every person in poverty.

Ruth holding a sign that reads 'There is so much need. I'm at my limit.'