Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Welcome to the Frugal Column, where I aim to inspire you to live your best life without breaking the bank. I’m Jane, from the blog Shoestring Cottage and I also run a Youtube channel.
With inflation and the cost of living on the rise, cutting back and saving money is becoming a priority for many of us. If you have a family, keeping the kids entertained is a tricky task at the best of times; when you are tightening your belt it can feel even harder. However, living frugally doesn’t mean your children have to miss out and feel deprived. By doing things slightly differently and using your creativity, you can make memories and enjoy life on a tighter budget.
I always think it’s so much easier to be a money saver when the weather is nice. Sunny days offer plenty of opportunities for free and cheap things to do. In a month where we have two bank holidays, this could be quite helpful, especially if you are looking for inexpensive activities with kids.
Sure, it would be lovely to take the family to a theme park, but it’s expensive. At the time of writing, Alton Towers costs £65 for an adult day pass and £60 for a child’s ticket. If a theme park is out of your budget, look out for a travelling funfair instead, such as Fun Park. If your family loves the thrill of a fast ride, you can buy a wristband for just £10.
However, there are lots of things you can do that will cost way less or can be done for free. Here are some suggestions.
Most of us have a park or some woodland locally. Take the time to explore them with your children. They love a romp through the woods, and you can plan some activities to make it even more fun. Have a look at the Wild Forest School Project website for ideas, from building a stick tower to making a bird’s nest.
We are very fortunate in the UK to have a large number of museums and galleries with free entry to all. This isn’t exclusively in cities either; many towns have museums with no admittance fee.
Where I live we have a toy museum, a small natural history museum and a large art gallery, all with free entrance. Check out your local council website to find out where you can visit for free in your town.
With over 2,300 nature reserves in the UK, the Wildlife Trusts offer you the opportunity to explore and learn about nature in a variety of locations. Most of them are free to enter, although you may be charged a small entrance fee at some of the larger sites.
The Wildlife Trusts offer loads of activities suitable for families, including ‘forest tots’ pre-school sessions, mud and pond dipping, insect identification classes, bird watching, art and photography exhibitions and family nature trails.
You can join your local Wildlife Trust from about £3 a month, which allows you free entry into all sites and includes a welcome pack full of goodies along with a quarterly magazine.
When my children were little, our craft box was a lifesaver during weekends and school holidays, especially when the weather was bad.
We filled it with inexpensive paints and crayons from the pound shop, bits of colourful card and paper, glitter, glue and pipecleaners. We collected old buttons, cardboard tubes, shiny sweet wrappers and bits of foil.
The craft box entertained the kids for hours for very little money. They created many works of art that were displayed around the house and given to grandparents.
Libraries are a brilliant free resource, so make sure you and your kids get library cards. You can borrow books, e-books and audio books, use a computer, and take part in library events. Activities range from toddler and baby sessions, computer clubs, art and colouring, family story sessions and summer reading challenges.
You can find out about library events on your county council website.
If you live close to the coast, take the kids beachcombing. Set them fun tasks, for example to find shells, sea glass, seaweed, feathers, sea creatures and stones. They can take some of them home to add to their craft box.
If you have a beach with rock pools nearby, your children will love finding small sea creatures in them, such as crabs and tiny fish.
A day by the sea offers all sorts of possibilities of course, from sandcastle building, paddling, crabbing and games on the beach. Take a picnic to save money on lunch.
Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt, which is hugely addictive and fun. A geocache is usually a small waterproof box hidden outdoors. You use a GPS device or phone app to find the cache, which usually contains a small logbook so that you can record your find. Sometimes other geocachers leave small trinkets and treasures for you to take.
You can find out the best places to go geocaching and how to do it at geocaching.com.
Keep your eye out for free events. Look on your tourist information and local council websites, community noticeboards and in parish newsletters, or you can just do an internet search to see what’s on near you.
As summer approaches, you will find school and village fetes, free music festivals, garage sale trails and craft fayres, all with minimal or zero entry fees.
Once you get into the frugal lifestyle, you will find there is lots to do to keep your family entertained on a budget. Enjoy the better weather!
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