Budgeting for school holidays

A good education doesn’t come cheap. In the UK, the average back-to-school cost for 8-16 year olds is nearly £300 and that usually just includes school uniforms, sports gear, equipment and school trips.

By the time you’ve factored in spending money and paying for tablets and smartphones – then it’s easy to find yourself out of pocket in a hurry. Before you know it, the school holidays arrive.

As well as keeping the kids busy and entertained, the price of childcare and overseas travel tends to rise during the holidays so it’s wise to budget for those periods throughout the year.

The financial stress of school holidays

For many parents the school holidays can be a very taxing period, both time-wise and financially. In fact, an Equifax survey shows that 1 in 5 parents have admitted that they find half term holidays stressful.

And these stress levels can vary across the country. In Scotland, up to 32% of parents claimed to have felt stressed by the school break, closely followed by those in the South-West with 29%.

Across the UK, we’ve found that parents are spending on average £323 – just on the half term break. Taking a closer look, parents in the North-East are spending the most on entertainment for their kids and childcare, around £400 combined.

The cost of family holidays

The appeal of low cost airlines has dramatically changed our attitude to holidays over the past few decades. The idea of jetting off to Europe, America or the Middle East at a moment’s notice is a lot more realistic. However, with this comes increased costs, especially for families. While the idea of days on the continent is appealing, parents can often fall into the trap of booking holiday tickets at the last minute.

One recent study has shown that family package deals can rise by up to 115% during the school holidays, leaving you paying well over the odds and possibly putting a dent in your budget for the rest of the year. It can be a good idea to book early to secure your holiday plans, or even to swap a holiday abroad for a local trip if no good deals are available.

Planning your household budget

Paperwork can be time-consuming, but a little planning on how and what you spend your money on could pay dividends once term time is over.

Using our Family Budget Planner, you could get a clearer picture on what your income and outgoings are, and then make adjustments to cut back. It could mean substituting cinema tickets for a streaming website like Netflix, or shopping around for a new energy or broadband supplier.

You’ll need your bank statements, receipts, bills etc. at hand to keep the process running smoothly. To get a wider look at your finances, you should look at old documents including P60s, direct debit statements and credit card reports.

By forecasting your expenditure, you should be able to see the difference start to add up over the course of a school year. If you’re not fluent in Excel or Google Docs, this initial list is a good place to start before you delve into spreadsheets:

  • Make a note of your net income
  • Note what you’re spending on
  • Set realistic goals
  • Put your budgeting plan into action
  • Change things around if you need to
  • Make monthly check-ins

Compartmentalise your budget

According to Money Saving Expert, one good way to budget is to divide up your income into different pots. This could mean having different bank accounts with various objectives in mind, for example, one account for bills and one for your holiday fund. Having one dedicated account for holidays and Christmas can help you more easily keep track of your saving goals.

Although parents usually make all the financial decisions at home, it can be useful to include everyone in negotiating how you budget for holiday periods.

By sharing ideas, you may come up with suggestions you weren’t aware of, like free local events or good websites to find bargain tickets. When it comes to tech, free museums and new social platforms, children and teenagers are usually the first to know.

If you are interested in learning more about your finances, you can get online access to your credit history with FREE Equifax Credit Report & Score product which is free for 30 days and £14.95 a month thereafter.

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