Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Affordable holidays on a budget

Holidays have been on my mind a lot recently, not least because I really should be packing for our own holiday. The above photo shows my progress so far... or maybe that should be lack of progress!

Whilst our house is getting looked after, we'll be house-sitting for friends who are going abroad this Easter. We leave for Northern Ireland later in the week and the only cost to us will be travel. We have our fuel money put aside and we managed to get £30 off the ferry booking with our Tesco clubcard vouchers. Although we're spending money, it's money we can afford to spend on a holiday and we're more than looking forward to the break from our usual routines and surroundings.

Last week's theme over at Nectar's Savvy Family was, funnily enough, about holidays too. I wrote about how we manage to afford an annual family holiday (I think we'll manage to get two this year) and how the Mister and I try to make the most of the occasional child-free time we get. And yes, this is a blatant request for readers. Our blog is feeling a little unloved at the moment, so if you could spare a few minutes to read what the Mister and I are writing over there, we'd really appreciate it.

Thank you,


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Budget birthday for the boy

We celebrated the Master's fourth birthday last week and after reading the statistics on the average cost of a child's birthday (£100+ on a party and around £150 on presents), ours was certainly a frugal affair.

With Christmas gifts still waiting to be played with, the Master has plenty of toys and we needn't add more to the collection. However, he does get a few things which I know he'll appreciate.   Last year we placed his gifts in a bag and he loved taking each one out, one by one, so we did the same this year.

His presents were wrapped in paper saved from previous gifts or brown paper.  His love of the colour red meant left over Christmas gift decorations made him feel extra special. 

With friends and family around the world, the Master loves to look at our rather old and tatty paper atlas. I picked up a world map for £1.50 from our local library. With its plastic coating it will be able to take much more abuse from curious little hands than our paper one will.

We're very lucky that my mother-in-law knits lots of lovely items for the tots and when she gave us the aran style jumper a couple of weeks ago, I saved it to be given on the Master's birthday.  

We did give in to plastic city and bought a couple of things to add to current favourite toy collections, plus a child's apron. Somehow only Little Miss and I have aprons and the Master has many a time asked for his own one to wear during our baking sessions. He won't feel left out now!

Other gifts included some puzzles (he's still very much a lover of puzzles) and a pencil, ruler, sharpener and eraser set, which I picked up for £1. I knew I was on to an instant winner with its Toy Story theme and by putting it together with an unused notebook I had lying around, it was one of the first gifts he wanted to play with.    

Coming down with a sickness bug meant his birthday party was put on hold for a couple of days, but it was a very simple affair.  

All that mattered to the Master was a birthday cake. With candles. We managed that without bursting the bank. Although it looks like he's about to touch the candles in the photo, he's in fact counting them. Just making sure there was definitely 4! Plates, cups, hats and napkins were used from our excess supply of 'stuff' and once again his love of the colour red meant we didn't consider going down an expensive character theme.

Food was simple too. Sandwiches, sausage rolls and pizza along with some home made cakes, crisps and sweeties meant treats were had with everything we already had in the home. Little Miss helped with making the cakes, which I think helped her to feel included too.

Special birthday treats were not overly expensive. At the start of the week we popped along to our local library for the Master to collect his own library card. It was a big hit and the boy is taking the responsibility of looking after his library card and the books he hired on loan very seriously.  His other treat was a boy's only afternoon, when Daddy took him to the cinema for the first time.

We spent less than £50 on the Master's 4th birthday and putting sickness bugs aside, he had a fantastic birthday week! 


P.S: The Mister & I are taking part in Nectar's savvy family blogging competition throughout April and the start of May. For 6 weeks we'll be sharing savvy money saving tips and would love your support. 
You can find the Oliver family blog here.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Can you have a cheap spring holiday with kids?

Today is officially the first day of the Master's Easter holidays.  With nursery closed until the 25th it could be a long 3 weeks (extra days as his nursery is moving to a new building over the holidays). 

The activities Little Miss attends are closed too. Her toddler groups don't start again until May and her weekly Bookbugs sessions are on hold (in fact our local library will be closed until the end of the month as they're moving to a new building too). 

I asked at our local sports centre as I know they provide children's activities during the holidays, but their activities are for school-aged children. Plus at £2.70 for the cheapest session, the money would quickly mount up with 2 tots on my hands. In all honesty, it's just too expensive on our £10 a week budget.

Plus we have the Master's birthday coming up this week and of course Easter is just around the corner too. So I suppose it's no surprise my thoughts turned to holiday preparations this weekend.  

What's a frugal Mrs to do to entertain the kids on a cheap budget? There's nothing for it but to diy our fun.

The above photo shows the Easter gift baskets I made for free for the tots on Saturday morning. (Or for pennies if you want to factor in the printer ink, paper, washing up liquid and glycerine). I've written about in more detail as part of our savvy family blogging competition which you can read here. One question that's been put to me in the past is surely you must have paid something for the sweets? Uhm. No!

We have everything we need to make our own treasure hunt and a sports day. On the itinerary will be an egg and spoon race, a game of skittles with plastic bottles (I knew there'd be a day when my fizzy-juice habit would come in handy!) and other old favourites like running & throwing games (bean bags and hoops may be involved) . The plastic balls and tent are likely to make their first appearance of the year too to become our ball pit. 

If the weather is nice we have plenty of free walks to keep us amused and play parks to visit.

We may take advantage of park and ride schemes and treat the tots to a bus trip in Edinburgh. The tots can travel free and it's only a couple of pounds for an adult day pass.  We can hop on and off, whilst I twitter on about how fantastic my home city is! 

There are a selection of free museums and galleries in Edinburgh and Glasgow which we can take advantage of for those days when it's wise to find shelter indoors.  Although it's April who's not to say there may be snow forecast over the next 3 weeks?  Stranger things have happened! There are the board games, the play-doh and the lego to help keep us all entertained and we quite like the occasional PJs day anyway. 

If you've been experiencing 'bad mum' syndrome, also known as 'I'm not good enough', because you can't afford daily days out, or the kids clubs fees are out of your reach, then please know you're not alone. You're really, really not. You, me, WE are not one of the few, we're part of the majority.  


P.S: The Mister & I are taking part in Nectar's savvy family blogging competition throughout April and the start of May. For 6 weeks we'll be sharing savvy money saving tips and would love your support. 
You can find the Oliver family blog here.