Budgeting for summer

Posted in: Finance Last updated: 22 Oct 2013

For most parents the summer holidays are a mixed blessing. Our frazzled children are clearly in need of a break from the daily grind of school and we continue to hold on to some halcyon view of how summer holidays should consist of endless, stress-free messing about for happily self-amused children. 


However, the reality of coping with six or more weeks of kiddie-orientated entertainment is an entirely different matter.

For households where two parents work, filling all those weeks is often a logistical nightmare, never mind an expensive one. No more school providing the bulk of the day’s free childcare. While I’m a big believer in inexpensive entertainment, even with the best will in the world and the most frugal outlook, it often feels like it would be cheaper to throw £20 notes down the nearest drain. This only seems to get worse as the kids get older, and are less easily placated with a day down the park on the swings and one ice-cream each. For me, the food bills alone in feeding two endlessly hungry boys make my eyes water.

All the recent discussion about Michael Gove allowing schools to set their own holidays so they can be spread more evenly over the year has once more set off the debate about just what the summer holidays are for; how much downtime teachers and children need to recharge, and how this fits with the reality of most families’ working lives in this day and age.

"... the results confirm that the summer is essentially one huge juggling act for working parents."

Now there isn’t the need or desire to decamp to the country to work on the farms for the summer, neither is there always a stay-at-home mum happy to entertain the children for six weeks, so what are families to do?

Help from friends and family

According to a Family Investments survey, for the majority of respondents (66%) there wasn’t a need to change childcare arrangements during the summer –presumably because one parent is a full-time carer or the children are pre-school age, or old enough to look after themselves during holidays anyway (80% of respondents worked either full or part-time and 10% were single parents). For the remaining 34% of respondents additional childcare arrangement for the holidays had to be made.

The results confirm that the summer is essentially one huge juggling act for working parents: 43% manage it with one or other parent taking time off work, 32% rely on friends or family to help look after the kids, 25% use holiday clubs...and so it continues. Clearly my reality of cobbling together a mixture of all these things is the same for families up and down the land. Varying the care, keeping the kids safe, happy and entertained takes help, imagination and money.

Having a holiday

Compared with managing the childcare, choosing where to go for the ‘holiday’ part of the holiday is a breeze. Despite austerity Britain, 69% of respondents are planning to take a holiday at home or abroad, with Europe the top destination by some distance (88%), but the families questioned are being proficient at keeping costs down: 75% of respondents are spending £2000 or less on the whole of their holiday.

Holidaying is a high priority for people and much research has shown how this has remained true even through the worst of the UK’s recession. It seems as people view a holiday as an essential part of their lives, they are also planning for it: 67% of respondents in this survey said they were paying for their summer holiday with money they had saved.

So the sun is out, the end of term is nearly upon us and with one huge collective intake of breath, parents across the country brace themselves for the summer holidays. Maybe we should just count ourselves lucky we don’t have to deal with American-length summer breaks – no wonder the summer camp became so popular there.

And remember, it’s meant to be fun.

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Hub content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions. OneFamily do not provide advice so it may be worth speaking to an independent financial advisor about your own circumstances.