Today I’m delighted to bring you a guest post from my UK money blogging colleague Fiona Hawkes.
Fiona’s post covers a subject I am sure many readers of this blog will be able to relate to – how to have a great day out with the grandchildren without spending a fortune.
Over to Fiona, then…
There are currently around 14 million grandparents in the UK and more and more of them are taking on the role of childminder for their grandchildren, as growing costs mean that more families need both parents to work to make ends meet.
One in three over-fifties in the UK are grandparents and they help families cut the costs of more formal childcare arrangements – especially during the long six-week summer holidays.
But some grandparents may find that the continual extra mouths to feed and days of entertaining the little darlings are having an impact on their own finances. While the older generation of course love their children and grandchildren and want to help out however they can, it shouldn’t come at the expense of their own financial health.
While this generation of grandparents may be the ones who know how to be thrifty and make do and mend, they may not be quite so savvy when it comes to saving money online, for example.
I realise most grandparents may already have plenty of thrifty ideas for days out – picnics in the park, feeding the ducks, museums, etc – so in this post I am going to discuss ways to save money on the more expensive days out, e.g. to theme parks and attractions.
While they may not be the sort of thing you want to (or could afford to!) do every day, I do think children and adults alike look forward to days out doing something fun and different, such as country farms, zoos and trips to the cinema.
Saving on Trips To Adventure Parks, Zoos and Farms
Down here in Somerset there are several local attractions that we usually try and make a visit to during the summer holidays. These include Crealy Adventure Park, Woodlands, Longleat Safari Park and Bristol Zoo. I know there are similar parks dotted all over the country and there are bound to be similar ones near you. Wherever you are based, though, there is bound to be one thing in common – entry is not cheap.
Here are my tips for saving on adventurous days out with your grandchildren.
- Book online. Most places offer discounts of between 10% and 20% if you pre-book tickets up to 48 hours in advance.
- Check out sites like Groupon and Living Social for discounted tickets and cheaper entry special events. Bristol Zoo, for example, has special evening events throughout the year.
- Some places offer a ‘return in the next 7 days for free’ – plan in advance to ensure you are able to take up this offer and get two days out for the price of one.
- Most pubs, shopping centres, etc, have leaflets offering discount vouchers – look out for these and pick a few up when you see them.
- Use OAP discounts and Family tickets wherever you can.
- Annual membership could save hundreds if you live close to a popular attraction and plan to go there often. If you’ve already bought tickets for that day they will often be deducted from the cost of an annual pass.
- Look out for free open days – I recently attended one that offered free tractor rides and animal petting at a local farm.
Saving on Trips to The Cinema
Trips to the cinema can soon start adding up – tickets alone can be as much as £10 each (I’m looking at you, Odeon!) and that’s before adding in drinks, sweets and popcorn!
- If you’ve used Compare the Market in the last year and opted in then you should be entitled to 2 for 1 cinema tickets at participating cinemas on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You can download the app, apply the code when booking online or print it out to show at the cinema. If you haven’t used Compare the Market before buy inexpensive travel insurance once and get 2 for 1 tickets for a year. Valid for two people. Don’t forget to check this is cheaper than a family ticket. Plus, this offer can be used when you don’t have the grandchildren too!
- During the school holidays and most Saturdays and Sundays many cinemas have cheap kids’ movies being screened. These films tend to be older ones that have been around a while but tickets are much cheaper and usually the same price for adults and children. Showings are usually in the morning, around 10am, and will be called something like ‘Kids AM’ or ‘Kids Club’.
- Take you own (well hidden) drinks and snacks. Wilko’s is our favorite for pick ‘n’ mix and Poundland is great for 2 for £1 bottles of fizzy drink and £1 bags of chocolates.
Saving on Eating out in the Holidays
Eating out in the holidays with grandchildren can be tricky. Places like McDonald’s offer a quick fix but aren’t really what can be considered a ‘nice’ dining experience. Go to somewhere ‘family friendly’ like Harvester and the cost soon starts to creep up. Try these tips for saving on eating out with grandchildren.
- Loads of places offer ‘Kids eat free’ or ‘Kids eat for £1’ during the holidays. Find a list online and plan your days around where it’s cheap (but nice!) to eat.
- Tastecard offers 2 for 1 meals at lots of chain restaurants including Prezzo, Zizzi and Ask as well as many local eateries too. If you can’t save on the kids’ meals at least you can save on the grown ups! Tastecard is around £30 for a year but we usually make that back after two meals out. [Note from Nick: You can get the similar Gourmet Society discount card for just £3.99 if you get an NUS Extra card, as described in this recent post.]
- Wherever you plan to eat, always check for vouchers online before you go or download a vouchers app such as vouchercloud.
- With older children and teens who have a big appetite, something like Pizza Hut’s Pizza buffet is a great choice as they can eat as much as they like for one set price. It can also be great for fussy eaters as if they don’t like something they can choose something different without it costing any more money.
I hope you find these tips helpful in planning some cheaper days out with your grandchildren!
Byline: Fiona Hawkes (pictured, right) is a personal finance blogger who loves saving money almost as much as she loves spending it. She saves hard to be able to live better, afford a few small luxuries and see a bit more of the world. Fiona blogs at www.savvyinsomerset.com. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Many thanks to Fiona for an enjoyable and thought-provoking article. Do you have any additional tips to share for having a great day out with the grandchildren (or children) without it breaking the bank? If so, please do post them below!