Having kids is expensive.
I think we can all agree on that much.
And much as we think having babies are a strain on our wallets (nappies, wipes, all the gear), the reality is that as kids get older and get to a stage where they constantly want to do things and go places and buy stuff, well, things can quickly start to add up.
Especially so during the weekends and holidays, when they are not in school and constrained by regular routines and schedules. Add inflation and the looming threat of a cost of living crisis, and I think we are all looking for ways to cut back.
However, one savvy UK mum recently shared how she has become quite the master in entertaining her kids without spending much money at all – and we are happily taking all the tips we can get.
‘No spend weekends’
Speaking to Metro newspaper, Emma Stretton, 37, from Manchester describes herself as a ‘savvy saver’ who likes to show how to make your money go further.
Stretton says she is a fan of ‘no spend weekends’ that are still plenty of fun, including fakeaways and makeshift movie nights.
“I’m just quite tight and I don’t like wasting money, so I just think of ways around having to spend it,” the savvy mum explains.
“I’m also motivated by teaching my children you don’t have to spend money to have fun and that doing things together is more valuable. [My inspiration draws] from being a kid and having to make my own fun a lot, as we only had four channels [on the television] and that was it. I like encouraging my kids to be creative.”
Emma’s top tips for keeping kids busy without spending money
1. Look up local events
“Firstly, treat Google as your best friend and set aside some time for research,” Stretton explains.
“Local parks will have free entry events lined up, especially during the warmer months and for sports fanatics, check the fixtures of your local team. There are monthly makers markets in the town centre that we have a walk around and we don’t have to buy anything, it’s nice being out in the community.”
“If the kids have any pocket money saved up, they might get a cake or something similar.”
2. Meet friends
Stretton says they also try to meet up with friends or have friends over – rather than meeting out for meals or experiences.
“Going to a friend’s house for an hour or meeting at the park costs a lot less than a big night out would.”
The Manchester-based mum also recommends searching hashtags on social media such as #freefun or #freeactivites and joining local groups.
However, she says the most fun activities usually come from using your imagination and can also help teach kids how to be responsible.
“Using a bit of imagination rather than going to big attractions is totally free and can be a lot more fun,” Stretton says.
“Tidying up after is annoying, but I get the kids to do that too, so they also learn responsibility. Try to remember what you used to do [as a kid] and what you loved – whether it’s bike rides or monopoly. That makes it fun not just for your kids, but for you too.”
The mum-of-two says board games such as Monopoly or Cluedo are the secret to a great family night in, and she believes taking a trip down memory lane with old music or films gives something for the whole family to enjoy.
“One of the reasons I love ‘No spend weekends’ is because it makes us do things we used to do as kids,’ Stretton reveals.
“We’ll get the board games out and play as a family. You can also play adult versions if you want to and make it more interesting later on.”
4. Let social media inspire you
Using social media, the ‘savvy saver’ says she follows multiple accounts that focus on keeping kids entertained by allowing them to use their creativity.
“You can freeze toys in a block of ice and challenge them to get them out,” she says.
“You can play the ‘floor is lava’ using cushions and blankets, so you don’t step on the floor, or stick masking tape to the floor and make a tape road. Make face masks out of yoghurt and pretend you’re at a spa – it gets the kids to use their imagination and make some fun memories.”
5. Meals and food
For weekends, Emma says she loves a good television show and takeaway but as food prices have increased, splurging on fish and chips or takeaway pizza isn’t something she wants to drop money on every weekend.
Yet you don’t need to miss out on this traditional treat, she reveals.
“Doing a no spend weekend means so takeaways, meals out or last minute trips to the shop for chocolate,’”she explains.
“I’ll plan out some fakeaways for the weekend and buy the ingredients in the weekly shop, as we’re more likely to stick to it when we already have things ready.”
Stretton says she researches online for replica recipes of her favourite takeaway dishes and says that buying ingredients from a supermarket can save her lots of money.
“We give the kids Coke floats and chicken nuggets and chips in a basket, so it’s a bit like being at a diner,” she says.
“I’ll also stock up on sweets or popcorn and make a big sweet bowl, so we can eat that while watching a film.”