Lisa Skinner has found ways to make her money go further and keep her kids happy too
I’ve certainly been on a journey when it comes to handling money and my attitude to spending over these last 12 years. Along the way I’ve picked up some tips and tricks to help my family live well whilst also stewarding well. Below are some of these tips and tricks for money saving. I share them in the hope that some of it will help you make savings in the weeks and months that lie ahead of us and maybe even free up some of your money to bless others with. For more ideas follow me on Instagram @wisdomandpennies
- I subscribe to the emails of a number of key companies who offer rewards, especially those offering good birthday rewards – 50% off Sweaty Betty; a free pastry from Patisserie Valerie; a £10 for Boden (no minimum spend); £5 to spend in Hotel Chocolat; £5 to spend in Paperchase; a free treat at Pizza Express; 25% off at H&M; 15% off Anthropologie; 15% off Barbour. On the theme of birthdays I’ve also been grateful for the Build-a-Bear birthday offer in recent years – a birthday bear for which you pay the age of the child i.e. £4 for a 4 year old.
- Another freebie that I get for my children is a subscription to the quarterly Lego Life magazine (for five to nine year-olds) which provides them with hours of amusement. The shipping is free, and you can sign up for the subscription via lego.com. Speaking of Lego, Smyth’s Toy Stores regularly run fun days when they give away free goodies, often Lego, so it’s worth keeping an eye on their social channels.
- Once your children start school, you’re met with the inevitable influx of party invitations. It can be expensive - what do you buy? How much do you spend on each gift? I tend to stockpile gifts; I pick up little items in sales and discount stores when I see them for both boys and girls in and around the age of my children. I also start my own Christmas shopping in September every year to spread the cost across four months rather than trying to fund it all in December and struggling through the long month of January.
- Signing up for loyalty schemes can be incredibly helpful when it comes to making savings, if you’re spending money, you might as well get something back. You can build up points as you spend with Tesco, Sainsburys, Boots and Paperchase which can be converted into vouchers to spend. While the Lidl, M&S Sparks and TK Maxx Treasure schemes all offer regular freebies and often exclusive discounts to their customers.
- If your children are anything like mine, they’re always bored. I read local publications for parents and check local webpages to research free events for children, especially those running during school holidays. We also try to take our children on scenic walks and to a variety of parks in and around where we live to get them outdoors and keep them occupied. Recently the National Trust were giving away free visit passes so that more people could experience nature, beauty, and history this autumn. While that offer has since ceased there are still lots of coastal and countryside places you can visit for free (parking charges may apply), it’s worth checking their website for more details.
- One of our local cinemas offers free weekly Saturday morning screenings of slightly older movies (not new releases) for young children. Others offer children’s movies at a discounted rate, it’s always worth checking with your local cinema what programmes they run for children
- Open Farm Weekend happens every year in June, when a number of working farms open their doors to the general public for free. There is a wide variety of farms open to visitors, one year we took our family to an Apple Orchard which was quite different.
- European Heritage Open Days is an annual event celebrating local architecture, history and culture, it takes place across Europe on the second weekend in September. In Northern Ireland European Heritage Open Days (EHOD) is run by the Department for Communities with the support of the Council of Europe and the European Commission. It’s a once-a-year opportunity for curious families, architect lovers and heritage enthusiasts to explore buildings and exclusive sites rarely open to the public.
- Our local Council run a ‘Park life’ scheme on a Saturday morning to encourage young people to connect with nature in local parks. Some Garden Centres also run Gardening Clubs for kids - Dobbies Garden Centres run a ‘Little Seedlings’ Club. These are free gardening workshops (for children aged 4-10) to help children start growing, and encourage them to learn about wildlife, plants and the environment
- A favourite pastime of ours has always been to visit out local Library where we not only have access to a range of new and exciting publications but where we can also attend Rhythm and Rhyme sessions. These sessions are for children aged 0 - four years to introduce them to the wonder of rhymes, songs and stories. Young children can engage with others and the content provides a good foundation to develop reading, listening and language skills for little ones. On one of our recent visits I discovered that Library members can access a range of free digital magazines from both library and home computers. There are 3,000 titles to choose from and you can use your smartphone, tablet or PC to read a magazine wherever you are for free. I need never buy a copy of Vogue again. By downloading the Libby App you can borrow free e-books and digital audio books as well as magazines.
- Museums are great places to expand the minds and imaginations of your children and what makes them even better is that they are free of charge. You can’t beat a bit of culture!
- Holiday times can be especially long when it comes to entertaining kids, with many of us desperately looking for something to keep the kids busy with – that doesn’t involve a screen! McDonald’s typically provide hundreds of free football sessions with their UKFA partners in over 600 locations across the UK during the summer months. Keep an eye open for that!
- Pets at Home tend to offer free seasonal ‘My Pet Pals’ workshops which include fun interactive games and puzzles. Kids receive activity sheets, stickers and a certificate as well as meeting some of the amazing animals they have in store.
- IKEA are pretty reliable when it comes to free events for kids during holiday periods with all manner of activities on offer, you can check with your local store or check their website for details.
Entertaining your children doesn’t have to cost you the earth, it can be done well on a budget, freeing up more of your money to cover bills and giving.
On the subject of bills, my husband and I review and compare insurance packages, electricity, Wi-Fi, phone and credit card deals regularly to ensure we aren’t paying more than we have to. It involves a good bit of research but the savings mean it’s worth doing.
If, after all of this advice, you’re still concerned about money in the current financial climate, Christians Against Poverty run a free Money Course. This money management course teaches people budgeting skills and a simple, cash-based system that really works. The course is so beneficial that Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert himself, recommends it to those wishing to manage their money and avoid debt.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas for half-term and all the year round!