Your Life

Save money these school holidays and still have a ball

- December 15, 2021 3 MIN READ

While it feels impossible to save money these school holidays, it can be done. Here’s how to keep costs down while the kids live it up.

School holiday spending can get out of hand. A couple of trips to the movies, a few lunches out, throw in a special activity like a theme park visit and we’re talking hundreds of dollars.

That’s without even thinking about packing your bags and going away on a holiday.

To save money these school holidays, get the kids on board. Make a game of ‘who can come up with the most fun idea for the least amount of money’? You’ll most likely be surprised by both their understanding and their creativity.

Here are my best tips for keeping things on budget to save money these school holidays.

Stick to a budget

To stick to a budget,  you’ve got to have  a budget first.

Pull out your family budget and work out how much you can afford to spend on activities these school holidays. Before you promise a day out, estimate how much you’re realistically going to spend and choose activities you can afford.

If you’re thinking of taking the kids out to lunch and a movie, break down all the costs to check you can afford it. Lunch for yourself and three kids will set you back at least $50, even if it’s fast food. Four movie tickets will cost over $70. Don’t forget to account for the popcorn, choc-tops and frozen cokes the kids will convince you to buy… plus parking or public transport costs. 

I’m not saying you should keep the kids locked up all holidays to save money, but you do need to keep track of your spending. You don’t want to be paying off horse rides, shopping trips and tickets to movies until well into term three. 

As mentioned, involving the kids in this process can have huge benefits. Believe me, anything you end up doing will be more fun if they chose it themselves!

Get creative with activities

There are plenty of things to do in most towns and cities that cost nothing at all.

Dust off the old library card and get your kids excited about borrowing new books. Many libraries also run special school holiday activities. Around Sydney, libraries are doing everything from story telling and scrapbooking classes to knitting lessons and kids yoga these holidays, all free of charge. 

The same will be true around Australia, so visit your local or capital city council website . It will list what’s on for special school holiday events.

Head to museums and art galleries that are free or low-cost to enter. Research what’s available in areas near your own and make the trip.

Challenge yourselves to do as many free things (or close to free) as possible during the holidays:

  • Swim at the beach
  • Go on a bush walk
  • Play a game of touch footy
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Stream a movie
  • Take a train ride somewhere new
  • Walk every street in your suburb
  • Feed the ducks
  • Join a community garden
  • Hit the skate park
  • Browse in a bookshop
  • Go camping

Plan your meals

A sandwich can cost up to $15 in some cafes. Add a couple of dollars for a drink and a “quick bite” with the kids can really eat into your wallet.

Instead of eating out, plan school holiday activities before or after meal times, or go somewhere you can take your own food. Pack a picnic into an insulated bags and backpack your food to wherever you’re heading. A picnic outside is a lovely way to spend a holiday day anyway.

If you want to take the family away, book self-contained accommodation so you can prepare all your own meals. While it might not feel like a ‘true holiday’ if you’re still preparing all the food, the savings are worth it. This is especially cost effective if you have a large family.

Keep food light and easy during the holidays to both save money and your precious time. A quick barbecue with salads, a salad and cheese wrap – it doesn’t have to expensive or fancy to taste good. You can find more ways to save on groceries here.

Stay home

Holidaying at home is fun and, very importantly, super cheap. It doesn’t have to be dullsville either. Arranging for friends to come play or sleepover is often enough to keep the kids happy. Even better if the sleepover is in the tent in the backyard. Feed the kids homemade pizzas or hamburgers from the barbecue and you’re sorted for basically no spend. Other cool things to do at home that costs little or nothing are:

  • Have a movie marathon day
  • Bake some bread
  • Make a scavenger hunt
  • Do a few science experiments
  • Have a barbecue with friends
  • Play board games or cards
  • Get into gardening
  • Become a backyard bird watcher
  • Stage a play
  • Have a dance off