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Summer holidays – How to keep the kids occupied?

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The school summer holidays are approaching, which means as parents we have to find different ways to keep the kids occupied for 6 weeks.

It would be best to start by planning each week in advance. If the kids know they have things to look forward to it will make for happier more relaxed children. Also be sure to get the children involved in the planning. They will be less likely to complain about the activities chosen if they have taken part in the decision-making.

Some ideas that won’t break the bank:

  • Make your own games. Get a supply of coloured cards, children’s scissors, glue and anything else you may want to make some fun games.
  • Cooking and baking. Involve the kids in the process from the beginning — let them chose from a selection of recipes that you have ingredients for. Step by step, help them to work through the instructions.
  • Make an assault course or hold your own mini Olympics. A sack race with pillowcases, a tug of war with a dressing gown belt! Use your imagination.
  • Build a garden patch. Dedicate a small patch in the garden to the kids. Plant flowers, herbs, lettuce — anything that grows quickly and gives them the satisfaction of having produced something.
  • Go camping. Build a tent indoors or outdoors with blankets and sheets.
  • Go on picnics. You don’t have to go far to have a picnic  – you can even have one in your garden or on a rug in the house if the weather isn’t very good.
  • Have a treasure hunt. Make a treasure map and let the kids go off finding the treasure.  
  • Create a Summer Diary. Take photos of special days and write about them. It will become a lovely memory book for them in the future.
  • Get jamming. Grab some musical instruments, or make your own — things like bongos, shakers or tambourines. Get your kids to sing and dance along.
  • Paint. Get large sheets of paper and lots of paint. Go mad and use your hands and feet, if the weather is nice you can do it outdoors and not have to worry about the mess so much.
  • Get into jewellery making. Go to a bead shop and stock up on beads, wire and clasps, and get busy making your own jewellery. The children will be so proud to wear the jewellery that they have made.
  • Go swimming. If you are lucky enough to live close to the sea, go swimming when possible. If you don’t live close to the sea, go to a swimming pool instead. Check to see if your local council swimming pool offers free or reduced-fee entrance in the school holidays.
  • Take nature walks. Go on nature walks with a purpose. On the beach, collect shells and stones to later make a shell castle or shell and stone sculptures. In the forest, get kids to seek out different sorts of bugs, plants or trees.
  • Visit the library. Use your local library regularly. In most libraries you can get more than books; you can get movies and music. Make a day out of it. Do some reading while you’re there instead of getting some books and heading home.
  • Organise some play dates. Plan some play dates and invite friends over. While they spend time with their friends it may give you the opportunity to get some work done and perhaps even connect with other parents. The invite may be returned some day.
  • Have a “Chill Day”. With all that activity planned, kids will also need some down time. Make sure you plan some days where you just chill, watch some movies, read some books, and take it easy.

During the school holidays, there may be lots going on in your local area that your family can enjoy, often for free. Check the websites of your local council and tourist information centres for local days out, or scan the local papers and community centres to see what’s going on in your area.

Don’t try and fill every minute of every day. Encourage your children’s imagination and independence – let them play in their rooms or the garden.



How to have your dream wedding on a budget

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The happiest day of your life; that is what your wedding day is, but the build up can be an extremely stressful and expensive time. Before any planning for the big day, it is best to work out your overall budget. To keep track of your big day spending, write down the estimated costs in a budget planner and then regularly review the costs as you confirm with suppliers to ensure you stay on track.

The venue

If you are looking for an affordable wedding venue then small hotels, pub wedding venues and village halls will be the best places find a bargain. Don’t worry if the venue is fairly plain and simple as there are lots of easy and affordable ways that you can add pretty and stylish wedding décor to transform it.

No matter what size your wedding – you will still be paying between £400-£500 for your ceremony fees. If you are having a civil ceremony then this will cover the cost of the registrar and the marriage licence.

The outfits

The dress – lots of ladies have had the dream dress in mind from being a little girl but that dream dress can come with a hefty price tag. If you are on a strict budget then the high street have some gorgeous options or you could try on white occasion wear dresses that will come with a cheaper price tag than a more traditional wedding dress.

You can get some fantastic shoes from the high street; keeping it simple with some plain white satin shoes or going glam with some glittering heels if you want to add some sparkle.

If you can’t stretch to paying for bridesmaid dresses, you could ask the girls to all wear a certain colour, using a dress they already own. Mismatched bridesmaid dresses are really on trend.

Suits for all the groomsmen can eat into your budget. If your groom and groomsmen have a simple suit already then save your pennies and instead splash out on fab new matching ties or cravats with a simple white shirt to transform their everyday suits into some seriously glamorous groomswear.

The guests

It’s tough but having fewer wedding guests will mean saving a dramatic amount of money. If you still want to have a great party then you could have a smaller guest list for the day time and then invite more people for a big party in the evening.

Be Prepared to DIY

It’s amazing how much money you can save by creating things yourself – try and make as much of your décor as you can. Candles and tealights add a magical atmosphere to your wedding and can be bought cheaper in bulk. You can also get some great vases from supermarkets and fill them with your own flowers. Choose from pretty bunting, signs and confetti.

Make your flower arrangements yourself. Go to a local flower market (or the supermarket!) where you can buy a mix of flowers and have a rustic look to your day. You could also consider paying a professional for your bridal bouquet – as it will be photographed a lot – and then making the ones for the bridesmaids and centrepieces.


The food

Swap a traditional sit down wedding breakfast for a buffet style barbecue or hire in a mobile food truck. If your venue allows then you can let your wedding guests know that they can bring their own alcohol and that will help slash your catering costs.

Is a friend or family member an excellent cake maker? Get them to make your wedding cake; it could be their wedding gift to you. Alternatively, supermarkets have plain white cakes that you can decorate yourself, making a simple cake extra special by splashing out on some ribbon to edge the cake with, maybe some faux flowers and a cake topper.

The music

A band or DJ might eat into too much of your budget so why not make your own wedding playlist and bring your own device. Just make sure you have a charger on hand and maybe even a back-up device just in case!

The honeymoon

Instead of a traditional gift list, ask your friends and family to contribute towards your honeymoon. Then after the wedding, see what your budget is and book a fab trip away or go on a romantic mini-moon in the UK. You can also save any of your spare change to put towards your spending money.

Make Use of Your Friends and Family

If you have a friend who is a great photographer or a bridesmaid that is fantastic at makeup then don’t be afraid to ask for their help – they will be honoured to play such a big part in your special day

Stick to that budget and remember to just have a great day.





Get the best holiday deals this summer

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Many of us dream of jetting off on a plane and feeling the hot summer sun on our faces or a cool dip in a refreshing pool, but how can you be sure you’re finding the best deal on your summer holiday?

Best time to book

Booking a holiday always seems to involve the same dilemma: will I save by booking early or are there better deals available at the last-minute? The best offers are always available at the last minute, right? Wrong! According to research, the best time to book a holiday for the most competitive price is 56 days in advance.

If you have school-aged children, work in a job with restricted holiday periods or have a set idea on the type of holiday you want to go on, you are best to get booking early. Booking early usually means you get the pick of the bunch and will be able to have the holiday of your dreams, without having to compromise. Booking early can often mean free or highly discounted child places.

However, if you’re just after a week away in the sun or are happy to be inspired by available deals, booking late and waiting for a bargain might suit you better. Playing the game of ‘holiday roulette’ can often pay off with some excellent late deals; but you won’t find many last-minute bargains on peak dates.

It is good to note that any holiday involving a low-cost or scheduled flight is highly unlikely to ever get cheaper, except on an off-peak date to a destination that is not currently popular, prices for these trips often increase in price the closer you get to the date.

Online travel agents, such as Expedia and Travel Republic, have holidays on sale as far ahead as flying schedules allow – 11 months for scheduled flights such as British Airways, while the likes of easyJet and Ryanair usually release their summer flights for next year after the current summer season ends. Sign up for alerts and you can be one of the first in the know.

Paying now vs paying later

It can be tempting to put off booking a holiday until the last minute to avoid paying anything now but it is good to note you will need to pay the full amount straight away.  Early bookers can benefit from special schemes to encourage early booking – deposits can be as low as £1 per person, with the balance being paid as late as four weeks prior to departure.

However, for a package holiday you would usually expect to pay around £50 – £100 per person, with the full balance due around 12 weeks prior to departure. Go ahead and shop around for deals – this gives you plenty of time to save up for your balance and spending money, especially if booking for next summer.

You can slash the price by checking comparison sites, tour operators and flash-sale sites

First, benchmark a decent price on the web. To get an idea of the type of price you should be paying, start by searching the major package holiday listing sites. Remember though, while many places shout about special offers, don’t be drawn in without checking the final cost – you might find a cheaper deal elsewhere, without a specific sale or code.

Heading to once-in-vogue holiday hotspots that are no longer so popular can be a good way to save yourself some money. Often if demand’s off the boil, massive hotels can lie virtually empty.

The same applies to destinations off the beaten track that aren’t popular with the masses yet, though capacity at these may be more limited. Opting for Bulgaria rather than Greece, for example, can help save, while Sri Lanka used to be a cheap option for tropical package holidays (though it’s now becoming more popular).

If you don’t fancy a package, city breaks tend to cost less in summer, as cities are less obvious destinations.

Package holidays can be cheaper than flights if you’re heading to a popular resort

If you’re going away specifically for seven, 10 or 14 days to a traditional holiday destination, package holidays are often best. They can sometimes be much cheaper than booking a scheduled flight… even if you DON’T want to use the hotel.

A holiday is usually two weeks at most – don’t spend all year paying for it

We all deserve a holiday now and then but do remember it’s only two weeks a year for most – a holiday you spend the rest of the year worrying how to pay for isn’t relaxing, nor helpful for long-term finances.

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