Q: What costs £660 per child? A: The summer holidays

Written by Charlotte Elmehagen on 12th July 2017

As schools are about to break up for the summer (and many private ones already have), working and non-working parents are starting to worry about the added financial pressures they will face during the six weeks break. Many fear they may spiral into debt as a result.

It’s been suggested that parents are set to spend nearly £10 billion on childcare and entertainment over the summer months. That’s an average of £660 per child.

The cost of childcare in the summer holidays is now so high that some parents will have trouble paying their household bills and will have to rely on overdrafts and credit cards to make ends meet. But families are also turning to less formal types of borrowing as loans from friends and family are likely to double between May and August. In a survey of 2,000 parents by bet-bonuscodes.co.uk, one in five parents said they would even gamble in the hope to win some quick cash to spend on their kids’ activities this summer (btw. NOT something Good With Money would recommend).

Meanwhile, a separate survey conducted by www.sunshine.co.uk revealed that three quarters of Brits admit to borrowing money to pay for their holiday. Rather worryingly, the average debt leftover from a holiday abroad was revealed to be £1,771 – an amount said to take about six months to clear in full.

Ideally, the household income would cover entertainment and other holiday expenses but during the summer, the opposite seems to happen. It has been suggested that the reason for this is that many parents are forced to take unpaid leave or reduce their hours in order to care for their children during the school holidays.

Solving the summer problem

Yet, it shouldn’t be expected of parents to choose between their career and family and there are solutions to the problems faced by parents during the summer months.

Flexible working legislation gives every worker the right to request flexible working practices. This can include remote working, which will allow you to work from home either occasionally or full time.

For those who can afford it, part-time hours over the summer break can give you more time with the children, and reduce the amount of childcare needed. Compressed hours can also free up a day of the working week, but it’s important to remember that you’ll still need to work full-time hours over a shorter time period.

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Consider the best options for you, both in terms of being able to perform your role well and any sacrifices to income you can afford to make. Planning in advance will make a huge difference too as many of your colleagues will be in the same position.

It is also worth having a look around to find out what’s on offer in your local area as most councils have a list of schemes, while private companies run them too. Some will offer an extended day for working parents, while others merely offer entertainment during school hours. Either way, if they offer something your children like and their friends are going along too, they can be a real blessing.

They need not be overly pricey, either. If you claim the childcare element of the Working Family Tax Credit you could get a discount, while Ofsted-registered schemes will often take childcare vouchers. These latter schemes are administered by employers, with the money taken out of your income before tax, and can save you thousands a year.

Basic rate taxpayers can take £55 a week of their salary as childcare vouchers, as can higher or additional rate taxpayers who are already in their company’s scheme. Check with your employer if they offer the vouchers, and with the scheme whether they will take them.

If you have more than one child and need full-time summer childcare, it might surprise you to know that a summer au pair may be a cost-effective option. Summer au pairs will provide around six hours of childcare a day for around £85 – £100 a week, regardless of the number of children. But do make sure to go through a reputable agency: look for those registered with BAPAA (British Au Pair Agencies Association).

Summer holidays can be the best time to make happy memories with your family. A little bit of forward planning and a few sacrifices can help you to achieve the work-life balance that will make the summer break your favourite time of year.