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How to plan for half term without breaking the bank

As October half-term approaches, many parents are worried about the cost of keeping kids entertained over the holiday. For those in full time work, the cost of childcare alone can be a massive financial strain, and that’s not even counting half term activities.

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If you’re looking for fun and free ways to keep your kids busy this half-term, you should check out what services your council provides. Most local authorities run a variety of classes, swimming lessons, cycling training and book clubs, you just need to know where to find them.  

James Andrews, senior personal finance editor at money.co.uk said: “If you’re keen to find free activities offered by councils ahead of the half term break,  a great place to start is your local library.

“Many of the council-funded schemes and activities can be found here, so it’s worth checking out their website or popping in for a visit. 

“The sites should be updated periodically, but it’s also a great idea to sign up to any mailing lists or local WhatsApp/Facebook groups to keep on top of any changes or newly introduced schemes. 

“Two of the most popular local classes are usually swimming lessons and free cycle training, which are available in dozens of local authorities across the UK.

“Councils also frequently have family information directories on their websites - letting people know about everything from city farms to capoeira classes offered locally - although not all of these are free.

“Even if you manage to sort some free activities over half term, it’s still likely that the holiday will cost you more than a regular working week. As such, it’s a good reminder to make sure you’re claiming back as much as you can from the government when it comes to childcare, in order to help keep costs down.  

“There are currently three main government funded childcare schemes that give you a set number of free hours childcare. This will typically be between 15 and 30 hours free a week depending on the age of your children, your personal income and working circumstances.

“If you’re a young parent still in education, there are additional schemes available to help support your childcare this half-term. These include:

  • If you’re under 20 and in school or Sixth Form, you may be able to apply for weekly payments through the Care to Learn scheme. This could give you up to £160 a week (£175 in London) towards childcare, paid directly to your registered childcare provider.

  • If you’re over 19 and in further education, such as a BTEC qualification or PGCE, you have the option to apply for something called ‘Discretionary Learner Support’, which can help pay for both childcare, as well as other costs like accommodation and travel. 

  • Finally, if you’re in full time higher education and have children under 15, you can apply for a Childcare Grant. Similar to your other student finance grants, this won’t need to be paid back and can give you up to £307.95 a week if you have two or more children.

“Half-term can also be a great opportunity to teach your children some good personal finance tips. According to government research, most children’s attitudes to money are developed by age seven, so getting started as early as possible can create good habits that last a lifetime. 

“For toddlers, you can start out small. It might sound basic but teaching small kids to literally ‘count the pennies’ with different types of coins is a great intro to handling money. If you can get them a small piggy bank, even better – the act of filling the bank can be turned into a fun activity.

“With older kids, tearing them away from their smartphones can be tricky, instead why not introduce them to digital pocket money? Go Henry is arguably the most well-known provider of prepaid cards for kids, and it comes with its very own app too so kids can track their allowance. 

“While it might take some time to get used to, allowing your children to manage their own money digitally can be incredibly beneficial in the long run, as it teaches them to take greater responsibility for their own financial choices. 

“For more tips on how to teach your child good financial habits this half term, check out our handy guide on money.co.uk: https://www.money.co.uk/guides/guide-for-talking-to-children-about-finances#using-pocket-money-to-teach-good-behaviours


About James Andrews

James has spent the past 15 years writing and editing personal finance news, specialising in consumer rights, pensions, insurance, property and investments - picking up a series of awards for his journalism along the way.

View James Andrews's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.