Perhaps this post should be titled ‘How we’re trying to spend less this summer’ as sometimes with all the will in the world, spending goes a bit haywire and you’ve skipped the Starbucks latte but ended up with a online shopping order on your doorstep instead.
Currently our purse strings are tighter than ever before. I’m back at work part-time and James is claiming Statutory Shared Parental Pay while he spends three months away from the office with our son Felix. We’re very lucky to be able to spend four days a week together as a family. We do spend a bit of time at home in the garden but mostly we’ve been getting out and about. The financials are tricky but the experience has been worth every single penny.
I appreciate it’s a significant outgoing in the first place but we received our National Trust membership as a Christmas gift. (I actually think if you’re struggling to think of a gift to buy a friend with a new baby then it’s worth clubbing together with some other mates to buy a membership). We use it several times a month, in fact in June we used it five times! As well as using it for days out in their entirety, we check out National Trust properties in the area before we head off anywhere. For example on our way to the Cotswolds we dropped in to NT at Croome on the way. There’s always good baby changing facilities and a reasonably priced cafe to have a bit of a recharge as well as the gorgeous properties and gardens themselves.
Keep it Local
I thought I knew our local area pretty well but I have to say over the last nine months I’ve discovered areas I never knew existed! Although we have travelled far and wide already this summer, we try to make the most of what’s on our doorstep too. We bought an annual parking permit for Northamptonshire County Parks which means we can easily nip to our local reservoir to use their play facilities or stretch our legs for an hour or two. It will probably have paid for itself at the end of the summer.
Going out to restaurants and cafes is one of life’s little pleasures. While we’re cutting back on the spending, we’re still nipping out to eateries. However, more often than not we’ll just go for a drink and then head somewhere nearby to have a picnic. I use the term ‘picnic’ very loosely as what this actually means is a sandwich eaten outdoors. When we went to Paris for the day recently we had drinks in a fancy pants bar but ate falafel in a beautiful park. I find this much less stressful than trying to keep a babbling nine-month-old under control in a restaurant and it’s cheaper too. Winner.
Date Nights are few and far between at the minute but when we’re next at my parents we’re going to head to a gorgeous restaurant offering Bring Your Own. A surprising number of restaurants in Sheffield seem to offer the option to take your own booze and it obviously makes going out so much cheaper.
We’ve also done a few activities that have resulted in taking a bit of produce home at the end (so it practically makes them free in my book). We went with a few friends strawberry picking at Dovecote Farm and the littles absolutely loved it. Last week we spent an afternoon at Hitchin Lavender and came home with armfuls of flowers.
Meal planning helps us cut down on wastage and make the most of our food budget. Since Felix came along there’s a lot more food on the kitchen floor but on the whole he eats what we do (when it’s a low-salt dinner) and for lunch I batch cook a lot of food; savoury muffins, fritters and veggie flapjacks are a big hit so I always try to have a freezer full.
We’ve been using cashback sites for many years now but it’s only recently James pointed out we could get cashback on our grocery shopping. This is one of our most consistent outgoings and although it’s only a small amount back, it all mounts up.
I used to be quite spontaneous, but now I find forward planning cuts down on a lot of cost. Last weekend we went to Norfolk for the day and I did a bit of research beforehand on the riveting subject of parking to find the most reasonable place to leave the car. (We also went to Cambridge a few weeks ago and tried out the park and ride. Turns out my son is a big lover of public transport).
I try to have a very rough idea of how we’ll spend our time in a particular place and have a flexible schedule so we can take Felix’s lead.
Free and Discounted Events
I hardly ever use Facebook to share anything about my life but I’m a big fan of their events feature. There are so many free events in the surrounding area, as well as clubs and activity sessions. Charlotte mentioned her love of the library recently and the free sessions on offer. Our local farms offer discounted entry after three 3.30pm as do some of our nearby soft play areas. Heaps of museums are free and I’ve loved rediscovering some of the haunts I used to frequent as a child such as Weston Park Museum in my hometown of Sheffield. James took Felix to the Science Museum on his first day of paternity leave and there’s a few more on our wishlist. There’s a helpful guide on Money Saving Expert if you’re interested in free museums and galleries near you.
On the subject of Facebook, I also use Marketplace frequently for buying preloved bits and pieces. There’s a second-hand toy place not far from me which is brilliant and my friends and I regularly swap age-appropriate items between us for our babes.
Reviewed Gym Membership
James has membership at our local gym which is a significant monthly expense. Originally he was tempted to cancel it to save funds but they offer free swimming for little ones under the parents’ membership. Felix and James go to the pool once or twice a week so it’s been well worth keeping. My mum recently negotiated a swimming-only membership at her gym so it’s always worth having a chat with them to see if you can negotiate a more cost-effective way of keeping membership.
Anyone else trying to spend less this summer? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?