20 Family Money Saving Tips
Don’t leave life insurance until it’s too late
Nearly one child in 20 loses a parent before they’ve finished full-time education. It’s a sobering fact, so life insurance is well worth considering if you’ve got kids.
Level Term Life Assurance is one of the cheapest ways to protect your family’s income if you die, because it will pay a fixed amount to your dependants. The two key words are:
Term: This means you only get a payout if you die within a fixed term, eg, 18 years.
Level: This means the payout you get is always at a set amount. So level term assurance guarantees a lump sum payout upon death within a fixed time, eg, £150,000 if you die within the next 18 years.
Of course, it’s the one policy you hope won’t pay out, but it’s well worth looking into. See full info on all the options and how to find the cheapest in the Life Insurance guide.
FREE TWO-week adventure camp for 16-year-olds
The National Citizenship Service is a three-week scheme year 11s in England can take part in between June and August. It’s designed so kids can learn new skills, meet new people and try activities such as trekking, climbing and rafting. Plus kids get a certificate signed by the Prime Minister.
There are 29 different organisations providing the Government-backed camps – mainly youth associations and charities like the YMCA. Providers vary from area to area.
What do you get?
Week one (residential): Outdoor activities focusing on personal and social development, eg, trekking, climbing and rafting.
Week two (residential): Team tasks to help the local community and skill sessions such as music and drama.
Week three (local area): Design a project to make a positive change to local communities.
The scheme has been popular in the past. Here’s one MoneySaver’s feedback from last year (you can also see feedback on the NCS Facebook page):
Food, activities, accommodation & equipment included. Great value and a fantastic experience! – Jeanette
How much does it cost? Around half the providers offer the scheme for free. If there is a charge, it won’t be more than £80. Bursaries are available to help with costs and anyone can apply for one. We don’t have details on the criteria but NCS has said teens can’t be turned away for financial reasons.
How to apply? Enter details on the National Citizen Service page (parents: get your child to do it). You must be in school year 11 and have turned 16 by 31 Aug 2012. There’s no official booking end date, but the NCS recommends you book as soon as possible.
If you die, what’d happen to your kids?
If you’ve assets such as savings or a house, and others you’d like to look after, consider making a will. It’s easy to put this off, but it’s well worth tackling as soon as possible, both for your kids and for your peace of mind. A will has three main functions:
It names your executors. These are the people you choose to sort out your finances after you’ve gone.
It distributes your estate. A will lets you state where everything you own will go, from property to pets.
It mitigates inheritance tax. If you die without a will, strict rules mean your assets may not go where you want them to. If you haven’t planned for it, inheritance tax may take a hefty chunk. See the Inheritance Tax Planning guide for help.
Don’t leave a financial nightmare for your family. Even if you’ve already got a will, make sure it’s current. Solicitor-drafted wills can be cheap or free to make or amend. Find full info on all the options in the Free and Cheap Wills guide.
If you’ve kids or step-kids under 18, take the time to discuss who’d look after them if you died, and ensure there are funds to help.
Get the family in free to TV show recordings
If your family often ends up staying in watching Saturday night TV, why not take ‘em to see it being recorded?
Audience tickets are a great family day out for nowt, plus your kids get to see how their fave shows are put together.
You can watch TV shows, sitcoms and comedies being recorded, including The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Deal or No Deal and many more. See Free TV Tickets for how to apply.
You could be due £1,000s in child tax credits
The day-to-day costs of having kids soon adds up, from new shoes to school trips and more. Tax credits can massively help offset this. They can be worth £1,000s a year.
Tax credits are payouts made regularly into your bank account from the state to support you if you’ve got kids, or if you work but have a low income. How much you’ll get depends on your circumstances. The more kids you have, the more you could get. There are two types, and you can be eligible for none, one or both:
Child Tax Credit
Anyone with children, whether working or not, could be eligible
Working Tax Credit
Anyone who works, whether they’ve got kids or not, could be eligible
You’ll need to renew every year. If not, your repayments could stop completely. Always tell the tax office if your circumstances change to avoid overpayment hell.
Urgently check what you’re entitled to. Find info on how to check your entitlement, renew your claim and more in the full Tax Credits guide.
Family fun for nowt at 170+ free museums
If you’re looking to educate and entertain the kids at the same time, the Free Museums and Galleries guide is crammed with over 170 UK venues that don’t charge a penny.
These are a brain-boosting way of getting a fun (and free!) family day out. You’ll find masses to choose from, with museums dedicated to everything from Roman forts and railways to forensic science and footie.
To find your nearest, click on your area on the in-guide map for full listings, plus location, opening times and more.
If you’re after free outdoor events, check out the Free Festivals guide for a round-up of the top gigs nationwide. You’ll find festivals across the UK on everything from jazz ‘n’ blues to carnivals and outdoor theatre performances. You’ll also find area-by-area listings on the in-guide map.
Childcare vouchers can save £1,000s a year
If you have to fork out for childcare, using special vouchers saves many parents £1,000s a year in tax.
If you’re not using them yet, look into this as a matter of urgency. This little-known scheme can save many parents with kids aged up to 15 up to £930 a year on childcare.
They need to be offered via employers, but many large and small companies take part. The key is it enables you to pay for childcare out of your pre-tax and National Insurance income. While this doesn’t sound much, the impact can be huge. See How Childcare Vouchers Work for more.
DON’T Google EHICs – go here to get ‘em free
Whether planning a kids-friendly holiday in Corfu or a couples’ trip to Alicante, make sure all the family have up-to-date European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) to get FREE family medical care on Euro holidays.
It’s valid across the EU. The EHIC can get free or discounted medical treatment in state-run hospitals in any European Union country, plus a few others.
It doesn’t cost a penny. Don’t just Google ‘EHIC’, as there are a host of unoffical websites that charge a fee to do it for you. Apply via the official link in the Free EHIC guide to ensure you get them for nowt.
It entitles you to the same treatment as a local. This is extremely useful in emergencies, and means if it’s free for them, it’s free for you. Ensure you keep it on you at all times when you’re away. You won’t be covered if not.
Kids need one too. Though you must be over 16 to apply, every family member needs one. To apply on behalf of a child, include them as a ‘dependant’ in the application and you’ll each get a separate EHIC.
It isn’t a substitute for travel insurance. While very useful, it’s only for medical cover. Find how to apply and full info in the Free EHIC guide.
Save £100s on family fuel bills by switching
With kids’ baths, games consoles, TVs and lights left on, extra heating and more, even small families can face massive fuel bills. But you can easily save hundreds simply by changing gas and electricity providers, and get cashback or a case of wine on top.
The easiest way to find out which is cheapest for you is to use a comparison site. It’s well worth doing – our top picks are:
Energyhelpline* pays £15 cashback (once) per switch, and has good reliability and feedback.
MoneySupermarket* pays £30 cashback for dual fuel (getting both gas and electricity from one provider).
uSwitch* gives a crate of wine (worth about £40) for dual fuel.
There’s loads more you can do to hammer down costs, from switching to monthly direct debit payments to taking a meter reading every time you get your bill. Find full info on these and loads more ways to zap hefty bills in the Cheap Gas and Electricity guide.
Do a proper family budget
With family bills, holidays and day-to-day living costs, looking after a family can really stretch your finances. So it’s crucial to make sure you’re budgeting correctly. First, use the free Budget Planner tool to work out exactly where your cash is going.
Don’t ask “What’s the cheapest way?”, ask “What can I afford?”
Next, give yourself a full Money Makeover. This guide overhauls your finances, taking you through everything from debts to utilities. It’ll take time to work through, but it’s time well invested. Some end up thousands better off in a single day.
Play the Prioritisation Game with your family. It’ll help you and your kids prioritise where your cash should – and shouldn’t – go.
Don’t chuck best-befores away needlessly
“Yuck” is a word kids say a lot. So teach ‘em early that there’s usually nowt wrong with eating food after its best-before date.
If you don’t know the difference between a best-before and a display-until date, it’s likely you’re binning a lot of food unnecessarily. To help, we’ve designed a free printable Food Saving Memo. Stick it on your fridge to check before you chuck.
For help using up larder leftovers, tell the Supercook or BigOven tools what items are in your fridge or cupboard and they’ll suggest a recipe for them from 1,000s. Also see the meal planning and menu plans discussions to help you to only buy food you need.
100,000s miss out on £1,000s for childcare
Childcare costs can be hefty, yet 100,000s of working parents are missing out on £1,000s of easy cash to help. It’s a common misconception that tax credits are for the unemployed. For childcare help it’s the opposite – you have to be in work. The payment’s part of working tax credit (see the tax credits box above for more).
The money available’s huge, so it’s vital to check you’re eligible. It’s possible 100,000s of families are missing out, so spread the word, and see Childcare Costs Help for more:
To qualify for childcare tax credit you must:
Be a single parent working 16+ hours a week
Be in a couple both working 16+ hours a week
If that’s you, and your total household income’s under £42,000, you should DEFINITELY check your entitlement
Use free kids’ sports schemes in school hols
Keeping fidgety kids entertained during the school holidays can be exhausting (particularly if they’ve discovered the golden phrase: “I’m booored!”).
But there’s a quick trick that doesn’t cost a penny. Free sports activities are a great way to keep kids entertained (and healthy) for nowt between terms.
Check the Cheap Days Out for the full list of schemes available, how to find participating venues, plus how to bag a place.
Do A 5-min child benefits check-up
A treasure trove of extra cash is available to help families with kids in tow, yet many wrongly assume they aren’t eligible. To quickly check, use the Benefits Check Up. Just enter your details to see how much you may be entitled to.
This’ll help check your eligibility for all the main benefits, including council tax and housing benefit, income support and many, many more.
There are masses of benefits available to help families and those on lower incomes. Here are just a few …
Child Benefit. For parents with dependent children. It’s paid until the 31 August following your child’s 16th birthday, or until the age of 20 if they’re in full time education or approved training. The rate was frozen for three years in 2011. Families earning over £50,000 will stop receiving the full amount, ending entirely for those earning £60,000+, from 2013. See the MSE News Story.
2012/13 weekly amount: Eldest child £20.30, other children £13.40.
Free school meals, clothes, milk and more. Households earning under £16,190 or on income-related benefits can get cash to help with sending their kids to school. This includes cash for meals, free milk, uniforms and fruit ‘n’ veg vouchers.
2012/13 amount: Varies.
Find full info on all of these, and how to apply, in the Benefits Check Up guide. Also see the Grant Grabbing article for more info on other funds available.
Snaffle cut-price zoo tix with 2for1 deals
Whether you’re off to the zoo for education, fun or just the cute factor (the penguins are Martin’s favourite!) don’t just pay full price on the day.
Zoo discount vouchers can mean big savings if you’re taking your little monkeys, and can be as simple as printing a voucher for two tickets for the price of one, or booking online for discounts.
To help, we’ve compiled the latest deals for the UK’s biggest zoos, including Whipsnade, London Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, Flamingo Land and the National Marine Aquarium. Alternatively, see the Cheap Zoo Deals page for the full compendium of latest discounts.
Your kids CAN afford to go to uni
Don’t think the student fees shake-up means uni isn’t affordable. Under the 2012 student loans system, acutually some students won’t need to repay at all, others will pay far less than the fees and some will pay back more.
The Student Loans 2012 guide’s a one-stop-shop for all you need to know about the 2012 English student finance changes. It’s crammed with info on who’s affected, how much your loan will really cost, living costs and more.
To slice the cost of day-to-day living at uni, the Student Checklist has 50 quick tips to stretch your cash, from discounts and freebies to grants and extra support.
Use the Student Finance 2012 Calculator tool to quickly find the true cost of uni tuition fees.
Free printable PDF guide for parents. We’ve also put together a free PDF Student Finance guide for parents, an invaluable read if you’re thinking of sending your kids to uni in the next few years, or they’re already there.
September 2011 students. The Student MoneySaving guide’s a one-stop-shop for September 2011 students with info on grants, scholarships, living costs and how to get through uni without a serious debt hangover.
Bag top kids’ prezzies for under a fiver
Birthdays and Christmases can be eye-wateringly expensive if you’ve got kids to buy for. But there’s masses of tried-and-tested treats that’ll keep them grinning for next to nothing.
To help, we’ve put together a mammoth database of sub-£5 gift ideas, compiled from our Festive Fivers competitions. As well as a list of ingenious present ideas for adults, you’ll find oodles of ideas to put smiles on kids’ faces. Here’s one to get you started:
Cost: Approx £1 Contest Entry Year: 2005
Get the biggest box you can and fill with blown up balloons. Wrap the box in Christmas paper. Small children are often more interested in the packaging than the item. They’ll get excited by the massive box and then jump and play with the balloons.
As a huge pressie for a few pounds, this is very cheap, easy to do and will absolutely delight any nippers under five. After all, they do say “they prefer the wrapping to the present!”. Carefully supervise though, because balloons can choke young children.
Give pocket money as pay to teach cash skills
We’re not talking Justin Bieber-sized amounts of income here, but pocket money can teach kids to manage their own cash. Martin says in his blog: Give pocket money as pay.
Pocket money is under-rated as a way to teach kids core money lessons. The idea of them having their own cash is beneficial.
It teaches them about regular income. By having a regular amount of money you learn the concept of saving versus spending.
It incorporates ‘opportunity cost’. It encourages kids to consider whether they could get better benefit spending the same cash on something else.
It’s a beginners’ guide to saving. Pocket money helps kids to start tackling more complex questions on how and where to save their cash.
See Martin’s blog for more, and share your thoughts in the pocket money discussion.
Hidden Amazon discounts on toys ‘n’ games
As they grow from tots to teens, children can go through toys and games at an astonishing rate. We’ve built the Amazon Discount Finder tool to help you quickly uncover massively discounted items from this online mega-retailer.
Use these ready-made links to instantly search for discounts of 75-99% in its Toys and Games*, Wii Games* and PS3 Games* sections. Alternatively, have a play with the tool to see what you can uncover across its other departments.
Don’t just buy theme park tix at the gate
Family theme park tickets can be hair-raisingly expensive if you just pack the kids into the car and pay full price on the day. Even a single adult ticket to Alton Towers is over £40 at the gate.
But you can often easily cut the cost with 2for1 vouchers or online discounts, so always do a 60-sec check for deals before you head out.
To help, we’ve a full list of latest ticket offers and a comprehensive UK theme park deals map on the Cheap Theme Parks page.