If you’re not a regular here, or you’re just really nosey, let me explain my family unit and financial situation to you. We are a family of four: two boys – 7 months and 5 years old, Mikey – my partner who works full time and me – making an income as a self employed blogger and freelance writer. Between us, we pay rent, council tax, internet, utility bills and all the added expenses that come with cars and TV subscription services like Netflix. At the end of the month, we’re left with a little bit of spare cash, maybe enough for a take away or something new for the kids. We’re not a “well off” family and we certainly live within our means. Sometimes that means we miss out on family events, gigs, days out etc, but we do consider being financially secure as a family and paying off our respective debts to be a priority.
This year, we decided that a family holiday was a necessity. We’ve never had one and now that our little family is complete thanks for Oscar’s arrival, it made sense to make the most of it while the kids are young.
That’s why, when it came to us booking a family holiday this year, we put an action plan into place.
There was no way we were going to book a family holiday without having a plan in place that would enable us to track just how much money we’ve saved. Thanks to the plan, we were able to comfortably save up our extra pennies and pay our family holiday off without stressing too much. Holidays are meant to be relaxing, so it would have completely defeated the object of the holiday if we’d plunged ourselves into debt trying to afford it.
So, if you’re wondering how we saved up for a family holiday during the summer while living on one person’s full income and my self employed income (which is by NO means a substitute for a full time job) then carry on reading. I’m here to share a few tips with you, some great apps/service which I’ve used for years that help track my personal finances and explain what we did as a family to help us score our 2019 summer family holiday.
*This post contains referral sign up links. If you join a site via my link or by using my code, I get a small reward – in most cases, you usually get something extra too!
I chose my family holiday destination, duration and accommodation wisely.
I knew there was no way we were going to be able to afford a £3,000 two week holiday in the sun. Maybe we will be able to afford it one day, but when you’re booking a holiday for the same year you’re planning on taking it, you need to be savvy and realistic. That’s why we started our search by looking a little closer to home.
My advice would be to plan your destination wisely.
We really weren’t fussed about where we were going, as long as we were able to actually enjoy some real family fun once we’d got there. Although a couple of weeks in the Costa Del Sol would have been heavenly, 7 nights in my favourite area of Cornwall is a pretty close second. I grew up in Cornwall, so choosing this area makes it extra special for me too and I’m really looking forward to showing off my little area of the world.
I found that accommodation gets really expensive, so we thought about what we needed and what we could live without.
We ended up booking our holiday in a holiday park. It might to be to everyone’s taste, but for us, the accommodation provided us with everything we’d need. There is also the added bonus that the accommodation is paid for and you also gain access to swimming pools, kids clubs, restaurants and more. For my little family of four, this saved us money and also saved us worrying that if we didn’t manage to save up enough money for all the local attractions, there would still be activities on site that we could enjoy.
I booked our holiday in January, which meant I was able to take advantage of the January sales.
Booking in the sale saved us around £50. That might not seem like a lot of money, but £50 covers the cost of a family ticket to somewhere like Flambards or The Cornish Seal Sanctuary. If we were booking a holiday including flights etc, I am sure the discount would have been higher, but I’m happy with our £50 saving. I also compared holiday parks in the area we wanted to visit. I was looking for something that suited our needs, was cheap but had positive reviews. I’m all for being frugal, but booking a 7 night holiday in a place with terrible reviews would just be a complete waste of money.
Cashback is a wonderful thing, so don’t forget about it!
I don’t know how I survived so much of my adult life without using cashback sites! I mean, I think of my early 20’s when I moved out…all those takeaways I could have got my money back on. What a shame…! I never buy anything online without first going through a cashback site – that includes holidays! So if you’ve found a great deal, make sure you visit a site like Topcashback, Quidco or Swagbucks before booking.
Booking the holiday was easy. Next, we had to save up and pay it!
Booking the holiday is the fun and exciting part. We spent ages comparing prices of parks and planning what activities we wanted to do that were local to the area. We’d booked and paid our deposit. We now had until May to raise enough money to cover the cost of the holiday park.
Our goal was to also have saved/raised enough money to cover the following by May:
- The entrance fees for the list of attractions we wanted to visit
- A food shop to see us through the week
- Cover the cost of the petrol to and from Cornwall
I’m happy to report that we did manage this goal and it came to around £800 in total. That ‘cheap’ holiday really adds up when you factor in travel and activities!
Knowing your budget is key to planning a holiday.
If you don’t know how much money you’ve got coming and going, how are you going to know how much you need? As soon as we moved into the flat we’re in at the moment, Mikey and I set up a spreadsheet that details our finances. It has our incomes, our outgoings and totals the amount of expendable cash we have left over after things like a month’s worth of food shops. I also have a bright pink folder at home which I use to keep track of our monthly expenses.
I know that a few personal finance bloggers like From Pennies To Pounds and Emma Drew offer expense trackers, saving trackers and bill calendars for free if you sign up to their website. I made my own on Google Docs, printed them out and I now use them monthly. The internet is awash with free downloadable calendars as well, which I colour code with fixed bills and the bank account the money comes out of.
To put it simply: know your budget, track your expenses and be aware of where your money is going.
Cutting back on expenses for a few weeks make a surprising difference.
We booked this holiday in January, which is also when Mikey started a new job. Consequently, we had to survive January on only half a month’s wage and my blogging income. Things were tight, but we found that because we HAD to, we were able to cut back on loads of things we thought were necessary but it turns out they weren’t and we didn’t really miss them.
Having a limited income, as well as accidentally forgetting a big annual bill, meant we had to look at our expenditure in a different light and re-evaluate things. For us, this worked well and we ended the month less distraught than we thought we would be. Cutting back on tiny things over a month had actually saved us way more money than we thought it would. As this was “spare” money, it went straight into the holiday fund!
I am a visual learner and organiser – everything needs to be colour coded and in front of me to remember it! That’s why I find it really useful to use a savings tracker.
As I mentioned earlier, there are bloggers who have free downloads available for these – a simple Google or Pinterest search will usually bring up lots of beautifully designed printables. I prefer to make my own as it gives me extra satisfaction when I fill it in!
I found that having my goal printed out and popped somewhere I can see it was really motivational. Colouring in my tracker every time I reached a savings goal was so, so satisfying and meant that keeping up with my money making and saving techniques was easy as I knew they were working!
At least half of the accommodation cost was paid for thanks to Chip.
Chip is a magical personal finance app that I’ve been using for around two years now. I can’t sing its praise high enough! Not only has using the Chip app helped me afford my family holiday, it’s also helped us buy a new car in the past, as well as funded some of Oscar’s baby bits.
Both Mikey and I both have Chip accounts. Chip is an app created by Barclay’s that assesses your spending habits and skims your bank account every week. The money skimmed goes into your Chip account and, even on the lowest savings setting, money adds up fast. I’ve never missed the money from my current account, but I am always so shocked when I periodically check in with my Chip account and find there’s a good couple of hundred pounds in there. It’s almost like having free money.
If you want to join Chip, you can use my referral code: OPFZVY. It’s worth mentioning that every time you refer someone, you increase your interest on your savings, so spread the love!
My last tip that covers ‘saving’ money for a family holiday is this: save up your Tesco Club Card points.
These can be used for travel, attraction passes and more, so it’s well worth getting your Tesco card out when you’re in store or ordering online. If you do order online – don’t forget you can get cashback on your first order.
We scrimped and saved, but we were still short by a couple of hundred pounds. This meant it was time to get busy MAKING some extra money! I really enjoy finding new ways to make extra money – side hustles are my thing – so here are a few ways you can make a little bit of extra cash in a short amount of time.
Don’t be scared of Matched Betting!
I was SO scared to try matched betting – I knew NOTHING about how bookies work, what odds actually mean or how to even use an exchange website. Thankfully, Profit Accumulator has step by step videos that explain everything so clearly that it’s absolutely foolproof. I’ve made hundreds of tax free pounds over the months and it doesn’t even take up much of your time. I was worried I’d get it wrong, but once you get past the terminology, it’s all really simple. If you want to try it, Profit Accumulator offer a free trial, which you can make up to £45 – yup, another £45 for the holiday fund!
If you want to carry on with matched betting after the trial, you can use my referral code 329538 and get a massive discount on your membership fee.
I am a Swagbucks addict, so over a couple of months I was able to cash out a few times to PayPal.
I love Swagbucks for a whole host of reasons – I’ve even written about the website before: Why I Love Swagbucks – A Beginners Guide To Using Swagbucks. Not only do Swagbucks offer you cashback on anything from Just Eat to Aviva, there are also a whole bunch of other ways to earn money. Surveys are, in my opinion, the most consistent way to boost your profits, however, there’s always the risk you’ll get screened out for not being in the market researcher’s ideal demographic. That being said, I’ve noticed a fair few short and sweet census surveys recently which rarely screen you out and only take you two or three minutes to complete.
Prolific is a fun, interesting and relatively quick way of making a few extra quid and I use it A LOT!
Prolific.ac is my favourite survey site because you never, ever get screened out. When you sign up, you fill in a whole bunch of questions about your household, health, work etc and surveys appear on your dashboard as and when a suitable one comes up. These surveys are not market research surveys either – Prolific was created when co-founded Katia became frustrated trying to recruit participants for her PhD research. As such, Prolific was born and participants are paid cash to help academies, startups, charities and businesses. You can cash out whenever, although if it’s under £20 you do incur a small withdrawal fee. I use Prolific frequently and usually cash out about £20 a month.
Finally, and perhaps the most obvious but effective way of making money: selling the stuff you now longer need!
In the past I’ve sold furniture, jewelry, baby clothes, pet supplies and more. If you can sell your unwanted items on sites like Gumtree or Facebook, it’s even better as there are no selling fees and someone comes and picks it up from you! Mikey had a bike that he loved, but never got a chance to use, so he decided to sell it. That was an easy couple of hundred pounds to make and it also cleared a huge space in our corridor. We were able to shift quite a lot of our old baby bits as well, which added a nice lump sum to the holiday pot too.
Summary: How I Saved Up For Our Family Holiday On A Low Income
By doing all of the above, I was able to save up a fairly large amount of money in just two months.
In summary, I put a lot of research into:
- the type of family holiday we wanted
- where we wanted to travel to
- the cost of accommodation, travel and food
Once I’d researched, compared and gone through cashback sites, I booked our holiday and started to save. To make my life easier, I tracked my monthly expenses on a printable tracker and created a savings tracker which I kept somewhere visible in order to motivate me.
We both used the Chip app, which we’ve had on our phones for over two years now, to contribute our savings to the overall cost of the holiday.
We stopped spending money on anything unless it was absolutely 100% essential: no coffee dates, Mikey took packed lunches to work and we made sure to meal plan and use everything we had in our cupboards in order to minimise the food shopping bill.
To make some extra money, we shop at Tesco using coupons and collect the Tesco Club card points which can be put towards either money off vouchers or towards entrance to attractions. I used matched betting to earn some extra money, sold anything we didn’t need and took part in market research surveys on sites like Swagbucks, as well as participating in Prolific research questionnaires.
If you’re looking for more ways to make money, check out my blog post How To Pay For An Unexpected Bill.
Our holiday isn’t actually until July, but it’s a massive weight off my shoulders knowing that the entire thing, including attraction entrance fees and food has already been paid for.
I hope that this post has been inspiration for some of you. I didn’t think that any form of family holiday was achievable for us, but I’m really excited we were able to work hard, plan, save and book this for the summer. Going on holiday or travelling with children is always hard work and there are always extra expenses, so don’t be like me and put it off for years. When I was a child, we never went on any family holidays and I’m determined for my kids to have lots of nice summer holiday memories to look back on. If you’ve found these tips helpful, please do let me know in the comments and don’t forget to share this post!