February Half Term Activities
I love half term, the time with the family, recuperating from a hectic term and the mandated holiday from work. Looking after the kids during this time makes it essential you’re unplugged from the corporate beast. You care for and have fun with the very reasons you work in the first place.
However, as much fun as half term can be, we all dread those two or three words. I’m bored. “No!” I hear you cry, “After everything we’ve done. My wallet is empty – how can you be bored!”
Here are my ways to avoid over-spending during the holidays but keeping the kids entertained.
Indoor activities during the February half term
1. Teddy bears picnic – If you go down to the woods today……
Invite the kids’ friends, grandparents and others round and have an indoor picnic.
• Hand out teddy masks or bear ears to each child as they arrive – or get children to make their own from paper plates, card, headbands and felt
• Dig out as many old teddy bears as you can find and scatter them around
• Borrow or buy some plastic tea sets and arrange them alongside the teddy bears
• Lay out different coloured blankets (search charity shops for extra supplies)
• Keep toys or anything needed for activities in picnic baskets
• Hang bunting (you can even make your own), balloons and streamers and hang around the house or fence posts or trees
• Use chalk to draw large paw prints on the path leading to your front door
• Bubbles – kids love chasing bubbles
• Colouring in: Check out pound shops for teddy bear or outdoor-themed colouring in books, or print off colouring sheets.
• Best-dressed bear competition: Give children some time to create costumes for their bears with scraps of fabric, newspaper or even plastic bags. Award prizes to the best creations.
• Teddy bear hunt: Each child has to find a bear with their name on, which has been hidden with a little prize or treat.
Teddy party games:
• What’s the Time Mr Bear?
• Hide and seek, where the teddy bears must hide with their owners
• Use the Teddy Bears’ Picnic music for pass the parcel or musical statues – and make the teddies join in too, of course
• Calm children down at the end of the day (or throughout, if necessary!) with a game of sleeping bears
2. Treasure hunt
Combine with a kids’ party, get the street involved or just the family
3. Movie time – bring the BIG screen to your living room.
Perfect for those rainy days. Let your little one(s) choose the movie theme for the day e.g. Disney day, Harry Potter Day, Action Hero’s day and gorge out in a movie marathon.
Print Admission Tickets – templates
Make your snacks – recipes
Load the floor with sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows for some snuggling while watching the film. Or turn your living room into a drive in movie and make your own cars.
4. Arts and crafts
Get the kids create this half term and make lots of fun things at home
5. Disco time
Move the furniture out of the way to make some space and get ready to boogie – why not include your favourite games like musical bumps or musical statues too?
Make your own microphones – instructions
Put up some fairy lights or make your own disco balls
Choose your music
Make your own drinks bar
6. Get cooking
It’s never to early to teach your kids to cook, healthy and nutritious meals. It’s a fantastic activity to do with your children; they can learn and practice a whole range of skills. There’s no escaping the fact that cooking and baking with kids is going to be messy, so get organised.
The BBC has some great tips on cooking with kids – read more.
7. Science Experiments at home
There are a lot of experiments that can be done using simple ingredients found around your house (always with adult supervision of course!). Bring science awesomeness into your home with DIY experiments right now, this list of 20 DIY science experiments from iflscience.com includes, making things seemingly disappear, freezing water instantly and making your own hydrogen rocket engine!
8. Make an indoor Teepee den
Teepees and homemade tents are a lot of fun indoors and out! Perfect for making a fort or den for the kids and grown ups to enjoy! There are hundreds of resources online on how to create your own on the next rainy day. We like these teepee instructions from Tesco Living blog.
9. Board Games, Jigsaws and card games
Card games – Netmums has some ideas on the games to play with kids. Their list includes:
Beggar my neighbour
10. Reading time
Sharing a book with a child is one of the most fun activities on this list. It’s the perfect time to get snuggled up, get close, laugh and talk together. A shared love of reading will help them in their education and you will be amazed at what it can do for their confidence. In our house, David Walliams is one of our favourite authors but here are some other great reads to try. The Book Trust’s 100 best books.
If you’re more of an outdoors family here’s a quick list of activities you could do if you’re happy to brave the wintery weather this half term!
1. Go to the park
2. Back garden activities
Paint your own plant pots
Make your own bird feeders
3. Go to the beach
4. Go to a museum – locations near me
5. Bike ride or a walk as a family – pack a picnic
6. Cinema – Mini mornings at Vue Cinemas have tickets from only £2.49
7. South Lakes Safari Zoo – Free entry from 1st Jan – 28th Feb 2017 Adults and Children
8. Holiday Football Coaching – locations near me
9. Tennis for free – locations near me
Have I missed something off my list? I’m sure I will have there are hundreds more ideas out there, but please comment and tell me about your favourites! You can join moneyextra.com on Facebook and Twitter too.
The head lice headache
As a parent, one of our biggest headaches is head lice. Term started up again last week and already our daughter brought them home! We check her hair regularly and recently we all treated ourselves as a precautionary measure. There are hundreds of treatments available and we’ve spent hundreds of pounds on treatments last year alone. They’re a real bug of mine.
When notifying the school….again, they referred me to the Save Money: Good Health programme on ITV last night and it was a revelation! A lab on the show tested some of the most popular treatments so I’m sharing the results.
Head lice products put to the test:
Hedrin Once Spray Gel – A silicone based spray which suffocates the lice by coating them in silicone.
Hedrin Once Spray Gel eliminates head lice and their eggs in adults and children aged 6 months and over.
It works by physically smothering the lice and also contains Penetrol which helps the product to penetrate louse eggs in order to kill them. The gel can safely be used as often as required without lice developing resistance.
Puressentiel Anti-Lice Lotion – A 100% natural product.
Puressentiel Anti-Lice eliminates lice, larvae and nits in complete safety. Its 100% natural formula, that is free from neurotoxic insecticides.
Lyclear – An insecticide.
Lyclear Sensitive lotion is the first gentle to hair and skin head lice treatment to kill head lice & eggs in 1 application only..Its double action formula with Oxyphthirine® kills head lice and makes them inactive in all stages of their life.
ITV’s lab results:
Hedrin Once Spray Gel – Killed all the lice in the experiment.
Puressentiel Anti-Lice Lotion – Mixed results, some lice were killed others were fine.
Lyclear – No lice were killed – head lice are becoming tolerant to this type of treatment as it leaves a residue on the hair.
The experts advised parents to use a silicone based spray or lotion that coats the lice and suffocates them. They are effective 99% of the time. This is also a long term option, as head lice cannot become tolerant to being starved of air! Look for the ingredient Dimeticone which will be labelled on the packaging.
From now on I won’t be “wasting” my money on the insecticides and natural products. I just hope that others follow suit and we can prevent our daughter from catching them in future.
Let us know your experiences with head lice and any tips you have for dealing with the blighters.
Here’s the link to the programme for your reference. It’s only available for another 30 days.
Kate Holroyd – 18th January 2017
Is the daily school run putting you out of pocket?
A surprising new study by Motorpoint has revealed that fuel costs can cause financial hardship for almost a fifth of parents.
The survey found that 17% of parents felt the school run was putting real strain on their family’s finances with the additional petrol costing the household over £300 a year alone.
With yearly trips adding up to well over 100 hours each year, of those taking part in the survey, almost 50% admitted they would spend much less time ferrying their kids around if they had the option.
Not only is there a substantial time investment implicated, parents are also clocking up extra thousands of miles per year taking their children from one place to the next.
Most Common Reasons for Taxiing Children:
1. The School Run
2. Extra Curricular Activities and Competitions
3. Doctor / Dental Appointments (etc.)
4. Visits to a Friend’s House
5. Going to a Party
One in three parents cover more than 30 miles every week and almost one in five do at least 40 miles. Annually, these trips can add over 2000 miles, which is very important to consider when budgeting for your monthly fuel or even a new car.
When it comes to both miles covered and time spent in the car, dads lead the way. Of the fathers asked, over a third reportedly drives their children 30 plus miles per week, compared to just one in five mothers. Twice as many dads say they drive their kids further than mums on average, spending over two hours a week chauffeuring them around.
Although the school run, various sporting events and extra-curricular activities can generally feel like shorter journeys, they can easily add up in terms of time and money. But, despite all this, would you really want to give up those treasured moments with your children to save a few pennies?
Ways to cut your motoring costs:
The Independent have some super tips for ways to cut your motoring costs – let us know if you know any more!
1. Cut your annual mileage
Cut down by walking those shorter distances
2. Make your vehicle more fuel efficient
De-clutter, switch off the air conditioning, drive in the correct gear
3. Shop around for fuel
Avoid service stations, and keep an eye out for supermarket deals
4. Stay safe and within the law
Driving carefully and within the law is crucial if you’re keen to keep your motoring costs under control
5. Don’t accept your insurer’s first offer
Before signing your renewal, make sure you shop around
Payday on Ebay?
When you need that extra surge of cash, or are thinking about starting your own business, Ebay can be a really useful tool. Ebay is an online auctioning site that practically anyone can use over the age of 18. Not only can you sell, but you can also buy things. Below is a guide not only to effective selling, but also how to find the best deals when buying.
Before you start your Ebay adventure, it’s best to familiarise yourself with the fees you may incur, as unfortunately, Ebay isn’t free!
- Free listing of up to 20 items per month
- Every item over the 20, you will incur a flat 35p listing charge
- Fees are 10% of the final price (including postage)
- If using PayPal, 3.4% of the total sale up to £1500, plus 20p per transaction
Sounds complicated, right? However there is an easy to use Ebay fee calculator which can be found here.
Sell it to me
If you wanted to, you could sell practically anything. We’ve heard the stories of people trying to sell water or even air, and if they can sell that, then there is a space for any of your unused stuff.
There’s plenty of ways to sell your product, and you can try and create your own individual style to selling, but we have collated a few of the more concrete and universal tips.
Research, research, research
Keep a close eye on other items, especially ones that are similar to yours, to check prices, and information that you can use to improve your listings. At the end of the day it’s a competitive market, like everyday business.
Think of what your customers will be typing in to find your product. Use these keywords to enhance your listing’s position in the results. A helpful list of keywords, with attention to specific categories can be found here.
Good quality photos
‘A picture speaks a thousand words’ – and they do in this case too. Good quality pictures of the product you’re selling accounts for a huge part of a customer’s purchase decision. Make them of quality, and honestly take close-up shots of any defects or problems. This will increase the consumer’s trust in you.
Free listing days
Avoid the fees. Ebay sometimes offer days or periods of time in which they allow listing on their websites free of charge. Check the website regularly for these events and take advantage of them. Fees can build up without you realising and therefore these free listing days can save you lots.
Time of the day
Make sure your item finishes at a busy time of the day. When your listing is nearing it’s end, it appears near the top of search results, and people will be readying their bids. However, if your listing is ending at a time when no one is on Ebay, then there is less chance of there being a number of customers readying bids. Just like a good advert on television, broadcast it when the audience is at its biggest. On Ebay, the busiest and most recommended time is around 8-9pm on weekdays as that’s when most people are using their free time to shop around on the internet.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of shopping, a bit of retail therapy. With an estimated 4 million users listing at least once a month, there is endless shopping to be done!
However, with there being so many items on Ebay, and with some categories hugely saturated, you have to shop smart to get the best deals on the exact things you want.
Whether it be a typo, or just poor spelling, misspelt listings can be lucrative for eagle-eyed customers. The misspelling will mean that they won’t appear on the immediate results when you search on Ebay, and so many people will not see them. Here is your opportunity. Actively looking for the spelling mistakes can mean you find the item you want, unopposed by other customers, and so you can get what you want without starting a bidding war. To make it easier to find misspelt items, there are websites that help you. Fatfingers and Goofbid are two especially useful ones.
These are especially useful for bidding wars. Snipers allow for last minute bids to be put in, to not give other bidders a chance to make a bid. You can download software from many websites which allow the use of snipers. Snipers can be set to be activated even when you are not on Ebay. However, make sure you think carefully about the limits you set your sniper, as you don’t want to set it too low or else there may be a chance you will miss out.
Look for local listings
Especially in the case of larger items on Ebay, the seller may offer a pick up only listing, which can rule those bidders who live too far away out. If these items are in your local area, or within pick-up range, they can often be cheaper than those offering nationwide/international delivery.
Just like classic and traditional buying, you can haggle on Ebay. If you like the product but don’t like the price, contact the seller. They may be open to haggling if they want rid of their product, after all if you don’t ask you’ll never know. Other than that, sometimes Ebay listings offer the customer a chance to make an offer for the item.
Easy right? Ebay, if used right, can help you make money on selling items and lets you save money on buying things. It really can be quite handy, and admittedly, quite addicting, so get involved!
Air miles more than you think from Tesco Clubcard
Way back in 2013, I wrote the blog (below) highlighting all the ways I planned to save Virgin Atlantic air miles for a once in a lifetime holiday to America. My goal was to pay for one of three airline tickets with air miles to make the family trip more affordable. Here is an update on what happened next:
Last year, my husband, daughter and I were sat in London Heathrow waiting for our flight number to be called. I had turned 30 a couple of days earlier and I turned to my husband and said “We made it, we’re actually doing this!” We had achieved something that 2 years earlier had seemed impossible.
While our air mile balance grew, so too had our ambitious plans for the trip, we headed to L.A. to visit Disneyland and the Hollywood Hills before picking up a car and driving up the Pacific Highway to San Francisco. A week there was followed by a few days in New York as it was “on the way home”.
Thanks to saving an incredible 105,000 miles we actually bought 3-return tickets to New York, costing 35,000 air miles each. In the end all we needed to spend money on were the internal routes from New York to California and back.
“So how did you do it?” I hear you cry! We used all the tactics outlined in my original blog as well as a few more…
Big purchases mean bigger rewards
Car insurance, football season tickets and even group meals out are a great way for the air miles to stack up.
- We don’t like to accumulate 10-11 months of interest paying our car insurance monthly, so we buy up front on the credit card, paying it off in larger chunks over a few months as soon as we can (the APR actually was better on the card than through the insurance provider at the time).
- My husband, father-in-law and daughter are season ticket holders at the local football club. We purchase everyone’s tickets on our card, paying it off as soon as we can, with the father-in-law paying us back.
- When we’re eating out with a group, we’ll often leave working out what the split of the bill is , pay it in full using the credit card and work out what everyone owes us later on!
Bonus air miles are given away as incentives for purchases all the time. Here are some we’ve taken advantage of while living on the mantra – only if it’s needed or we were planning on buying it anyway!
- Shops Away website from Virgin Atlantic is great for when you’re planning on purchasing something online. It works in the same way as Quidco, you click through to the retailer, make a purchase and earn air miles back!
- Do you pay monthly for wine delivered to your door? Or planning on a boozy Christmas? Sign up to Virgin Wines, buy one crate and you’ll receive 6,000 miles.
- Home Insurance from Tesco Clubcard came with a 12,000 mile bonus.
- We opened a Virgin Money ISA and earned another 6,000 miles.
- With Tesco Mobile, we earn Clubcard points on our bills and pay it off each month with our Amex – getting three times the miles!
- IHG hotels and Virgin Trains also offer air miles with every booking and again paying on the Amex doubles the reward!
The list of schemes and bonuses goes on and thanks to the blog www.headforpoints.com, we were kept up to date with all the latest offers.
If you’re thinking of taking on your own air miles challenge remember one thing: it only works if you’re spending the same as before! We make sure that we’re never out of pocket with the aim to earn miles and pay our credit card balance in full each month. We don’t ever go out of our way to buy something with a bonus scheme or if we can get it cheaper elsewhere.
Here’s my original post from June 2013:
Miles more than you think from Tesco Clubcard
“I’m nearly 30”, I turned to my husband and said. “I want to do something special. I want to go to San Francisco.” This is how the conversation started and within minutes we’d decided – my daughter, my husband and I are going to book a trip to the States. Then we had a thought: however will we afford such a trip?
Simple, I said; if we can get one of our airline tickets paid for using air miles, it’s much more affordable. So off we went to Virgin Atlantic’s website. For an economy seat, from Manchester to San Francisco and a return flight from L.A., it’s 42,500 miles: that’s our target.
I’d heard friends talking about the Tesco Clubcard Points to air miles exchanges so I looked into it. To my surprise there are a whole host of ways to earn Virgin Atlantic air miles but through the Tesco Clubcard is by far the easiest.
Here are just some of the ways we’re earning our miles:
A Virgin Atlantic White Credit Card Dual card – American Express and Visa.
We put all our purchases on them and pay them off at the end of every month. For every £1 spent on the American Express we get 1 mile and for the Visa its 1 mile for every £2 spent. You also get a bonus 3,000 miles with your first purchase!
The Tesco Clubcard Account
You can earn points and air miles on heaps of Tesco products. Here’s what we’ve earned points on so far but you can read about other purchases on the Virgin Flying Club & Tesco Clubcard website:
|Exchange Rates||Spend||Clubcard Points||Flying Club Miles|
|Tesco Gift-Card Store Non-Tesco cards||£50||150||375|
|Green Points Taking your own bags*||£0||2||5|
*no longer valid
Some of the most fruitful point’s earners for us have been the fuel and foods spend. Switching to Tesco has meant that we’re earning miles on our everyday essentials.
One of the schemes we found by accident is the gift card bonus scheme. If you know you’re going to eat a meal out and the bill will be over £50, why not buy a Pizza Express, Zizzi or Nando’s voucher at Tesco first and earn nearly 400 miles? We’ve bought B&Q vouchers, Toys R Us, Next; all the big retailers. As long as you’re buying at least £50 worth of vouchers you’ll earn triple points!
Most recently though, as part of the loyalty scheme, Tesco sends out bonus point vouchers when you spend so much in store on certain dates. So far, just on small food shops in May and June we’ve earned another bonus 200 points which equates to 500 miles!
Some examples of just what you can earn with the smallest of changes:
- My friends and I were clubbing together for a girlfriend’s birthday, the present was a £100 gift card for Debenhams. I bought the card at Tesco with my Amex card at 1 mile per £1, using my Tesco Clubcard at 7.5 miles and 3 Clubcard points per £1. In one purchase I earned 850 miles which is 2% of our target!
- We were going for a family meal to Pizza Express; again I bought a gift card at Tesco using my Amex card. In that purchase I earned 240 miles.
So what’s next?
Well as you can see on the Virgin Flying Club site the next thing to target would be Tesco mobile which offers 7.5 miles per £1. If my husband and I each got a basic contract at £10 a month we could potentially be earning 300 air miles a month on another essential! Needless to say once our contracts are up we’re making the switch.
With just the above steps in a little over 2 months we’ve earned over 6,000 miles. We go to San Francisco in June 2015. At this rate we’ll have enough for all three of us to go for free! That’s 127,500 miles – in case you were wondering!
Student Guide – Don’t be daft with your overdraft
An overdraft allows you to draw out/use money that currently isn’t in that your bank account. Usually seen to help those whose cash flow leaves them skint, or for emergency situations. However, most banks offer students an overdraft with their student accounts. In times of student hardship, where 12p baked beans are a staple meal, an overdraft can be very helpful.
At university if you’ve decided to get yourself set up with an overdraft, what do you need to consider, and what are the risks that you need to take into account?
Before the student overdraft
You’re faced by the daunting high street banks, all offer special deals, all want your business, and all try to convince you to take your student account and overdraft with them, but which one should you choose? Martin Lewis has done some of the hard work for you and listed his top student accounts.
A few important factors to think about when choosing what’s best for you:
Think about how much you would want to borrow. Some banks can offer overdrafts of up to £3,000, but do you need that much? If you only plan on borrowing £100 for the occasional food shop (or those spontaneous nights out), there’s not much point in getting a £3,000 limit! Remember, it’s not free money, you will have to pay it back
The amount the bank will charge you for using an overdraft. So ideally, search for the lowest rate as possible, and some banks do offer 0% – but only while you’re a student
Yes, you read that right – not only will banks allow you the cash buffer of an overdraft, but they will also give you incentives to make sure you bank with them. Ranging from free railcards, to food discounts (no more baked beans), many incentive schemes will be available with a student account.
Be careful with your spending
The overdraft and account is in the bag, you’re on your way to university- happy days. Much like lecture attendance, or cleaning your communal kitchen, the overdraft now probably sits towards the end of a long list of priorities in your mind. However, they can have a sting in the tail if you aren’t careful.
Here are a few things to remember, and be wary about:
It’s not free money
Although it may feel like it, it really isn’t that way. Overdrafts are essentially loans, and that means you will have to pay them back. Be careful you don’t use more than you can afford to pay back eventually. Llyods Bank have a useful overdraft calculator to help you explore the true cost of borrowing.
Don’t go over your allowance
Exceeding the overdraft limit in any way can be very costly. For instance, Halifax charges 24.2% interest and a monthly £28 cost anytime you go over (that’s a new pair of jeans!), so be careful and know your limit. Use mobile or online banking to track your finances; you don’t need to go into the branch.
It can be cancelled
In the event that you exceed your overdraft, or do so multiple times as can happen with being a student, a bank can actually cancel the overdraft at any time. Make sure you are sensible with it and try and pay as much of it off whenever possible, as missed payments and cancelled overdrafts can go down on your credit file. A poor credit rating can prevent you from getting finance later on in life, for instance when buying a car or a house.
Watch out when you graduate
When you finish university, apart from probably having to go back to live with your parents again, you will also have to prioritise and monitor your finances. Make sure the bank doesn’t switch your account to a non-student one, and maybe instead ask to move to a graduate one. This will ensure you don’t incur any surprising fees on your overdraft, and give you more time to pay it off. Also remember to try and start paying it off sooner rather than later.
So, now you’re aware of the positives and negatives, you’re ready to enjoy your overdraft smartly!
Ways to boost your income
There are many ways to boost your household income whether you’re in full time employment, working part time, or don’t have a job. Because there’s no magic solution and money doesn’t grow on trees you need a little effort. It will surprise you how many ways you can earn extra cash.
A note: these are specifically some of the better ways to make more money. There are other options if you want to make your money work harder, which can be just as effective.
Take on additional work
Take on extra work to add numbers to your household income column on your budget spreadsheet (you do budget, yes?). The simplest way, if you’re brave enough is to ask for overtime at your main job. But if you’re turned down or don’t feel comfortable asking, there are other options.
Many people take on a second job in the evening or weekends. You could try something different from the day-to-day, no matter how basic. If you’re used to being sat in front of a laptop all day, stacking shelves at night can be a relief.
Alternatively, try freelance work. Various networks are set up and you bid for jobs in a range of disciplines from copy writing and design, to admin and translation. Set up a basic website with examples of your work and you’ll quickly build up a strong freelance portfolio. The potential hourly rates can be excellent. Be careful not to have a conflict of interest with your main job – check your contract at work.
Become a master seller
Everyone has clutter at home. Even those who de-clutter regularly will find a few things that they should’ve got rid of first time round, or have obsolete items that somehow found their way into the home.
It’s surprising how much you can make on selling sites like eBay, Gumtree and Preloved. Fees can take the edge off your earnings but it’s a way to earn money and make your home easier to tidy too – a double win.
Make money on your talents, turn a strength into pounds. Photography websites pay for stock imagery every time a customer downloads it, or set up an online shop to sell craft jewellery or ornaments. If you’re a creative type, reap the benefits.
And if married, you could sell your wedding dress. Some keep it for sentimental reasons, or to try it on again in five years’ time to see if it still fits. But if you’re not bothered you could make a tidy sum selling it on one of the dedicated websites available.
Rent out what you don’t use
You’ve sold your time by taking on extra work, you’ve sold your goods on eBay – now it’s time to sell your space.
Renting out a spare room to a lodger can really help bring in more cash. Depending on where you live you a lodger could pay a significant rent to you. If you don’t mind sharing your home it can be one of the best household income boosts. However there are additional responsibilities, including making sure you’re paying tax on your new ‘job’ as a landlord. Don’t dive into renting out a room without doing the necessary research first.
You don’t need to have a whole spare room to consider renting as an option though – if your storage space like a garage is spare, this can be very valuable to people needing it. Again dedicated websites are available to register your space, and while you’ll lose a cut of the money you won’t need to worry about finding customers yourself.
Also, your parking space can be valuable if you live close to major cities, transport routes or even colleges. Parking comes at a premium, and if you’ve an obsolete garage or driveway you could rent it out weekly. You could advertise locally, or use established websites to advertise it.
With all of these household income boosters, think about the impact on your tax. For help on filling in a self-assessment tax return, visit the HMRC website here.
We’d love to know your own stories about any of the above, or ways that you’ve helped to bring extra cash in to help with your budget – let us know in the comments below.