A guide to saving money over the summer

There's little doubt that the summer can be an expensive time of year, with trips to pay for and childcare costs increasing as the six-week s…

There's little doubt that the summer can be an expensive time of year, with trips to pay for and childcare costs increasing as the six-week school holidays loom large, but with a little forethought it's possible to save big. 

Arguably the first and most important rule of any financial planning is to be organised and think ahead. Summer comes around once a year, so why not prepare for it well before the weather heats up? 

Holiday companies always have sales in January, so if you start saving now, you'll be in with a chance of having enough in the bank to at least put down a deposit for a trip in the New Year. 

Conventional holidays are expensive – think creatively to save big  

House swaps mean you pay nothing for accommodation, and that can add up to big savings, especially when you have a large family to put up. 

Alternatively, sites like Airbnb are worth a look, and it's always a good idea to check websites that offer apartments, rather than hotels as they can be a fraction of the price. 

Likewise, villas are much cheaper than hotels, particularly if there is a big group going to help spread the cost. 

Hostels are another cheaper alternative that are worth investigating, as is camping. 

Cheap flights 

It's always a good idea to look online to work out the cheapest day to travel. It can depend on where in the world you're going, so a little research can go a long way. 

Mobiles can be expensive abroad 

Unless you really need your mobile, it's best to just leave it at home. If you really cannot do without it, then tell your provider before you go and put it onto 'airplane mode' to avoid data roaming charges. 

As a more general note on phone charges, it makes sense to look out for SIM only deals, as these could cut your bills by as much as two-thirds. 

Check rates for using cards and pay in Euros 

You should have a specialist overseas credit card and use it whenever you're abroad, and you could make significant savings. Also if you are travelling in Europe and you are asked whether you want to pay in Euros or sterling, you should always opt for Euros. This avoids the retailer doing a currency conversion, which can be particularly pricey. 

If it will tip you into debt, don't do it 

A holiday is a great way to get a rest, but if it means it will end up plunging you into debt, the stress of getting out of it is not worth it. Simply taking time off work can be a break. You can consider booking for next year now and then you have longer to save for it. 

Cheap childcare 

If you have friends who work different days of the week from you and who have children that get on with yours, it's always worth seeing if you can look after each other's kids to avoid paying expensive childcare costs. Holiday clubs are often a cost-effective alternative to nurseries and childminders who can prove very expensive. 

Splitting the childcare with your partner can work too. If you each take a week off separately, in addition to any holiday you may have together, that can help take care of a big part of the long summer holidays. 

Free days out and cheaper deals 

There are plenty of free activities to enjoy in the sun. Check out parks that have water springs in your local area. 

Many outside spaces have free nature trails that are worth checking out too. 

When the weather's not so great, visit one of the country's many free museums. 

 It's always worth checking online to see what attractions, restaurants and shops are doing deals. Many have two-for-one offers, or 'children go free', so it's always worth spending a few minutes looking to see what's out there. 

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