How to Have Fun on a Budget, Afford Christmas, School Holidays, Back to School and Energy Bills
Summer can be expensive for many Aussie families with so many things in a matter of months.
Whether you celebrate the festive season or not, have to plan for kids and back to school or travel or simply manage that time, it can be expensive.
For context, I have 4 biological kids who live with me aged 16, 14, 2 and 1 plus a 9 year old stepdaughter overseas (with her mother) in a private school and 4 of those 5 kids have Jan/Feb birthdays.
Entertaining, feeding, educating and essentially raising 5 kids could be incredibly expensive but as someone who has 8 siblings, my parents taught me a lot.
Yes, I have EIGHT siblings. It’s a blended family, I grew up with 1 brother and 3 sisters until Mum passed and Dad remarried someone with 2 boys and 2 girls.
Here are some tips to help you with different aspects of summer.
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How to Afford Christmas
Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, these tips are helpful for any celebration.
I’m starting with Christmas because it tends to stress many families and the level of debt people get into for it is scary.
Christmas can be as expensive or frugal as you choose and even if you have no money, it can still be incredibly fun.
For us, we’ve been homeless before at Christmas so I do understand how devastatingly stressful it can be when you have nothing.
How to do Christmas with no money is an article full of tips from me for everything from food to gifts and activities.
When you can’t be bothered, use the tips in how to do an amazing, cheap, lazy and fun Christmas has other tips based on when I moved right before Christmas and had to pull it together in a few days.
Save money with leftovers by reading how to reduce waste this Christmas.
If you plan it right, most food left uneaten can be saved, even salads!
Gifts do not need to cost a fortune, check out these 17 frugal but thoughtful gift ideas.
Our Christmas Plans This Year
Every year has been different for us including being homeless through to amazing holidays at this peak time.
Originally we were going to be in Vanuatu for cultural obligations but that changed so now I am making plans for here.
This is how I typically approach Christmas.
Shop the Sales and Plan Ahead for Everything
My teens know to get their Christmas lists to me by Black Friday so I can plan and shop accordingly.
This way, they often get a few thousand dollars worth of what they want for a few hundred.
It takes a little planning but I have a system combining discounts so it doesn’t take me much time and since I have done it for a while, it’s easy for me.
Our preferred gifts are experiences, and things we can use and my teens have a few collections they add to when they can.
I also approach our travel, any experiences I plan to buy for the year and similar this way.
Want, Need, Read, Wear, Learn
When it comes to gifts, I consider these: gift them something they want, something they need, something to read, something to wear and something for learning.
Kids don’t need a massive pile of gifts or the most expensive gifts. No one does.
Personalise whatever you are giving, truly think about what will benefit them and be loved by them, as well as what they are asking for.
Pay attention to things throughout the year, what they say, what they enjoy, what they take an interest in, especially closer to Christmas.
This way, you can gift them things from their list but also surprise them with truly thoughtful gifts too.
This time of year can be expensive if you are travelling anywhere so I have tips further down in the article.
However, for experiences, we like to do a selection of Christmas traditions as well as explore our area like a tourist.
Traditions include going to see Christmas lights and displays.
Making specific Christmas treats and participating in Christmas activities in our area.
Put the Christmas tree up and the kids get to pick a new special ornament each year which they will take with them when they have their own homes.
I have an advent calendar system where we also do something nice for someone every day or random acts of kindness, not just chocolate.
Think about what you enjoyed as a kid and incorporate those things into your Christmas traditions.
As for exploring, look up the free tourist attractions, bushwalks, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, beaches, landmarks, historical points of interest and so on then go see/do them.
We have moved a lot but try to see as much of each area as possible because too often people grow up somewhere and never really explore it.
Exploring your area through the eyes of a tourist can be a great way to have some frugal fun.
How to Have Frugal Fun
Hot weather, summer storms and long school holidays can make this time of year expensive and tricky but it doesn’t have to be.
This time of year you can find a variety of free events in your area usually.
Check Facebook, community noticeboards, libraries, shopping centres, mum groups and similar to find out what’s on and plan your outings.
Explore your local area like a tourist and visit all the free attractions you have available.
Start geo-caching, hiking, give the kids sports gear, board games and other things for Christmas to help keep them entertained.
How to Afford Back to School Expenses
School fees, uniforms, book packs, laptops and other expenses for back to school adds up fast.
There are the obvious things you can do such as check the sales, second hand uniforms etc.
But there is so much more you can do to save money for back to school.
Be sure to find out if you area offers anything such as vouchers, discounted or free school travel etc to start with.
How to Travel for Free and Cheap
Travel is a priority in my life and something we have done extensively. As such, I have learned ways to get to reduce the cost and get paid.
Depending on where and how you want to travel it can either be free or extremely expensive.
Camping can be free once you have the gear as there are numerous free campsites around Australia.
Winning competitions can provide free travel, I won a $1,000 travel voucher plus in a separate competition I won a $500 day spa voucher and in another a $100 petrol voucher.
Those combined made a fantastic trip for us. Find out more about entering and winning competitions.
Travelling during off-peak times is significantly cheaper than travelling at peak times such as school holidays, Christmas and long weekends but it can be harder with school aged kids.
Due to family, real estate and business commitments overseas, we travel to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
Taking 4 kids overseas is not cheap so researched everything I could to make it cheaper and I started freelance writing, consulting and other things to make money from our trips.
Find lots of ways to make money travelling, even as a family, to help your family travel more.
How to Reduce Summer Bills
Electricity is the first one many think of when it comes to big summer bills.
Summer can be expensive if you use air conditioning all the time, the same as winter can be if you use heating all day and night.
Our bills don’t vary much from season to season as we learn to adapt to the weather, dress appropriately and heat or cool the person instead of the whole house.
We’ve lived in temperatures from -10C through to 49C, so extreme cold for Australia through to extreme heat.
Some of our homes here and overseas have not had air con so we had to get creative.