The cost of raising a child to 21 is estimated at over £200,000 – a wail-inducing sum. Yet whether you're starting a family or in the midst of one, there are loads of tips 'n' tricks to save.
This is our toy chest of over 50 quick tips to save cash with kids.
Also see 50+ Baby MoneySaving Tips for more tricks to save
Family MoneySaving Checklist
Don't leave life insurance until it's too late
In the UK, one child in 29 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.
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 huge 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 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 £35-£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 £41,000, 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.
When they're available, they're fully listed in the Cheap Days Out deals page, plus how to find participating venues and 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 and From Jan 2013 families earning over £50,000 stopped receiving the full amount, ending entirely for those earning £60,000+. See the MSE News Story.
2013/14 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.
2013/14 amount: Varies.
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 new student loans system from 2012 onwards, actually 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 Mythbusting guide's a one-stop-shop for all you need to know about the 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 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.
Free kids' prescriptions, dental check-ups...
It isn't all bad news when it comes to the cost of family healthcare. Young people can get free prescriptions, dental and optical check-ups across the UK, though how it works depends on where you are:
In England, under-16s (and under-19s in full-time education) get free prescriptions, NHS eye tests and optical vouchers. Under-18s (and under-19s in full-time education) get free dental treatment too.
How do I get it? Just tick the box on the prescription form, fill in the form at the dentist, or for free eyecare, fill in form GOS1 from the optician. See the NHS England website for more info.
In Scotland, everyone gets free prescriptions and eye tests. Under-16s (and 16-18s in full-time education) get free NHS dental treatment, and vouchers towards glasses or contact lenses.
The NHS Minor Ailment Service also entitles under-16s, under-19s in full-time education and over-60s to free medication for minor illnesses from 1,200 pharmacies. See the Scottish Government website.
How do I get it? You don't need to do anything – there's simply no charge.
In Wales, under-16s (and 16-18s in full-time education) get free NHS sight tests and help with glasses and contact lenses costs. Under-25s also get free dental examinations, though unless you're under 18 or a full-time student under 19 you'll have to pay for subsequent treatment.
Prescriptions are free regardless of age if you've a Welsh GP and get your prescription from a Welsh pharmacist, or if you're a Welsh patient with an English GP and an accompanying entitlement card. See the Welsh Government website for full details.
How do I get it? There's no charge for prescriptions, or just fill in the form at your dentist or optician. See NHS health costs.
In Northern Ireland, under-18s (and under-19s in full-time education) get free Health Service dental treatment. Under-16s (and 16-18s in full-time education) get free sight tests, and vouchers for glasses or contact lenses. Prescriptions are free for all. See NIDirect for more.
How do I get it? You don't need to do anything – there's simply no charge.
See the 20+ Medicine Savings guide for more info on how to save on meds.
Nab cheap kids' clothing in online outlets
Kids have an uncanny ability to grow out of togs they've only just been bought. To help find kids' clothing for less, outlet shops are a handy way to hunt out bargains. These are stores operated by big brands to sell last season’s goods at clearance rates – and now many are available online.
It's also worth keeping an eye on the Tesco Clothing, Asda George and Vertbaudet deals pages. These occasionally have clothing sales with big discounts, which have proven very popular with MoneySavers.
Earn up to 6% tax free on kids' savings
It's possible for kids to earn up to 6% in the top savings accounts – but many have cash in accounts that pay dismally. This doesn't just deprive them of interest, but the chance to learn that your money can work for you.
It's a common myth that kids don't pay tax. This isn't true, as they're taxed in exactly the same way as adults. This means in the 2013/14 tax year each child can earn up to 9,205 tax-free from salary, savings or investments.
The difference is, unlike most adults, most children don't use up their allowance, so their savings interest is tax free. Here are some quick tips on how to explain the key facts simply. Find more, and a full list of best buys in the Children's Savings guide:
- Piggy banks vs. real banks. Try saying something like: "If you put your cash in a piggy bank it just sits there. But put it in a real bank and you're actually lending them your money – so they need to pay you for it."
- Interest-ing. "When you put your money in a bank, the extra amount you're paid is called interest. The higher the interest, and the longer you keep your savings with them, the more they are paying you. If the interest's 10%, it means the bank pays you 10p a year for every pound you save with it."
- Pick the account together. Look through best buys together, explaining pros and cons. If you're unsure, see the interest rates for beginners guide for help. Then make the decision together.
- Play the field. If you've a budding entrepreneur, there's nothing stopping a child opening a range of accounts with the minimum deposit, usually £1, and grabbing the freebie for each. Remember to keep track of them all!
- Get them to monitor the rate. If you go for an easy access or variable rate deal, put your child in charge of checking the interest every month to see if it's still paying a decent rate. If not, move it.
Check out Martin's MoneySaving Tips For Nine-year-olds blog and forum discussion to see more tips, and share your own.
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.
£100s available in unclaimed home grants
Keeping your kids toasty and safe at home needn't mean shelling out more on gas and electricity bills. A mass of government funding's available to help increase your family home's value, warmth and economy. Get claiming!
- Free insulation: Nope, we don't just mean piling your kids into extra jumpers (though this helps!) There are several companies offering free loft and cavity wall insulation. Find full info and how to apply in the Free Insulation guide.
Search for grants: The Government, energy suppliers and local authorities give grants to help you implement energy saving measures. The Energy Saving Trust has an advice and info helpline on 0300 123 1234 (more info for Scotland and NI). Charity-run Turn2us also has a grant search to check for charities that can help with things like furniture, decorating or bills (grants usually depends on individual circumstances).
Though grants may not cover the full amount of the item or repair you need, they're almost always completely free.
Fire safety check: Many fire stations give free Home Fire Risk Assessments to check for risks and help you plan what to do if there's a fire. You'll usually get a free smoke alarm if you don't already have one. Find info at Fireservice, or call your local fire service to check if it's participating.
Help with utility arrears: Some utility companies also offer grants to help if you've large arrears on gas, electricity or water bills. You'll usually need to be a customer of the company. If yours isn't listed, contact it to see if it has a similar scheme. For full info on these and all the above, see the Home and Energy Grants guide.
Also see the Free Solar Panels guide to find out if you're eligible, plus full pros 'n' cons.
Grab a railcard for 1/3 off family train travel
Whether it's to visit relatives, go shopping or just for a family day out, if your family often travel by train a railcard can be a good investment. It costs £28, but gets you a third off most standard and first class rail fares across Great Britain for a year.
If you'd usually spend over £84 on train tickets in a year (even just in a single trip), you'd save more than the railcard costs. The two types of railcard that are generally most useful for families are:
- Travelling with kids: Family & Friends Railcard. This can be used on all tickets when one adult and a minimum of one under-16 travel together (borrowing a child for a day could save you money!) The max is four adults and four kids.
- Teens, students and young adults: 16-25 Railcard. This is for under-26s or full-time students of any age. Renew just before your 26th birthday to grab another year (also applies to older cardholders about to finish uni).
Look out for further travel concessions. Other services can offer reduced rates, so always ask. For example, National Express offers £8 and £16 family coachcards that let up to two kids go free for a year when accompanied by up to two full-paying adults. See Cheap Train & Coach Deals for the latest discounts.
Don't pay kids' uni fees upfront
The news of £9,000-a-year tuition fees has sent chills down many parents' spines. Some are desperate to build uni funds to protect kids from huge debts on graduation. But this laudable aim could be throwing away over £20,000.
Many students won't need to repay anything near their tuition fees price, if so paying upfront is a waste. See the Don't Pay Uni Fees Upfront guide for full info, plus safer alternatives to help you help your kids most effectively.
Specialist young driver cover can cost less
Once the kids reach that age and start itching to get out on the road, finding affordable car insurance for them can be a nightmare. Even the average price for a 17-22 year old male is £2,960. But it's possible to massively cut this.
The Young Drivers' Car Insurance guide is a step-by-step system to help slice off every spare penny, helping you to get 'em on the road for less. Here are the key points:
- Pay when or how they drive. Specialist 'pay when you drive' and 'pay how you drive' schemes are worth checking to see if they undercut comparison sites. With these, a GPS or tracking device is fitted to the car, so the cost can depend on their mileage, the time of driving, or driving style.
- Try specific young driver brokers. While comparison sites are good for standard drivers, for others they can under-perform, so check specific young driver brokers separately (full listings in the guide).
- Check learner driver insurance quotes. Learners are often added to parents' or friends' car insurance as an additional driver. This can up the cost, and put the principal driver's no claims bonus at risk. However, you can get specific policies just for provisional drivers instead.
Use a shopbot to instantly compare prices
If you often shell out for family entertainment, here's a handy trick to quickly compare prices for games, DVDs, books and more.
Our free MegaShopBot tool is a nifty online gadget that instantly searches loads of comparison sites for you to help take the mousework out of online shopping.
Just type in what you're looking for and select your category, and it searches a range of sites to find you the best price. Always make sure you pay the right way to get free spending protection.
Don't assume junior ISAs are best
Junior ISAs are tax-free savings accounts that six million under-18s can save or invest in per tax year. In 2013/13 the limit is £3,720. They're tax-free until their 18th birthday (often beyond) to build a nest egg for adult life.
But for many, they simply aren't worth it. As most kids don't pay tax, junior ISAs have limited benefits so are generally most helpful for more affluent families. See the Junior ISAs guide to check if your kids would be better off with a Top Children's Savings account.
If you save for your child in a junior ISA it's their money, not yours. When they reach 18, they can do whatever they want with it - including blowing the lot. Even cute toddlers can become rebellious teens, so you may prefer to save for them in your account instead. If you're looking to save for kids in your own name, read the box below for full options.
Downshift your grocery shop & save £1,000+
With TV ads encouraging kids to demand pricey brands, the cost of a family food shop quickly adds up. But you can easily save over £1,000 a year by doing the 'downshift challenge' (no earplugs necessary).
Supermarkets have hypnotised us into moving up the brand chain. Many gradually buy increasingly more expensive versions of the same thing. The challenge:
Drop a brand level on everything. See if you can tell the difference - if you can't, stick with the cheaper version. This cuts the average bill by a third - on a £100 weekly shop, that's £1,700 a year less.
Kids are far bigger brand and packaging snobs than adults, so if they aren't happy with the unbranded versions, just keep the branded packaging and fill it with cheaper contents. Remember, supermarkets are experts at getting us to buy more than we need:
If you want to teach an eight-year-old about money, the best place to start is a supermarket. Ask them what they can smell: it'll usually be bread or a bakery. The scent makes us hungry and likely to buy more food, so the supermarket profits.
Single parents can get free support
Raising kids on your own can be especially tough. To help, charity Gingerbread offers useful free resources, with factsheets on what to do when a relationship ends, how to enforce child maintenance payments and finding legal help.
It also has a freephone single parent helpline for one-to-one confidential advice and info. It only covers England and Wales, although similar help is available from One Parent Familes Scotland or Gingerbread NI.
Get extra help sorting out separation
Bag restaurant vouchers for cheaper family meals out
Of course, eating in's usually the cheapest way to feed your little monsters. But if you're going for a family meal out, restaurant vouchers are a seriously easy way to save (without anyone going hungry!)
Taking 60 secs to check online for deals for your fave eatery can instantly get you 2for1, 50% off, or even let the kids eat for free.
See the Restaurant Vouchers deals page for the full compendium - bookmark it on your browser so you can quickly find it before you head out.
Smoking harms family health and wealth
The MoneySaving gain from quitting isn't just about spending less in newsagents. Many financial products are much pricier for smokers. The health risks are huge, and if you've kids in tow the stakes are much greater.
Stopping smoking may not be easy, but your family (and your wallet) will be much better off. You could easily save £30,000 over 20 years when you add up not buying cigarettes, plus savings on common financial products, eg, life insurance. One forumite reports:
It's the best decision I ever made - without it my daughter would go to school smelling like a dirty ashtray. I'd smoked since I was 12, came from a house where both parents smoked even though we had no money for holidays etc. I never realised how bad the smell was until I stopped.
There's loads of free and cheap support available. See the Stop Smoking guide for info.
Free 6th formers' uni fee myth-busting guide
With headlines screaming about graduates lumbered with £50,000 debt, many 6th formers would be forgiven for being terrified of starting university.
To help, the free "you can afford to go to university" 6th Formers' PDF guide is crammed with myth-busting info on what it'll really cost, plus Q&As to help decide.
Try multi-car quotes if you've two or more
If you've two or more vehicles between family or friends in your household (vans could be included but bikes usually aren't), here's a canny trick to insure 'em for less.
Some providers offer discounts if you cover them all with the same insurer. Comparison sites don't have the nouse to do these searches. So first benchmark a multi-car quote with Admiral*, which offers a single insurance policy that covers up to five different cars.
Then use comparison sites to get quotes for each car separately. These zip your details to hosts of insurers' and brokers' websites to find the cheapest. But as they don't all compare the same sites, you need to combine them to maximise the spread of quotes:
- We've analysed the top four to use for the max quotes in the min time: Confused*, MoneySupermarket*, TescoCompare* and Gocompare*.
Use 'em for individual quotes too. Whether your family motor's a well-kept Bentley or a well-loved Volvo (complete with squashed Haribo upgrade), use these top picks to find the cheapest. Plus don't assume third party fire and theft's cheaper than fully comprehensive - see the full Cheap Car Insurance guide for the full powerhouse system.
The record using the full system is 96p for a year's fully comprehensive cover. Let us know if you beat it!
Under-5s go free to National Trust venues
National parks, castles and gardens are a great place for an educational trip with the kids on a sunny afternoon. The National Trust looks after hundreds of historic houses, castles, gardens and more, and handily offers free entry to all its properties for under-5s.
There's no proof of age needed, and it's part of its ongoing offer. See the National Trust website for full info.
There are also plenty more low-cost ways to keep the kids entertained. Trips to the library, walks in the woods and picnics in the park are just a few. See the free weekend activities discussion for more ideas.
Free guide to teach teens cash skills
Companies spend billions of pounds a year on marketing, advertising and teaching staff to sell. But we don’t get any "buyers’ training", and neither do our kids.
To help, we've a free printable Teen Cash Class PDF to help you make your family into Money Saving Experts. In it, you'll find easy-to-follow, real-life lessons on debt, how to break the impulse shopping chain, and more.
In 2007, ITV1's Tonight programme gave Martin a challenge: take a class of ordinary teenagers for one day and turn them into junior Money Saving Experts. The results were astonishing. After class, the 12 pupils saved their families a whopping £5,050!
This is a real practical teenage survival guide to living in one of the most competitive consumer economies in the world.
See the Five things teens should be taught about money discussion to share your ideas.
Get free cash to study (not just for kids!)
Studying isn't just for kids 'n' teens. Whether you or a family member want to get a degree, learn a new language or even study part time, there may be a grant or free course to help:
- Educational Grants Service: This service offers students, especially disadvantaged ones, guidance and advice to enable them to secure funding for education and training. Its site, part of Family Action, has a searchable database.
- Scholarship search: There are some nifty search tools on the Scholarship Search and Studentcashpoint websites, including bursaries, scholarships and award funding for students. Some are very specific, eg, aimed at specific religions, locations, parental occupation and more.
- Study in Europe: If you want to study part of your degree in one of over 30 participating European countries, grants are available from the British Council as part of the Erasmus scheme.
- Free numeracy and literacy courses: Virtually every college in the country has free courses to help improve maths and English skills, from basic literacy and numeracy up to GCSE level. See Learndirect, Hotcourses or check on the Gov.UK website for classes in your area.
- Learn a language for free: There are lots of free websites and online tools to make it easy to learn a new language. See Learn a language for free.
Grants are dependent on individual circumstances, so it may not be easy to get one, but there's certainly no harm in trying. See the Education Grants article.
Quickly turn old family mobiles into cash
With kids and teens often getting through handsets quickly, families can soon accumilate old, unused mobile phones. But a mass of companies offer to recycle old gadgets for money, making this an easy way to make extra cash.
Once you agree to sell, you're even sent a freepost bag for it. To quickly find the best payer for your phone's make and model, use MSE's MobileValuer tool. It also works for other gadgets, including games consoles, iPods and more.
Switch to boost interest on stagnant savings
If you're building a family nest egg, don't neglect it. With interest rates at horrendous lows, the only way to get a decent amount's to treat your savings a bit like a job and put time in to maintain the best rates:
Find the best rates. These change daily, so to instantly find the best payers see the Top Savings Accounts and Top Cash ISAs guides. Every UK adult aged 16+ can save £5,640 a year tax-free in a cash ISA to boost the interest (allowance will increase with inflation each year).
Don't leave it sitting in a high street bank. This is the easiest way to earn a paltry amount. Most accounts only stay competitive for a year or so, then the rate plummets. Though it may've been a golden deal once, if you haven't switched in a while you're almost certainly earning nowt.
Always check safety. Remember, these days all UK-regulated savings accounts are protected up to £85,000 per person, per institution. For safety don't save more than this with any one banking group. See Safe Savings for full details.
Transfer old cash ISAs. If you've been saving in cash ISAs, don't assume you can't touch them. You've a right to transfer your cash ISA, which can instantly boost your interest. To transfer the cash you'll need to set up an account with a new provider and ask it to transfer the cash across for you. See the Top Cash ISA Transfers guide.
Get back lost Tesco Clubcard vouchers
Family homes have a knack for swallowing paperwork, particularly if it's useful. So if you've ever lost Tesco vouchers (or want to check just in case) you can access the codes online to redeem instantly, or get vouchers re-issued.
You can then exchange vouchers so they're worth up to four times as much via Tesco Rewards. This can be a great way to get a family day out, as the scheme includes cinema tickets, theme parks, restaurants, sports and loads more.
It's fast and free to check your account for old vouchers. See the Get Back Lost Tesco Vouchers guide for a full how-to. Some MoneySavers found over £100 of vouchers they didn't know they had. One reports:
Thanks to your article, we found we had nearly £150 of unclaimed Tesco vouchers! We have already used them to double the vouchers' value online, which has been incredibly useful for Christmas.
Should student loans be paid off early?
To help with uni costs, many students take out an official Student Loans Company (SLC) loan. But when it comes to paying it back, it's crucial to realise a loan this cheap shouldn't be paid off more quickly than necessary.
Whether you should use spare cash to pay off student loans depends on whether you've other debts and when you studied, as this affects their interest. See the Repay My Student Loan? guide for info, plus a nifty tool to calculate how long it'll take to pay off.
Global family travel insurance under £50
If you're jetting off on a well-earned family holiday, having the right travel insurance can be extremely useful if something goes wrong. You can save £100s a year by choosing the right cover:
Should I cover the family together? Policies can be for singles, couples or families. Generally, if travelling together, family cover should be cheaper than insuring everyone separately. As a rule of thumb, the fewer people travelling nearer to home the cheaper it'll be, so don't over-cover.
Find worldwide family cover for under £50 a year. Globe trotting needn't cost the earth. Family cover can start from as little as £30-£50, depending on your circumstances. See the best buys in the Travel Insurance guide.
Once you've found the cheapest travel insurance, here are a couple of quick tips to help save even more on family holidays:
Find the cheapest way to spend overseas. Debit cards can be the worst way to spend, but the right credit card can mean perfect exchange rates that beat even the best bureaux. See Cheap Travel Money for full info, and use the free Travel Money Maximiser tool to quickly find the best holiday cash deals.
Get a free travel tips guide. The Little Lifesaver is a free passport-sized, printable travel tips guide to store key details. It's packed with key info, including flight cancellation rights. Just print and keep it in a safe place to refer to if needed.
Fill yer boots with freebies
Here's one thing that doesn't change as you grow up... the best things in life are freebies! Use the Freebies directory to get loads of everyday items for free, from nappies and pet food to teabags and tissues.
You'll also find sections just for family freebies, free games and indoor entertainment to keep kids busy for nowt. If you're spoilt for choice, play Freebie Roulette for a lucky dip.
If you're after something bigger, the Freecycle guide explains how to make the most of giveaway sites. These are great if you're looking for free furniture, electricals, garden gear and more, whilst they're also handy if you're having a clearout. For totally free activity ideas, see Free Museums and Galleries and Free Gym Trials.
Pay off debts before saving – debts cost more
If you've found yourself with a family nest-egg and debts to pay, this quick tip will drastically improve the health of your finances. If you have both debts and savings you're seriously overspending. Debts usually cost more than savings earn.
Pay off your debts before you start to save and you should be better off in the long run.
For example, if you had £1,000 credit card debt at 18%, the interest would be £180 a year. But £1,000 in a 2% savings account after tax would earn just £20. So pay off the debt with savings and you're £160 a year better off. See the Pay Off Debts With Savings guide for full info.
If you've credit card debts, there's a trick to cut up to 70% off the cost without new cards or credit. See the Credit Card Shuffle.
Don't need it? Won't use it? DON'T buy it!
If you've a family to look after, it's likely your wallet's under more pressure than ever before. So before you buy anything, use these money mantras to help keep your cash in your pocket. We've also designed a handy free printable wallet-sized version:
Before spending on anything, even on items found using the eBay Local Deals Mapper, use Martin's money mantras. If you say 'NO' to any, DON'T BUY!
If you're skint, ask
Do I need it?
Can I afford it?
Can I find it cheaper anywhere else?
If you aren't skint, ask
Will I use it?
Is it worth it?
Can I find it cheaper anywhere else?
If you still find it difficult to keep cash in your pocket, there are plenty of ways to help. See the Stop Spending guide for info on both pain-free and painful ways to halt your spending. Use the free Demotivator tool to learn the real cost of everyday habits.
Haggle to save £100s on family package hols
Package holidays can be great if your family like going to popular holiday destinations, and they often come with handy extras like kids' clubs to boot.
Plus it's possible to haggle already cheap package holiday late deals by a further 10% using the special technique in the Cheap Package Holidays guide.
One MoneySaver who "had no idea this’d work" reports getting £600 off a Crete holiday just by calling three travel agents. Package holidays can yield huge savings:
As a rough rule of thumb, packages are usually cheapest for seven, 10 or 14 days away in a traditional holiday destination.
In general, the later you book the cheaper it'll be, but the more you'll need to be flexible with dates and destinations. So if crèches or kids' clubs are a must, you may be better off booking as much as nine months in advance instead to get it for less.
DIY breaks: If you're off for a different length to a less visited spot, on a city break, or multi-stop holiday, you'll tend to be better off with a DIY break. See the Cheap Flights and Cheap Hotel guides for more on these.
Get paid for your opinion – from home
If you've stayed home to look after kids, doing online surveys could be a handy little earner. It's possible to earn £100s a year from home, without any special skill or talent, by filling in web surveys and online research.
Some surveys can pay up to £5 for just a few minutes of your time. Find the full list of top picks in the Survey Sites guide, as well as tips 'n' tricks to help you maximise your returns.
There's masses you can do to bring in extra cash, even if you're at home looking after kids. See the Boost Your Income guide.
Are you in the wrong council tax band?
There's a chance you may be paying too much for your family home's council tax. Scarily, many homes are in the wrong council tax band, and have been since 1993.
The reason? Valuations were done at speed in time for the launch of the new system, so bands were merely allocated with just a drive-by glance.
But in 10 minutes you can check ‘n' challenge your council tax band. Thousands have already tried this and many succeeded in getting £1,000s back. One MoneySaver reports:
Last week got the letter from VOA saying we were being reduced to [band] E effective from when we moved in in August 2000. The refund was £2,369. Money was paid into my account yesterday. Total time less than 4 weeks.
It won't cost you a penny to check your band, and it could get you a backdated payout if you've overpaid. See the Council Tax Rebanding guide for a full how-to.
Find free high-tech treasure hunts via GPS
If you’ve a GPS navigation device such as a sat-nav or GPS-equipped mobile phone, you can get instant access to global treasure hunts, known as geocaching. This is a fun, free way to put a smile on kids’ faces.
It’s a giant high-tech treasure hunt for ‘geocaches’. These are boxes filled with tiny treasures, hidden by other geocache fans (we’re talking plastic kids' toys, not iPods).
There's a huge online geocaching community. To get started, sign up for a free membership on the Geocaching website, then enter your postcode to find geocaches near you. Enter the co-ordinates of your chosen site on your GPS, and off you go!
Treasures are hidden at spots like waterfalls and parks. Forumers report it's a great way to explore your local area with family.
After you've found one, put it back as you found it. The rules of the game state you can take an item from it if you wish. If you do, leave something of equal or greater value for the next person. See the Geocaching tips forum discussion.
Use free tools to value your house for nowt
If you're thinking of buying your first family home, the first steps from renting to buying can be daunting.
To help, we've put together a free mortgage guide downloadable PDF for first-time buyers and first-time buy-to-let mortgages. The savings can be huge:
For every 1% you can cut off your mortgage deal, you'll save
£1,000 a year on a £100,000 repayment mortgage
There are loads of other tips and tricks to help find your dream home:
- Value your house for nowt. The Free House Price Valuations guide has a goldmine of free online tools to help you work out what your digs are really worth. There's everything from free house price valuers to crime and flood risk assessment, plus how to work out what the neighbours really paid.
- Use the essential home-buying checklist. The House Buying MoneySaving guide has a full checklist of what to look out for when buying a new home, from initial checks and budgeting to completion.
- Make your mortgage work harder. The Remortgage Guide is a free downloadable PDF on how to get the best deal, whether you're moving, consolidating debts or just after a cheaper mortgage.
Cut home costs with 'old style' tips
The popular Old-Style Forum is dedicated to sharing thrifty tips on all aspects of home life. It has plenty to offer families looking to cut back – whether you want to learn how to clean with vinegar or just make cheap, healthy packed lunches for the kids.
From keeping chickens to feeding a family of four for £2, how to make homemade fabric conditioner, or even becoming self-sufficient, you'll find a wealth of wisdom. Feel free to join in and add your own tips – it won't cost a penny!
There's no NHS for pets – bag the right cover
Whether you've a family tomcat or tortoise, pet insurance can be very useful. Vet costs can be huge, and you can be liable if your dog injures others (not cats as they're 'free spirits').
When choosing your policy type, always read the small print to make sure it's right for you. There are three main types:
- Basic annual cover. This tends to be the cheapest, but offers the least cover. It puts a time bar on how long you can claim for a condition or ailment (usually 12 months) and caps how much you can reclaim in vet fees.
- Mid level cover. This limits vet fees for any one illness, but doesn't apply any time limit on how long the treatment lasts.
- High level cover. These are the priciest, but offer the most comprehensive cover. They insure your pet for illness or injury up to a max amount each year, or to an overall high sum (say, £40,000) throughout its life.
See the Pet Insurance guide for a full step-by-step system to cutting pet insurance costs, as well as best buys and what to watch out for. It's also worth noting some home insurance policies give third party cover as standard. Here's a quick tip from Martin:
If you have a tarantula (as I did aged 14) and like to show it off, perhaps consider third party insurance in case it takes a chomp out of one of your guests. Or then again, ensure the tank is very secure (my sister wishes I'd taken this advice!)
Quit job for kids? Get return-to-work cash
If you gave up your job to raise a family, going back to work can be daunting. Yet there's free cash to help.
- The income-based allowance is for if your household's on a low income. It's paid for as long as you show you're trying to find a job. For singles, the weekly amount for 2013/14 is £56.80 if 24 and under, or £71.70 if you're 25 or over. Couples and civil partners (both aged 18 or over) get £112.55.
- There's also a contribution-based allowance paid for six months, regardless of how much you have in savings, but there are other rules to check. Contact the Job Centre to see if you're eligible. The amount's the same as above (individuals only).
Also see the Benefits Check Up guide for info on return to work grants. These can really help to take the pressure off if you're on a low income.
Use family talents to cut wedding costs
Aptly dubbed 'the big day', the average UK wedding costs a whopping £20,000+. Of course, we're not saying you need to get married to have a family! But if you or a family member are getting hitched, there's plenty you can do to save:
- Make it a wedding of all the talents. One way to try and avoid the price-trebling effects of getting married is to use the talents of your friends and family. So if you've a cake-decorating aunt or a flower-arranging cousin, ask them to help with those instead of giving a gift.
- Draw up a budget. Far too many make a dream list of wedding must-haves before considering how they'll pay for them. Instead, work out how much you can afford to spend, then stick with it.
- Prioritise your spending. Once you know how much you've got to spend, list everything you need to budget for in order of priority and cost each accordingly. Include everything from official fees to transport costs.
- Pick an unusual date. Consider choosing an unpopular day for the wedding. Having it on a Friday or Sunday can reduce the cost of the reception (and sometimes ceremony) venue by up to half.
While a wedding is a wonderful dream day, it's important to remember one of the biggest causes of divorce is debt and financial worries. If the cost of your wedding leaves you financially crippled and in debt for most of your married life, it's a pointless waste.
For the full list of ways to save, see the full Cheap Weddings article.
Unused gyms, mags & paY-TV waste £1,000s
Many of us have costly family subscriptions for gyms, mags, packaged bank accounts and more, yet rarely or never use them. With time and house moves, we can even forget about 'em altogether.
It's likely hundreds of millions are wasted this way. The costs can be especially painful if you've unused regular payments set up for family members. Here's an example sent to us via Twitter:
I used to pay £102 a month for a family gym membership for one year, and I only went about five times.
Have your own DIY super-audit: urgently check your bank statements and cancel anything you don't use. To help, we've put together a step-by-step Cancel Direct Debits guide, with full info on how to spot and stop renegade regular payments.
Do a 60-sec voucher check before you shop
Before your family hit the shops, remember to check the Discount Vouchers page. This is massive compendium of all the latest printable vouchers, codes and deals open to all.
It's also well worth bookmarking the High Street Sales diary to help you keep an eye out for seasonal clearances on toys and kids clothing in your favourite stores.
Kids are educated into debt, but not about it
In the UK we've educated our youth into debt when they go to university but never about debt, leaving a debt-illiterate nation. Yet it's not just about debt. It impacts every area of our lives.
We need to break the cycle of financial ignorance by making financial education a compulsory part of the curriculum, so the campaign to get financial education in schools is on.
We’re working with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Financial Education to lobby to make it a compulsory part of the curriculum, so young people are equipped to make informed financial decisions.