Know your limits

Half term blog

The teachers are on strike, so school’s out and Mum’s in, making today a sneak preview of half-term with two bored children and a day to fill. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could get away with a morning of finger-painting followed by a restful afternoon at the library? Sometimes I long to live in a Shirley Hughes book where the fire’s always lit, the kettle’s always on and it’s impossible to shell out for anything more expensive than a new pair of shoes and the odd geranium.

But that ship has, I fear, sailed, leaving us marooned in the land of virtual reality where fun comes at a hefty price. Apart from the lure of cyberspace, which makes it virtually impossible to lure them out of the door if there’s a whiff of rain in the air, they seem to be able to sniff out a bargain – and not in a good way. I’ve still got free tickets to the zoo and who can resist a dinosaur, but somehow a day at the Zoo or the Natural History Museum doesn’t have anything like the pulling power of Legoland or Chessington. And even if you take a packed lunch, you get ambushed on your way out by the gift shop, and just as you think you’re home free you find you’ve been snapped by the paparazzi and there you all are grinning inanely with your photo stuck on the fence for all to see and they’ll only take it down if they charge you £20 for you to stuff it in your bag…

A survey published by American Express today says British families will probably spend a total of £665m on family outings this half-term – an average of £86 a family – and I believe them. They also say that a third of families (34%) are worried about the cost of keeping children entertained at half-term, especially with just nine weeks left until Christmas.

American Express suggests families use a cashback credit card to ease the burden and I can certainly see the attraction. However to really get the benefit you must have the discipline to keep within your limit and pay it all back every month. If you can – and how many of us can honestly say we would? – you could ‘save’ a good chunk of money over a year, because you can claim up to 5% of what you spend on the card back for the first three months and 1.25% after that.

Of course, if you don’t spend anything at all you get 100% “back”…

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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