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Five ways to cut your summer childcare costs

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With parents across the UK set to spend £2bn on summer childcare, here are five tips to help you to cut potential childcare costs.

One in 20 parents are set to spend more than £500 over the summer holidays, according to research carried out by Opinium on behalf of investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown.

The research found that parents with three children face the highest childcare bills over the summer, averaging £307.90. Meanwhile, four per cent are set to spend more than £1,000.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “What do you get when you subtract two weeks off work from six weeks of school holidays? Four weeks of stress and a £250 childcare bill.”

She notes that 60 per cent of children have working parents across the UK, which means they are likely to face an “endless, exhausting and expensive juggling act” over the six-week summer break.

“There are things you can do to cut the cost of the break – including shaving the tax off the cost of your childcare bill, taking advantage of flexible working options, or hunting down hidden bargains.

“But whatever solutions you find, it helps enormously if you’ve money put aside in advance specifically for childcare. That way you can make cheaper early bird bookings, and can avoid the horrors of expensive borrowing that push the sky high costs of the summer break even higher,” she explained.

With this in mind, she says the time is ripe to start saving for the summer by investing regularly into a savings account. This will provide parents with the extra cash they need, enable them to plan in advance and avoid having to dip into an overdraft.

Money-saving tips

Here are Hargreaves Lansdown’s top tips for lowering the cost of summer childcare…

  1. Book now – There’s a decent chance that clubs and camps will offer early bird discounts if you can sign up weeks in advance. Plus, there’s more chance of getting places on the more popular and affordable camps. It’s also worth looking out for sibling discounts.
  2. Check if summer camps take childcare vouchers or tax-free childcare payments – If you’ve signed up for either scheme, you can get tax relief on the cost of childcare. As long as your provider is registered with Ofsted, you can cut your bills by a fifth or more. It’s always worth asking because a number of unexpected providers are signed up.
  3. Request flexible working – You have a legal right to request this, and if your employer is prepared to be flexible it can help enormously. For some parents, term time working is the only manageable solution. Others work from home to keep an eye on older children or au pairs, and others ask for flexibility over their hours to at least cut down how much care they need to pay for.
  4. Consider an au pair – If you can arrange to work from home, or work flexibly enough for someone to be home for a few hours a day, an au pair can cover around 30 hours a week. There are plenty of au pairs looking for summer holiday placements, for the cost of room and board and £75 pocket money a week. This can be particularly cost-effective if you have several children to look after.
  5. Tap the parent network – Ask local families what they do. You’ll be surprised at the hidden gems they turn up, from mornings at the YMCA to church clubs, sessions at the local sports centre, or training with local sports teams. Ask at school too: they may well run an affordable holiday club, or know about local schools with something on offer.