What a funny old year. The kids had a bit more than half a term at school, since COVID-19 related school closures arrived in Denmark on 12th March. The February half term had been the first holiday we really took since we moved here last summer, and I was so exhausted from work and work-travel that we spent it in Lalandia – a Danish holiday resort with cabins, a water park and plenty of stuff to do regardless of the weather. Then months of home schooling including lockdown Easter holidays, and a return to school for four weeks up to the start of the school holidays in the first week of June.
All of this means that I feel like we have been at home *forever*. Don’t get me wrong, I love home – and we rent a lovely big house with plenty of room and a garden, partly chosen because I’d never lived in Scandinavia before and figured we’d spend all our time indoors – so it’s not exactly a punishment. But, like most families, we are used to a lot of external activity, and as an expat single parent, travel and holidays together are how we stay connected with family and friends. Usually in the summer we travel back to the UK, and my children stay with my parents for a few weeks. With my dad’s health issues, this was out of the question sadly. Missing my parents, and missing out on grandparent time, has been so hard these past few months.
So – what have we been up to? And, now we’re about half way through, how frugal was it? This post if about the ‘spendy’ parts of the summer (getting all the guilt out of my system). The next post will be about all the lovely free things we did 🙂
Going on a local holiday
We did go on holiday. I booked two ‘five day weekend’ breaks, one to Bornholm straight after school closed, and another which is coming up at the end of July, about two weeks before school reopens.
Bornholm is a Danish island which was totally magical, and well worth it. It’s sort of like Cornwall in the 1950s, with lots of different beaches and a safe family vibe. We drove, taking plenty of board games and other rainy-day amusements, and took the ferry. The holiday cost £1,100 which included travel, bed and breakfast, and an activity every day – we tried stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and rock climbing, and fell into bed absolutely knackered at the end of every day. It was wonderful but Denmark is expensive and I haven’t got my frugal hacks in place yet: for comparison, aside from the flights, the cost was the same as we spent for a similar package to Bali last year. But it felt very much like time and money well spent.
The holiday booked for the end of July was £700, and also includes activities, a water park and access to a spa (hallelujah!). So, total upfront holiday cost = £1,800. I will add all the incidentals (meals, spending, etc) together when I do the July budgets.
Since I am still working full time, some of the weeks are spent in holiday clubs. There are quite a few for my son since he’s older and loves sport. Football club is £110 per week, and a spendier sea sports club was £150. So that was three weeks covered. For my daughter, there was much less choice and I put her in the school club. This was £735 for two weeks, which feels outrageous. She loved the club, but the activities were nothing I couldn’t have done with her and a friend or two at home (if I wasn’t working…). So it doesn’t quite feel like money well-spent. Plus £160 for a week of trampoline club.
So, £1,265 on holiday clubs. If I am honest, I looked down the barrel of eight weeks of summer holidays on top of the lockdown, and freaked out. We still have the usual childcare costs of £800 which cover wrap-around hours, the costs of looking after one child when the other is in club etc so all in all, it was a lot – £2,265 to be precise, over the whole period. But holiday childcare IS expensive, and for single parents, where there isn’t an option to tag-team annual leave (or indeed have one parent with a term-time job), it’s even starker. The 2019 results of an annual UK survey about the cost of childcare in the summer found that parents pay an average of £138 per week per child. For my two, this summer would equate to £2,208, or pretty much where I came in.
Not really. That’s £4,065 on unusual spending, and I will have carried on with a larger groceries bill etc. Interestingly, it made me reflect a lot on why I work and what I want out of life. That is a huge amount of money for the summer holidays, and nothing we have done felt extravagant (not like Bali last year!). And I feel like I was paying to be at work, since if I wasn’t working at least the club part wouldn’t have been necessary. I also recognise that I made the choices here: my kids wouldn’t actually have died of boredom by staying home and just meeting up with friends. Maybe it’s guilt money for them having to spend the summer hanging out at home without me. Either way, food for thought.
The next blog post will focus on the frugal wins – there were many of those too!