Never one to shy away from a potentially controversial topic, I want to have a chat about Child Benefit today.
Child benefit is something that has been called into question over the last few months, what with all the finger pointing in the general election. The grumbling about parents who just pop out sprogs in order to make a quick buck and spend their child benefit and child tax credits on booze and lavish holidays that us poor working folk can’t afford. That might be true for some, there will always be a minority that will abuse the system, but that isn’t true for the majority.
Look, we all know that having children is extortionate, and yes, I have written before about not believing in the old “I can’t afford another child” line that people often spout to put big families down, but in some instances that IS a reality for people. In some instances, the cost of childcare is so crippling that people can’t manage without help or support and their bills are high enough that they aren’t able to just give up work. I have been in a low income job where we struggled and yes, we changed our lifestyle so that we could afford another child and no, they don’t “miss out” because we couldn’t afford the big trips to fancy places and instead opt to go for the free days or the cheaper days.
So if you are in the position of using your child benefit and stretching it to the max, here are a few of the things that I used to do that made a HUGE difference to our lives.
- Stretch it at home on food and fun.
We spent a lot of time really thinking about what we could do at home. We spent our benefit on things like pizza ingredients and taught the boys how to make pizza, got them to sample different toppings and really spent such a small amount but used it to do something fun, educational and beneficial. Not to mention that we used it to feed the whole family.
- Gardening is easy AND fun – spend it on investment.
Spend your benefit on buying seeds and tools, maybe even a greenhouse if you can stretch to it. We did it when things were tight (like, liquidise your leftover veggies to make soup for lunch because there is nothing to buy a sandwich tight) and we would have delicious veggies, fun in the garden and the kids would learn and invaluable skill.
- Separate it (if you can)
Not always that black and white is it? But when it is, try putting the child benefit into a separate account and using it to cover unexpected costs like extra childcare days that can’t be avoided, ripped school uniforms that can’t be left and school trips that need funding. Having the cash in a separate place can help you avoid spending it on the weekly shop when you don’t need to. If you need to though then there is nothing you can do!
- Source your local attractions and find vouchers
I know places like the Sealife Centre were fab for a day out but oh my, they cost a bomb. Using your child benefits when everything else is paid to pay for an educational and fun family day out is ideal – not only does it help your kids expand their horizons but if you can find vouchers to discount the costs, you can almost always guarantee that the child benefit will carry the whole day. I know people have argued that child benefit shouldn’t be used for this kind of thing, but to me child “benefit” means anything to benefit the child and going places, seeing new things and experiencing new things IS beneficial.
- Get together and do it for free.
It’s not really free for anything is it? There are travel costs, feeding the tribe… but if you get together as a group, plan to go for a walk in a local woodland area and share the costs, I find that works so well. In fact, my friends and I would have mummy meetings and go to each others homes for coffee and lunch. We’d do sandwiches, cakes, quiches etc and each time we’d swap. It was fab.
What do you do with your child benefit to make it stretch?