Self-employed and dreading the thought of the money (and time) involved in keeping the kids occupied this summer?
A report in The Independent has revealed that parents in the UK spend an average of £250 on the cost of childcare, and often more, over the summer.
One silver lining when it comes to the jigsaw puzzle of summer holiday childcare for the self-employed is being able to take advantage of the flexibility of being your own boss. Within reason, it allows you to choose when, where and how much you’re prepared to work.
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That said, it seems that even HMRC has some empathy when it comes to the summertime struggles of working parents – which may well be more acutely felt by the self-employed.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, said: “We understand making arrangements for summer childcare at this time of year is important and can be a stressful time for parents.
“Tax-Free Childcare makes things easier, putting more money in the pockets of parents and supporting as many families as possible to secure high-quality, affordable childcare.”
Read on for ideas to make your life easier - plus money-saving tips to get you through the long break.
1. Childcare tax breaks
HMRC says working parents, including the self-employed, can get up to £2,000 worth of Tax-Free Childcare per child per year (£4,000 if the child is disabled). For every £8 you pay towards childcare, the government makes a top-up payment of £2.
With the option to make regular payments into your Tax-Free Childcare account, you can save it up for the school holidays and spend the balance on more than 68,000 regulated holiday clubs that take place away from term time.
You can also spend it on before and after school clubs, so you don’t need to worry about using it all up before term starts again.
The Independent reports that the scheme has been hugely underused by parents, and according to a Department for Education publication, “Among families with a child aged under 4 on 31 August 2017 or with a disabled child aged up to 14, only 1 per cent claimed to have applied for a Tax-Free Childcare account, with a further 3 per cent saying they had not applied because it was not yet available to them.”
2. Keep an eye out for early bird offers, free stuff and special rates
Family fun doesn’t have to cost the Earth. You may even find that getting organised and booking as early as possible brings discounts.
Here are just a few ideas for activities that needn’t break the bank:
get out into the great outdoors with your nature detectives – the Woodland Trust have free activities for all ages on their website
discover legends and castles with English Heritage’s days out for under £20
register for a wide range of 2 for 1 deals on popular attractions with each valid rail ticket bought through National Rail
even a trip to the cinema, renowned for being a ridiculously expensive family affair, can bring up school holiday bargains if you shop around
3. Save up your 30 (or 15) funded hours of childcare
If you work more than 16 hours a week and you have a child or children aged between three and four, you’re entitled to 30 hours of funded childcare a week. Work less than 16 hours a week? You still get 15 hours of funded childcare.
While this only covers term time, it adds up to 1,140 hours of childcare, if you work at least 16 hours a week, or 570 hours if you work less than that. So it could be worth asking your provider if they’ll let you save it up and spread it out over the holidays.
4. Find cashback deals on family holidays and more
You can browse deals on cashback sites, and use the links they give you to buy a range of goods and services online – with a cash bonus.
For example, you could try Quidco if you’re looking into booking accommodation or travel options for a summer family holiday. They’re currently offering £70 cash back on HomeAway and up to five per cent cashback on Thomas Cook package holidays.
It’s always a good idea to shop around to make sure the cashback they’re offering is actually worth it, and that you can’t get a cheaper deal elsewhere.
Top tip: set yourself a rule to only buy things you were looking for in the first place, as it can be easy to end up buying things you don’t need.
Leave us a comment below, sharing your tips for juggling your own business and childcare during the summer holidays.
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