Twenty brilliant ideas for spending summer on a shoestring
Having fun in the sun can cause havoc for your bank balance. But there are some savvy ways you could make cool savings, and still have a great time.
Here, Anita Naik, lifestyle editor at VoucherCodes.co.uk, offers 20 top tips to help you have an enjoyable summer on a shoestring...
1. Make the most of free attractions. Whatever your interests, plenty of places have free entry. From museums to local walking groups and sightseeing hotspots, there's no shortage of free events over the summer. Check out your local newspaper or website to find out what's on. For example, at the ULster Museum you still have another month to see the Game of Thrones immortalised in a giant, 77-metre long Bayeux style tapestry or the Modigliani Female Nude, 1916, on loan from the Courtauld Gallery in London. And we've never met a kid or adult yet who hasn't gawped in wonder at the dinosaur skeleton or the famous Egyptian mummy, Takabuti.
2. Take inspiration from the UK's beautiful gardens - many of which may be normally private but open to the public on special 'open garden' days. Or, after visiting the Ulster Museum, take a stroll through the nearby Botanic Gardens where the herbaceous borders are believed to be the longest on the island of Ireland and comprise 2,000 square metres of perennials, spring shrubs, bamboos and grasses. Summer is the time to see them at their best. And did you know the oldest oak tree so far found in Northern Ireland has been dated to 1642 and can be seen at Belvoir Park Forest? Though gnarled, hollow and alive with insects and fungi, it has a giant girth of eight metres. Check out www.discovernorthernireland.com for more information. Alternatively, get closer to nature by visiting your local pick-your-own farm and spend the day outdoors while also getting some fresh fruit or veg to take home. Visit www.pickyourownfarms.org.uk for a list of details of participating venues in Northern Ireland.
3. Travel in groups. Check out transport operators' websites to take advantage of group deals, such as 2-4-1 or buy-one-get-one-free offers and family packages.
4. Check out discounts and vouchers to get cut-price offers on everything from eating out to theatre tickets and sight-seeing experiences.
5. Go BYOB. Excited to finally get pals or family together for a catch-up this summer? Look for restaurants that allow you to bring your own alcohol, so you can then pick up a nice bottle without a hefty price tag. Some 'bring your own bottle' venues don't even charge corkage.
6. Make-up wearers know that warmer weather often means a shake-up of your cosmetics bag. Try beauty websites which stock a wide range of popular brands, often at cheaper prices. We'd also suggest that now is the time to think ahead... need a new winter coat or boots? You'll be surprised at the bargains discovered by a trawl online.
7. Bring the fun to your own home and host a picnic or barbecue in your back garden for family and friends. To cut back on food costs, ask each guest to bring a dish.
8. Fancy heading indoors for a bit? Look out for theatre discounts. Those matinee performances you normally can't get to at other times of the year because you're working can prove relatively inexpensive - head down a bit early and see what last-minute tickets are available.
9. There are free festivals all over the UK to suit many tastes. Keep an eye on social media and online to find them. For example, on August 11 at Dundrum Castle, 13th century Norman knights will demonstrate their weapons and fighting skills on the castle lawns, while domestic life continues with cooking and spinning, and the Ratcatcher has games, tricks and tales for children. And admission won't cost you a penny.
10. Even if festivals aren't for you, tents, wellies and sleeping bags can all fall in price at this time of year as outdoor stores compete. Pack the car one weekend and head to a campsite and try sleeping under the stars.
11. Remember to stock up on cash before you head to an event, or you may be left with little choice but to use a cash machine that will charge you to withdraw your own money.
12. Get your timing right with flights. Booking indirect flights with longer stopovers can potentially mean cheaper airfares, and might offer a nice break to explore another destination for several hours on the way to your final stop.
13. Don't get caught out by card fees. Before going away, check any charges for using your card abroad. Some card apps even allow you to keep track of your spending and send you live updates on your balance - meaning you can stay on top of your finances wherever you are.
14. Keep a look out for restaurants and activities where kids can eat or enter for free - these offers often appear over the summer holidays.
15. Many families may prefer a summer staycation, which can really keep costs down. Avoid mealtime tantrums, and cut the cost, by taking your own packed lunches and snacks on day trips.
16. Make the outdoors your gym. Rather than paying gym fees, get into shape outdoors. Some public parks also have fitness equipment you can use for free. Or just get out on the bike or for a run or kick-about.
17. The cost of maintaining the garden can be expensive at this time of year. Look for local gardening groups where you can swap plants or buy them for a relatively low cost. You may also pick up some new plant care tips.
18. Save on transport costs by walking to work if you can.
19. If you're going away, consider putting your home on a holiday letting website, which could help you cover the cost of your vacation.
20. Want to see your favourite act or play but can't justify the ticket price? Look out for people looking to sell their tickets at the last minute. Occasionally, people may be happy to accept less than face value.
How to... save on beauty treatments by going homemade
Fancy a soothing beauty treatment to help get that summer glow? You could make some tasty savings by raiding your kitchen cupboard for inspiration, rather than forking out at a spa.
Darren Williams of Promotionalcodes.org.uk, says: "Many feel they need to book into a spa and shell out lots of cash for a bit of pamper and relaxation, but this simply isn't the case and everyone can unwind and show themselves some TLC with our great summer beauty treatment hacks."
Here's some of their suggestions:
1. Honey: Combine it with ground almonds for a cleansing face and body scrub or apply it on its own for a hydrating face mask. Some believe a few drops in a bath is also great for reducing inflammation.
2. Olive oil: Massaged into the hair and scalp, it can make a good conditioner, and applied sparingly onto the skin it makes a good softener. For dry hands and cuticles, mix with aloe vera for fast absorption.
3. Sugar: This sweet treat can be a great exfoliator. Use rough granulated sugar and mix with olive oil. Try mixing it with peppermint oil for a foot scrub.
4. Rice: Place rice in cold water for 20 minutes, mix thoroughly and then decant the water into a bottle. Soak a clean flannel in the bottled rice water and leave it on your face for 20 minutes. The leftover rice can be blended with water and used as a body scrub, add honey for a scrub with softening properties.
5. Porridge oats: Ground oats can be combined with granulated sugar and raw honey to make a face mask.
6. Mix eggs with banana, olive oil and avocado for a hydrating hair mask. Rinse with cold water at the end though (to avoid scrambled egg hair!).