“Savvy saver” mum shares tips to occupy kids on weekends without spending a penny

A ‘savy saver’ mum has revealed how she gives her family a summer to remember on a budget
Emma smiles for a photograph

A mum-of-two has revealed how she keeps her kids occupied on the weekends – without having to loosen her purse strings.

Emma Stretton, 37, a copywriter from Manchester, is a self-proclaimed “savvy saver” who shares her top tips on how to see your money go further – especially for fellow parents. 

As the summer holidays begin, families across the UK are gearing up for six weeks’ of fun, but for many parents, the cost of living crisis has left them with little to spend. 

Emma and her children play on the grass at a national trust garden.
Emma Stretton and her sons Barney and Seth enjoying a day out at a National Trust garden. Jam Press/@emma.wears.it.all

The mum-of-two previously hit headlines after sharing tips on eating out, supermarket shopping and how to keep your kids occupied while on a budget. 

Now, she’s revealed how to keep your wallet sealed – with “no spend weekends” including fakeaways, makeshift movie nights and classics, such as board games. 

“I’m just quite tight and I don’t like wasting money, so I just think of ways around having to spend it,” Emma told NeedToKnow.Online. 

“I’m also motivated by teaching my children you don’t have to spend money to have fun and that doing things together is more valuable. 

“[My inspiration draws] from being a kid and having to make my own fun a lot, as we only had four channels [on the television] and that was it. 

“I like encouraging my kids to be creative.” 

Here are Emma’s top tips: 


First off, treat Google as your best friend and set aside some time for research. 

Often, local parks will have free entry events lined up – especially during the warmer months and for sport fanatics, check the fixtures of your local team.

She said: “We go to the local cricket club on a Sunday and watch the local teams play, which costs nothing. 

“Going to the cricket or rugby club costs a lot less than it would be to go to an actual game, but [I find] pitching down the road with a little picnic is way more fun.

“There’s monthly makers markets in the town centre that we have a walk around and we don’t have to buy anything, it’s nice being out in the community. 

Emma's son plays on a swing set at a play park
One of Emma Stretton sons having fun at a park. Jam Press/@emma.wears.it.all

“If the kids have any pocket money saved up, they might get a cake or something similar.

“Going to a friend’s house for an hour or meeting at the park costs a lot less than a big night out would.”

Emma also recommends searching hashtags on social media such as #freefun or #freeactivites, as well as joining local groups for inspiration. 

However, she says the most fun activities usually derive from using your imagination and can also help teach kids how to be responsible.

She said: “Using a bit of imagination rather than going to big attractions is totally free and can be a lot more fun. 

“Tidying up after is annoying, but I get the kids to do that too, so they also learn responsibility. 

“Try to remember what you used to do [as a kid] and what you loved – whether it’s bike rides or monopoly.

“That makes it fun not just for your kids, but for you too.”


Emma's sons Barney and Seth toast marshmallows around a firepit
Emma Stretton’s sons Barney and Seth toasting marshmallows. Jam Press/@emma.wears.it.all

Using social media, the “savvy saver” follows multiple accounts which focus on keeping kids entertained by allowing them to use their creativity. 

While enabling them to have fun, this can also be educational – such as challenging them to use their thinking skills. 

Emma said: “You can freeze toys in a block of ice and challenge them to get them out. 

“You can play the ‘floor is lava’ using cushions and blankets, so you don’t step on the floor, or sticking masking tape to the floor and making a tape road. 

“Make face masks out of yoghurt and pretend you’re at a spa – it gets the kids to use their imagination and make some fun memories.” 


Classic weekend evenings are usually filled with a good television show and a delicious take away from your local. 

As food prices increase across the board, so have the local fish and chip shops’ – but Emma says you don’t need to miss out on this traditional treat. 

She said: “Doing a ‘no spend weekend’ means so takeaways, meals out or last minute trips to the shop for chocolate. 

“I’ll plan out some ‘fakeaways’ for the weekend and buy the ingredients in the weekly shop, as we’re more likely to stick to it when we already have things ready. 

“I’ll often take chicken or something out of the freezer, so it forces me to use it rather than let it go to waste.” 

Emma researches online for tasty replica recipes of her favourite takeaway dishes and says that buying ingredients from a cheap supermarket can make a saving of around £30. 

She said: “We give the kids coke floats and chicken nuggets and chips in a basket, so it’s a bit like being at a diner. 

“I’ll also stock up on sweets or popcorn and make a big sweet bowl, so we can eat that while watching a film.” 


It’s no question an evening filled with board games such as Monopoly or Cluedo is the secret to a great family night in. 

She believes taking a trip down memory lane with old music or films gives something for the whole family to enjoy – especially after the kids have gone to bed. 

Emma said: “One of the reasons I love ‘no spend weekends’ is because it makes us do things we used to do as kids. 

“We’ll get the board games out and play as a family. You can also play adult versions if you want to and make it more interesting later on.

“We watch a lot of old music videos on YouTube, as I love getting the boys into the music that we, and even our parents, loved when we were younger. 

“Just putting on music and dancing is the best way to kill half-an-hour.

“When the kids are in bed, we’ll see what we’ve got lying around and make some awful cocktails and watch an old DVD or something on the TV.” 

Before having children, the pair could “easily” spend £100 in one night if they were out with friends, with a further £30 for a simple trip to the cinema.

Emma's sons sit enjoying a picnic on the grass
Emma’s sons Barney and Seth enjoy a picnic. Jam Press/@emma.wears.it.all

Now, apart from the weekly food shop, Emma claims she can get through the weekend without spending a penny – besides giving the kids a pound for some sweets. 

She believes weekends are for spending time with friends and family – adding you don’t need money for quality time. 

Emma added: “Actually making the effort to do things [together] such as play games or dances means quality time. 

“I love weekends – I work hard during the week, so I can enjoy them. Especially if the weather is good, we can all get outside and just relax. 

“Having friends over is great, because the kids all play together and kicking a ball about costs nothing, while we get to have a catch up.

“The biggest advice is to not overthink it – make the most out of spending time together. 

“Use social media to find ideas, look for local events and try local sports clubs. 

“Plan meals in advance, so you’re not tempted and get the kids involved – ask them what ideas they have or what game they would like to play.

“Baking, hide and seek, dodgeball, karaoke competitions; things like that are all free and fun. 

“There’s a lot to be said for sitting around talking as well and a good movie marathon should not be underestimated.”

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