House swap your way to a free holiday: MISS MONEYSAVER helps you with the cost of living crunch 

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You really can holiday for free — or nearly free — if you’re willing to be a bit flexible. My favourite way is house-swapping. I’ve been doing it for years.

I’ve exchanged my home with other people’s in various countries in order to get a free holiday somewhere fun. It’s great because all you have to pay for is your travel and your food while you’re there. With some swaps (notably with Americans) you even get to use their car — or their boat!

Miss Moneysaver aka Jasmine Birtles said: I’ve exchanged my home with other people’s in various countries in order to get a free holiday somewhere fun

I’ve even made friends by house-swapping, particularly my friend Carolyn in Boston, in the U.S., who I swap with every year, and the lovely Bruce and Marie-Ellen in Paris, who have become such good friends that we regularly chat on the phone.

I’ve also stayed in touch with Anna in Croatia, whose parents swapped homes with me when she was a student in London. I’ve also done some lovely swaps with a woman in Barcelona who has a flat near the Sagrada Familia.

But you don’t have to travel abroad. Friends of mine did several swaps in the UK when their son was little through discussions started on the National Childbirth Trust forum —both families left behind their baby paraphenalia for each other so they had less to take with them (and of course, for UK trips you don’t have to pay for flights either).

I originally found all my swaps through a website called Home exchange.com, which costs £146 a year to join. Other house-swapping sites include the UK-based LoveHomeSwap.com, which charges from £7.60 to £11 per month and Homelink.org, which costs £115 for a year or £250 for three years. Once you’ve paid the joining fee, everything else is free.

You really can holiday for free if you’re willing to be a bit flexible via house-swapping

You really can holiday for free if you’re willing to be a bit flexible via house-swapping

But you do need to be careful. You are, after all, opening your home up to a stranger, so many regular house-swappers make sure they swap with people who already have a lot of good references from other families and lock away anything valuable.

It’s also helpful to have a phone call or, better, a video call before swapping, just to get to know each other better.

The websites mentioned above don’t have built-in insurance for swaps, so it’s a good idea to talk to your home insurer before you swap to make sure you’re covered while the other family is in your home, or if you need to take out extra cover. You need to be flexible too, as you may have to move your holiday dates to fit in with the family you’re swapping with.

When I was looking for someone to swap with in Boston, I approached a few different people and Carolyn came back to me saying that she would be happy to swap but couldn’t do the exact time I was asking for. However, she had a spare room so she offered that for me to stay in for my dates and then she would use my flat later in the year.

That worked for me. I stayed in her spare room, we got on really well, and when she came over later in the year I just booked another holiday elsewhere for that time so she had the whole flat to herself.

Not everyone can be that flexible, of course, so it doesn’t work for every holiday. And not everyone is entirely comfortable about having a stranger in their home. But to those who worry about someone rifling through their sock drawer, I tend to assume that people who swap homes are, like me, not interested in other people’s socks. They’re out on the town living it large instead!

Even if you really want to go away to a hotel or a resort, rather than stay in someone else’s home, you can effectively get it for free by renting out your home while you’re away, either through word-of-mouth with friends or by advertising on Airbnb.com — or OneFineStay.com if you have a posh place.

My friend Tira is doing that with her flat when she is swimming in Italy for three weeks in August. She put a call out to friends to bring in people to rent her place while she is away and she has managed to rent it out for two of the weeks she is on holiday. That’s covering most of her holiday expenses.

If you don’t have your own home to offer for a swap or to rent out, it’s worth looking at Couchsurfing.com. With Couchsurfing.com you can travel around the world sleeping for one or two nights at a time on someone’s couch or in their spare room for free. In return you will offer the same to travellers coming to your area.

Admittedly it tends to be more attractive to Gen Zers and Millennials than to older travellers but if you’re adventurous and open to new experiences it can be a fun option.

It doesn’t cost to join Couchsurfing.com but to get the most out of it, it’s a good idea to attend some of their events and meet Couchsurfers to find out more.

You can earn cash on Instagram at any age

It’s not just social-media loving celebrities such as the Kardashians who can make good money out of Instagram. People worldwide are making a living through the platform — or even running a business.

Some are selling products, others are being paid to review products or are sent freebies from brands to promote.

And, don’t think you have to be a youngster or computer whizz to make it work for you. It’s about creating attractive content and engaging with an audience.

Go to Instagram.com and set up your profile. Then start posting interesting, funny or informative pictures and videos — and keep in touch with people who comment on or like your posts.

Helen Ruth Elam van Winkle aka Queen of the Insta-grans has 3.3 million followers @baddiewinkle

Helen Ruth Elam van Winkle aka Queen of the Insta-grans has 3.3 million followers @baddiewinkle

Caroline Labouchere (@CarolineLabouchere), a 57-year-old mother-of-two, married to a former British Army officer, started modelling four years ago — now she has nearly 500,000 followers. She is in high demand from brands wanting her to advertise their products.

If you make items for sale, you can flog them via the Instagram Shop feature when you use the platform on your smartphone. All you need are good photos and a way for people to contact you through the platform.

UK-based business Positive Bakes company (@Positivebakes) sells its cakes this way.

There’s also a growing band of ‘Insta-grans’ who are courted by big brands.

Queen of the Insta-grans is American Helen Ruth Elam van Winkle, aka @baddiewinkle. Born in 1928, she has 3.3 million followers.

While you’re there, give me a follow at @JasmineBirtles and @MoneyMagpie!

Children can eat for £1 on family trips this summer 

Want a family meal out that won’t break the bank? From Monday to Wednesday next week, kids can eat for £1 at Toby Carvery, Harvester and Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery, when bought alongside an adult main meal. Download the restaurant’s app and save your voucher.

At Yo! Sushi, children under ten can get a free meal from Monday to Thursday between 3-5.30pm if an adult spends at least £10.

Monday to Wednesday next week, kids can eat for £1 at Toby Carvery, Harvester and Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery

Monday to Wednesday next week, kids can eat for £1 at Toby Carvery, Harvester and Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery

If you buy breakfast at any Beefeater, TableTable or Brewers Fayre in the school holidays, under-16s get one for free.

UntiL September 3, kids can get a hot meal from the children’s menu, plus jelly, a soft drink and fruit from between 95p and £1.50 at IKEA.

Bella Italia is offering three-course meals for children up to age 11 for £1 between 4-6pm, Monday-Thursday, when diners buy at least one adult meal.

The Pausa café at Dunelm stores across the UK is offering free meals for children through the summer, with one kids’ meal for every £4 spent there.

Klass is a UK-based women’s fashion retailer which has been designing and producing all its products for more than 35 years, offering affordable style. Now you can get 20 per cent off the brand, plus free delivery, with the code SUMMER20. Go to: klass.co.uk 

The summer holidays can be tough for working parents. But the Government is providing a 20 per cent top-up to pay for holiday clubs, childminders or nurseries to those with Tax-Free Childcare accounts. For every £8 paid in, families will receive an additional £2. Get £2,000 per year by registering at gov.uk/tax-free-childcare for kids aged up to 11 (or 17 if they are disabled). 

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