Pocket money: This is the summer of small treats and big ideas

  • @lisamarkwell

I have been trying to concentrate. Really, really concentrate on the financial news, but life keeps getting in the way. Yesterday's news that RBS is on the slide occupied my brain for some minutes, but then my tooth cracked into my muesli and now I'm looking at a £400 bill for a crown. It's difficult to think about the big picture when the close-up is so distracting...

The long cool summer is lurching on, and as a working mum who's juggling in a distinctly amateur way, the easiest solution is to throw money at the problem.

But my kids aren't old enough to go out and entertain themselves all day. So it's a case of playing catch-up with the stuff that other mothers did ages ago – find some free/cheap activities.

Luckily the football camp in the local park still had space on Monday, when my 12-year-old son was reluctantly pushed out of bed, into his shorts and down the road – £40 for five days, 10am till 3pm, taken care of. What a relief. He even started enjoying it when he got the Player of the Day medal on Wednesday.

The tiddler would be happy to sit in front of a flickering screen from 9am to 9pm, but even a failing supermum can't condone that. Instead, praise be for Sky+ (without which my life would be a bleak, bleak place), I've been storing up suitable programmes and films to drop in at appropriate moments.

These are a) when my husband, who is on home duty, is losing the will to live after explaining the rules of Rummikub for the 11th time, b) when the children have tidied their rooms, using TV as a bribe or c) when it's actually bedtime, but they've been good all day and I want to lie on my bed and watch The Sopranos on the laptop.

Going to the cinema is just not an option: the older one is desperate to see The Dark Knight, which, for reasons rehearsed just about everywhere, is not suitable for the younger one.

The older one (and his father) would rather die than watch Mamma Mia!, which I see as reasonable family fare. Plus, any cinema outing (since I got frisked at the local multiplex and had my home-made picnic confiscated) is an expensive business. Popcorn, pop, pick'n'mix, plus tickets and parking. Oh, the horror. Much better (isn't it, kids?) to stay at home bundled up with The Great Escape and some Hula Hoops.

All this screen entertainment serves to distract me further from my, and the world's, finances. I just received an email from my bank telling me I could opt for faster payments, so that my credit card company, etc, could get my money faster. Now, why would I want to do that? Can't see the benefit, and I am irked by something that suits everyone but me being dressed up as a "service". Delete.

Also tossed aside are those hopeful first mail-order catalogues, brimming with tweedy jackets and knee-length boots. No thank you, not until after August. I know fashion magazines burble on about smart shoppers buying "key pieces" when they first go on sale, but purleeze.

I've sated my fashion cravings with an outlet shop outing, and discovered a box full of shoes I'd forgotten about (while tidying my room, trying to set an example...). So me and fashion, we're through. At least until my next mortgage payment goes through, that is.

No, this is the summer of small treats and big ideas. The youngest seems to have come on board, as of just now. She had been clamouring for a new toy, a "baby that swims" as she said wistfully. But after a brisk walk to the park with her father, she's returned with an abandoned double buggy and a new zest for life as the mother of twins (Jojo and Annabel, rescued from the back of the toy cupboard).

Whether it's the influence of my penny pinching, or Angelina and Brad in the press, who cares? It's free entertainment for her, and for me, listening to the woes of the financial institutions on Radio 4.