Expensive holidays, childcare and days out can all add up to a costly summer, so when we wanted advice about how to get thrifty with our cash, there was only one man TV Times magazine wanted to call.

Martin Lewis has become a household name thanks to his tireless efforts to get us all spending less and saving more. A regular on ITV1’s Daybreak, his tips and advice are followed by the 10 million users who visit his website www.moneysavingexpert.com every month.

“I think the biggest problem is that people don’t see saving money as a job of work, which it really is,” says Martin, 39. “So I would suggest that the best way to save money is to take a day off work, and go through every single thing you spend on to see where you can save.

“At work, you’ll get paid 200 pounds a day if you’re lucky, but you could possibly save thousands of pounds just making sure you’re getting the best deal on everything out there.

“There are so many things you can save money on – whether it’s childcare or going to theme parks – and so the big lesson from me is that with a little bit of research and interrogation, you can often massively cut your costs on virtually everything without it impacting your lifestyle.”

Before we ask Martin to reveal the season’s must-have money-saving hints and tips, we can’t resist asking him about his own spending habits…

“I do love using a voucher,” laughs Martin. “I use them reasonably regularly, and if there’s a restaurant which I know has a voucher deal, and I haven’t got one with me, I won’t go in even if I want to. It’s not just because of the voucher, but because I know there will be loads of money savers in there and if they saw me without a voucher then it would kill my reputation!”

And with that, Martin gets down to business and tells us what we should – and shouldn’t – be doing this summer…

Holidays

Do some planning before you go; see if you can buy excursion tickets online for less, and consider a solution where you aren’t eating out a lot, either self-catering where you make your own, or full board

If you’re travelling anywhere in the European Union or Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Norway, ensure you’ve got the official European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is a cross-European government scheme that gets you free or discounted treatment in any state-run hospitals; if you’ve got it you’re treated like a local. It’s completely free to get; fill in a form at either www.ehic.org.uk, or telephone 0845 606 2030.

Never swap your money for foreign currency at the airport, else you’ll be stiffed. When you’re there, they know they’ve got your captive custom, so the rate you get is much worse. If you’re after the speed and ease of an airport collection, simply order it online at a much juicier rate, and arrange to pick it up at the airport.

For travel insurance, there’s a comparison of the best value deals at www.moneysavingexpert.com/travelinsurance. If you can’t get to the internet, then steer clear of travel agents’ policies. Even those sold in many supermarkets tend to be much cheaper.

Childcare

Lots of schools offer summer activities for kids which tend to be free or discounted. And one of the important things to know is it doesn’t have to be your child’s school so it’s worth checking around the area for things like street art or archery, as they’re a very efficient way of making sure that your children are properly supervised, but are having a bit of fun at the same time. If you’re paying for them, they are usually eligible for tax credits and childcare vouchers.

People tend to think that childcare tax credits are just for babies, but in many circumstances, if you’re paying for childcare, you’ll still be eligible for child credits up to the age of 15. So the rule I always give is that if you’re a single parent working more than 16 hours a week or are a couple both working more than 16 hours a week and you earn under £42,000 in total, then you may be eligible for childcare tax credits – even if you only pay for childcare over the summer.

Also, if you’re paying for childcare, then check whether your company has a childcare voucher scheme. This enables you to pay for childcare from pre-tax income, which effectively means you can get £1,000 worth of childcare for £700. So big savings to be had. But you can only do this if your employer offers it, and it might have an impact on the amount of tax credits you have, so it’s important to check if it’s still worth it.

Taking your kids to a theme park can cost a fortune, often tickets are £36-£38 so if four of you go, you’re talking well over £150 once you include all the food and stuff you buy when you’re there. The golden rule is that you should virtually never be paying full price to go to a theme park. There are almost always 2 for 1 deals available which drastically reduce the cost, and there’s a full list at www.moneysavingexpert.com/themeparks

Home

Also, if you’re over 60, you can get a free B&Q Diamond Card which entitles you to 10% off in store on Wednesdays.

This summer, if you’re thinking about doing some DIY, you can get some big discounts with store loyalty cards. The Ikea Family card is free and gets you 25 per cent off family products, as well as free tea and coffee in Ikea restaurants during the week.

Amazon.co.uk’s hidden discount finder tool on my website enables you to find massive discounts of up to 99 per cent on DIY and tools. Prices do vary, so always compare prices before you buy, but this is a simple and easy way to get hold of the biggest home, garden and DIY discounts in a single click.

Food shopping

With a few focused techniques, you can have thousands of pounds annually on supermarket shopping. You can typically save about £800 a year with ‘the downshift technique’. I’m not saying you should buy no-frills everything, but the aim is to change only where you can’t tell the difference. So if you usually buy four cans of Tesco’s own-brand baked beans, this time buy three and one from the Value range.

Every day there are bargains to be had in the supermarket. Huge reductions are made on items that are near their sell-by-dates, and although reduction times vary, generally supermarkets cut prices by 75 per cent and upwards at around 7pm, so this is a great time to do the weekly shop and make big savings.

There’s no easier way to waste cash than by regularly throwing out old food that you never used. Staggeringly, the average UK home chucks away £600 worth a year, but by planning what you need before heading out, it’s easier to cut out everything that goes over budget.

It should stop those unnecessary small extra trips to ‘grab some margarine’, which end up costing £20 a time, as you can’t resist buying more. And remember to always ask yourself three key questions first – Do I need it? Will I use it? And can I find it cheaper anywhere else?