How To Run A Residential On The Cheap

So you want to take your young people away but don’t have much money to spend on it. Great! Because this article was written for you. Here is how you can slash your budget on your residential (or in the language of today’s government; make efficiency savings on your residential).


A classy residential centre can easily be £100 for a weekend per person. Sure you get nice beds and decent food for that price but that’s a lot of money. You know where else you can stay for a weekend? A church hall, a friend’s house (it’s amazing how many young people can fit in a house) or a field (tents required). This very evening there is a youth group staying over in our building and it’s not costing them anything.

If you do stay somewhere like this, you need to check there’s enough room to cook and eat with your young people and you need to make sure there’s space to hang out, either inside or outside. You’ll need to also make sure there’s enough sleeping bags and roll mats, and sort out risk assessments and fire regulations.


If you’re not going to a big centre, you’re probably going to have to self-cater and that can be costly (especially if you have to take away extra leaders to cook) and a hassle. I work off £2.50 a meal a person for a reasonably generous figure. You can drive it down quite a bit if you’re willing to take time and be clever. You can save money and a lot of effort on the weekend by bringing pre-cooked food with you on the Friday night, like a lasagne or pasta bake, and just shoving it in the oven when you arrive. That’s no effort cooking (at least not on the weekend) and can be made cheaply. It maybe that someone at your church can do that for you before you go off.

Also, see if someone will invite you round to lunch on Sunday. On the last weekend away we did we went to a local church on Sunday and friends had us all round for sausage rolls.

Finally, if you’re feeling lazy and can stretch to it, consider going to the chip ship on Saturday night. Sausage and chips from a chip shop is one of the cheapest take-away meals around and fills you up. And the washing up involves shoving everything in a bin and hoping the church hall won’t still smell of chips by the time of the Sunday service.


Travelling places costs money. And unless you decide to do a stay at home residential you’ve got to go somewhere. If you can get hold of a minibus and have someone who can legally drive the bus then these are really efficient once you get over eight or nine people. Back of the paper maths from the last few weekends away we’ve done and you’re talking £50 to take a 17 seater bus 300 odd miles. Just make sure if you borrow a bus from another organisation they’re allowed to lend it to other people (on our standard insurance, we’ve had to pay slightly more so we can lend our bus to other charities).

If you can’t get hold of a bus or can’t find a driver (or coaches cost too much) consider a train. This won’t work on a Friday night, but if you can travel in the day time in half-terms or school holidays you can often get quite good deals. Of course, managing all your stuff and young people on a train’s not so easy.

Finally, consider asking the young people to get themselves to the residential centre. If parents can drop off young people at your residential site, that’s something you’re not paying for.


Don’t do any that cost anything is the obvious answer. Running round in the woods and playing capture the flag is free. Going on a scavenger hunt is free. Playing ridiculous long games of Mafia is free. Getting the young people to bring their nerf guns and playing Nerf Gun capture the flag is free (if they have Nerf guns). Watching films (if you have a way of making that happen) is free. Uno, board games, card games, Lego, all things that don’t cost money if you have the equipment already. Making sandcastles at the beach, taking long walks, playing sports are also free.

You could also considering challenging a local youth group to a sport or activity if you need to boost numbers for some games. We’ve challenged other young people to football matches, to capture the flag, to dinner (alright, that wasn’t a competition). Makes for more excitement, with out any extra cost.

There are also cheap activities that you can do if you want something more elaborate. Local leisure centres are often quite cheap if you’re near one and want to go swimming or hire a sports hall. We took our boys to watch a football match between two clubs in the East Midlands Counties League (level ten in the English football system, only a decade of back-to-back promotions and they’re in the Premier League!). It was one the of the most enjoyable games of football I’ve ever seen and cost £25 for 8 of us to watch it.

Staffing, Administration, and Overheads

You might well not think of this as a cost, after all, you’re probably not getting paid more money to do a weekend away. Neither is your administrator getting a bonus for sorting out all the reciepts for the weekend away. Likewise, you’ve got to pay for the M.O.T. for your minibus whether you go away on a weekend or not. But these are costs of doing a weekend away, and the money’s got to come from somewhere. If you are applying to a charitable fund for money to cover the costs of a residential, consider including these costs as well. This is called full cost recovery and something most charitable funders will and should expect.