For parents on a budget, summer camp can seem out of reach cost-wise, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to save money on summer camp and still make sure that your kids have a safe, green and fun summer camp experience.
Sign up ASAP: Most summer camps start in June and the sooner you sign up, the better. Sometimes summer camps give deals to families who sign up early. My son’s summer camp usually reduces camp costs by $25 per week if you sign up just two weeks in advance.
Join your local community center: The summer camp my son attends is associated with a local community center. Even with the cost of joining the center figured in, we still save money as members get a sweet discount on spring break and summer camps and other activities.
Score a group deal: If you’ve got more than one kiddo, see if you can get a discount price by signing up more than one child. If you’re the parent of a singleton, see if the camp will give you a discount if you get some of your kid’s friends to sign up. Summer camps want attendees, so it’s worth asking.
Offer some of your time: Some camps offer parent volunteer programs, and will lower your child’s attendance costs if you volunteer. Usually this means a few hours per week.
Score a scholarship or other financial deal: Almost all summer camps I’ve run across offer partial or total scholarships and other financial assistance for families. You don’t have to be dirt poor to qualify either – I’d say I’m mid-wage and Cedar has still qualified for some summer camp discount programs. You should start looking early because some camps have limited scholarships available. Make sure you ask if the camp participates in income-eligible subsidy programs such as through Title XX.
Consider day camp: When summer camp comes to mind, some parents only consider overnight camps, but there are tons of great day camps that work with parent work work schedules and can save you money as your child is there less.
Use your flex account: You may be able to use a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account to pay for camp.
Pack a bagged lunch: Some camps offer meal plans but one, they’re rarely perfect nutritionally or organic wise, and two they’re costly, so you’re better off sending a nice green reusable lunchbox. This saves on trash and costs.
Shop around: You can shop the major brands of camps through a site like through the The American Camp Association or check out these green summer camp resources. You also might be able to find a less expensive camp by first checking with your child’s school, the local community centers, your local park & rec association, or your local YMCA.
Tax savings: Summer camp is a tax write off if you need your child to attend in order to work or search for employment. I saved a decent amount on my taxes this year by writing off last summer’s camp costs. If you’re planning on writing camp off on your taxes, save your payment receipts and also get the camp’s tax id number – you’ll need it come tax time.
Don’t be so picky: YES the greener the better (I always say) but keep in mind that most summer camps are intrinsically green by nature. Just because a camp doesn’t advertise as eco-friendly, doesn’t mean it’s not. Choose a camp that offers plenty of outside time and has basic green policies in place – i.e. recycling bins, use of reusable water bottles, etc.