You Can Afford Summer Camp

Sending your kids to an eco-friendly summer camp is a great way to encourage your child’s love of nature and of course it’s a fun experience. Kids should be running wild not parking it on the couch all summer.

Also, summer camp is often a necessary for working parents but for parents on a budget, summer camp can seem out of reach. Trust me I know. For years I’ve been a single mama and believe it or not, writers don’t always make that much money. Since I work at home, it’s also not useful to have Cedar running around here bored and nutty while I try to work – so summer camp it is. But it is expensive.

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Luckily, there are some ways to save money on summer camp and still make sure that your kids have a safe, green and fun summer camp experience. I’ve used some of these techniques below the last few summers so that Cedar could go to camp and hopefully one or more of these ideas can help your family too.

Sign up NOW: Now is actually cutting it close. Most camps start in June and the sooner you sign up, the better. Camps often give deals to families who sign on early. In fact one of my son’s camps takes $25 off per week if you sign up just two weeks early.

Score a group deal: If you’ve got more than one kiddo, see if you can get a discount price. Most camps offer this deal. If you’re the parent of a singleton, see if the camp will give you a discount if you get some pals to sign up their kids as well. The camps want attendees, so it’s worth asking.

Offer some of your time: Many camps offer parent volunteer programs, and some 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: Many camps offer partial or total scholarships and other financial assistance for families. Camps really do want kids to attend and they’ll help you out in order to make that happen. 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 of these 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: Many parents think about overnight camps, but there are tons of great day camps that work with parent 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. Visit the FSA Feds Web site for more information.

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.

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Shop around: Even if you’re looking for an eco-friendly camp you should shop around. More camps are green-friendly then you might think. You can shop the major brands of camps through a site like through the The American Camp Association or check out the green summer camp resources I posted previously. 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 idea 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.

Is your child headed to camp this summer? Are you worried about the costs?

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