Summer is just around the corner, and with Summer can come extra expenses while the kids are out of school. Summer camp isn’t just a fun way for kids to pass the summer days. It’s also a necessity for many families with parents who need to be at work and young children who can’t stay home on their own.
For working families, the price of summer care can be eye popping. Residential camps where kids sleep over can cost between $630 and more than $2,000 a week, according to the American Camp Association. For day camps, tuition can run from $199 to $800 per week. When summer breaks stretch for two to three months, that can add up to a lot of money.
If you’re looking to cut costs, here are five
ways to make summer camp more affordable—but still fun—for your family.
Find Affordable Options Locally
That might be easier said than done, but if
you know where to look, you may find cheap or even free camps in your backyard.
Here’s where to look:
- Municipal parks and recreation departments:
Your town or city parks department should be your first stop for affordable
camps. Many have working parents in mind when they keep their costs low. That
includes Raleigh, N.C., where weekly
full-day summer camps start at just $34. Memphis, Tenn., offered free camp to kids in summer 2018.
And St. Louis offers free summer camps
for kids. And these are just examples. Check in with with a parks department
near you to find out what’s offered.
- School districts: Like parks departments, some
school districts also offer free and affordable options for students during the
summer. Before school ends for the year, ask at your children’s schools to find
out if anything is offered.
- Churches: Across the country, churches plan
Vacation Bible Schools, offering free programming for kids. Check with churches
in your neighborhood to find one scheduled near you or go to LifeWay Kids for an online database
of VBS programs.
- Nonprofits: Groups like the Salvation Army,
Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA work to keep fees low, so all kids have a place
to grow, learn and play during the summer.
Some camps will offer discounts if you sign up
early or send multiple children. Museums, for example, might cut the cost for
members of its organization. According to the American Camp Association, 75
percent of camps offer deals that add up to more than $1,000 in discounts each
Most nonprofit or government-run camps will offer
scholarships to families in need. The camp association reports that more
than 93 percent of camps offer some kind of financial assistance, and nearly 70
percent of camps award $10,000 or more in scholarships each year. The
association recommends that you should ask about scholarships even if you think
you may earn too much because you may qualify for assistance.
forget the Dependent Care FSA
Some employers offer their employees access to
a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account.
With it, you can divert part of your pre-tax salary to the account to cover the
costs of child care, including summer camps.
By using those pre-tax dollars, you can
generally save about 30 percent on any eligible expenses. There are limits to
how much you can put in the account, but, over the course of the summer, the
FSA could save you a good chunk of change.
out friends and family
Fellow parents who have been there, done that
already with their own kids may be a wealth of information about affordable
summer camps in the area for yours. A neighbor who stays at home with her
children all year might be up for watching yours during a summer for a more
affordable fee than a formal camp. And Grandma may be more than willing to host
your kids for a week or two during the summer to help cut camp costs.
Not every option will work for every family. But even one can help to dramatically reduce the cost of summer care—and ensure both parents and kids have happy and productive summers.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.