If you’ve got kids and also have a job that requires you to work during the day then it’s smart to start planning for summer camp asap. Summer will be here before you know it, and often the best way to get a good deal is to start the search early.
For parents on a major budget summer camp can seem out of reach which is made worse by the fact that it’s often a necessity, not a luxury. Young kids can’t go it alone during the summer. However, there are some decent ways to locate a less expensive camp or fix it so you have to pay less for camp.
Consider a group deal: Group deals are often far more affordable. For example, talk to your neighbors and friends and see if everyone can agree on a camp. If so, you may be able to register for an early group discount.
Send all siblings to the same camp. Some camps vary by age. If you have more than one child, try to find a camp that caters to all age groups so you can possibly score a sibling discount.
Always shop around and compare prices. Like anything, summer camps vary widely in cost. Make sure you shop around to find the best deal.
Day camps are best for families on a budget. While many people consider ‘real’ camp sleep-away camp, day camps are also a viable option and cost far less because your child is there less.
Volunteer. Many camps offer parent volunteer programs that come with discounts in exchange for just a few hours of volunteering per week. Some will even allow another adult (like a grandparent) to volunteer instead of a parent if your work schedule is impossible.
Check with your local school. Many schools offer summer programs, even for kids who don’t actually attend said school. In my experience school camp programs almost always cost less than traditional camp programs.
The American Camp Association notes that there is a camp for every child and every budget. They offer the following money saving tips…
- Camps offer special discounts—for everything from early registration, full-season, or multiple enrollments from one family.
- Many camps offer “camperships”—partial or total scholarships and financial assistance. Parents shouldn’t assume their income doesn’t qualify.
- Parents should inquire into whether the camp participates in income-eligible subsidy programs, for instance through Title XX.
- A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account allows parents to be reimbursed on a pre-tax basis for child care or adult dependent care expenses for qualified dependents that are necessary to allow parents to work, look for work, or to attend school full time. Visit the FSA Feds Web site for more information.
- In certain circumstances, day care expenses, including transportation by a care provider, may be considered dependent care services and paid with pre-tax dollars. Visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for more information.
- Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit: The IRS allows an income tax credit of up to $6,000 of dependent care expenses if you have two or more dependents (up to $3,000 for one dependent). The amount of the credit is based on your adjusted gross income and applies only to your federal taxes. This applies to qualifying day camp expenses as well. Visit the FSA Feds Web site for more information.