- Many working parents rely on summer camps for childcare.
- If you're enrolling your kids in camp, it pays to see if you can trim your costs.
Get ready to spend less to keep your kids busy.
There's a reason I put money into my savings account every month during the year to pay for summer camp. The cost of keeping my kids busy all summer long is downright astronomical.
And before you assume that summer camp is a luxury I can technically skip, let's get one thing out of the way. When you and your spouse/partner work full-time and you have no family in town to unload your kids on, camp becomes a necessity. Just as school serves as childcare for me during the year, sending my children to camp is how I'm able to continue working full-time during the summer.
Of course, some people don't need to send their kids to camp for childcare purposes. However, they do it for the sake of maintaining their sanity. And there's nothing wrong with that.
In fact, I have friends who work countless hours during the year as teachers, and once summer comes around, they need some time to decompress. As such, these friends commonly enroll their kids in camp to get a much-needed break, all the while sparing their kids the boredom of being stuck at home with their parents for weeks on end.
But no matter what camp you choose, chances are, it's going to be expensive. That's why it pays to take these steps to save along the way.
1. Only pay for the weeks you need
Is summertime when your family typically takes a vacation? Your local camp programs might run for eight weeks to fill the gap between school semesters. But if you know you'll be traveling for two of those weeks, see if it's possible to only enroll your kids for six. Some camps offer that flexibility, so it's definitely worth asking.
2. Score a sibling discount
Your kids might want some space from each other during the summer. But many camps offer a discount for enrolling more than one child, so it pays to take advantage of whatever sibling discounts you're eligible for.
3. See if there's a discount for driving your kids instead of busing
Most of the camps in my area don't charge extra for busing. Instead, they bake that cost into their regular rate. But if you volunteer to drive your children to camp, you might snag a nice discount on your tuition costs.
That's a strategy a friend of mine employs. Since she only works part-time, she's able to drive the 30 minutes each way to shuttle her kids to camp rather than put them on the bus. And while she spends some money on gas in the process, she comes out ahead financially with a $500 discount per kid.
Of course, you'll need to factor in the cost of higher gas prices, as well as your time, when making that decision. And then there's the fun factor, too. Kids tend to like riding the camp bus, whereas Mom's minivan may be less thrilling. But if you stand to save money at the end of the day, it's worth doing the driving -- even if your kids moan about it.
There's no question that summer camp is a huge expense, and for some families, it really is a necessity. But it may be possible to save yourself some money in the course of enrolling your kids to ease the financial burden of summer camp.
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