Summer camps are an amazing opportunity for kids to develop new skills and socialize with a new groups of friends during the warmer months. And, let’s be honest: camps are also important for parents who need a caregiving break! If you’re interested in summer camp but concerned about the expenses, read on.
Understand the Costs
The first step to budgeting for summer camp is to understand the costs. Sleepaway camp usually includes room and board, but check if there are additional fees for certain meals or sports, or if children are expected to bring along some spending money. For day camps, be sure to ask what meals or snacks are included in the cost, and if kids need to provide their own sports equipment or other supplies.
It’s a good bet that before the first day of summer camp, your child will think of at least one thing (or ten) they need to buy. Keep costs in check with smart shopping habits. Always check secondhand stores before buying anything new, and take advantage of seasonal garage sales, where summer camp essentials like sunglasses, overnight bags and baseball caps can often be purchased for pocket change.
Budget as a Family
Financial planning for summer camp is a great opportunity to get kids involved in the budgeting process. Sit down as a family and talk about what camp costs and what those numbers mean for the family. If it’s a stretch, be honest about the financials without making kids feel guilty for wanting to have the camp experience. Budgeting together should feel like a team sport: ask kids for ideas on how the family can save money, such as cooking at home or running errands via bike rather than car.
Find Low-Cost Camps
Summer camp doesn’t have to clear your bank account. Look for low-cost or free activities through the library, parks department, local swimming pools, and other community organizations. Another great option in Boston and Cambridge is the Phillips Brooks House Association, which offers Summer Urban Programs (SUPs) for kids and teens, including a variety of field trips, camping, and classroom-based activities.
Ask About Scholarships
The upfront cost of a summer camp isn’t necessarily what you need to pay. Some camps offer scholarships or tuition reductions depending on economic need, or you may be able to arrange an installment payment plan that frees you from the impact of a lump-sum payment. It might even possible to negotiate the price of summer camp – but you never know until you ask!
Some summer camps offer free or discounted rates to campers whose parents volunteer at camp. Check out options in your area and don’t be discouraged just because you don’t have any direct experience working at a summer camp before. If you can lead kids in a sport or craft activity, or if you’re able to support cooking, cleaning or administrative staff, there just might be a role for you.
Consider a Personal Loan
If you’re concerned about summer camp expenses and considering borrowing money to pay for it, look into the possibility of a personal loan. Personal loans are traditionally used to cover one-time expenses – such as camp tuition – and the interest rate on a personal loan is often less than what you’d get with a credit card, which will help to lower your overall costs.
Start Saving for Next Year
Once you’ve covered summer camp for this year – it’s time to start thinking long-term! Opening a dedicated account for summer camp savings could be a good way for you and your child to keep saving throughout the year. If camp is a priority, they might prefer for birthday money to go straight toward their summer camp savings account, so that next year it will be a little easier to afford camp.