In the Era of the Summer Slide Local Educational Weigh In On This Highly Debated Subject
BY HAILEY HUDSON APRIL 2019
Sending the kids to summer camp is never a bad idea—they’ll have a blast, and Mom and Dad can get a break. But summer camps are expensive. According to Camp Champions, day camps charge $100 to $300 per week, while overnight camps start at $300 a week and can go up as high as $2,000. That’s a pretty big chunk of cash, especially if your child has his or her eye on a few different camps. But it’s entirely possible to find scholarships, discounts, and other methods of getting around that too-high dollar number. Here are a few ways you can cut the cost of summer camp.
Even though it feels like we’re nowhere close to summer, it will be here before we know it, and many camps sell out fast—meaning you have to secure your child’s tuition early. Plus, quite a few camps don’t accept credit cards, making it even more important to save money now. Get a general idea of how expensive your preferred summer camps are and then start saving now by putting away a small amount of money each month. Even better, many camps have early-bird discounts; register your child in February, March, or April (depending on the camp) and camps will knock a certain percentage off of the price. Recruit some friends and family members to go to camp, too—many camps offer sibling discounts for families who register multiple children, and if your child goes to camp with friends, you can carpool to save gas money.
Look for prices with perks
Does the price of a certain camp include lunch and snacks, or is that an additional cost? Does it include accommodation (or transportation if it’s a day camp)? What about freebies like T-shirts? Look for a summer camp that has as many inclusions as possible. Yes, the price may be higher to begin with, but you’re saving money in other areas—and what parent doesn’t need a break from packing lunch in the summer? The Otis Music Camp (pictured above), put on by the Otis Redding Foundation, is a good example of a camp with perks. “The camp fee is $350 and includes two weeks of artistic music programming with over 30 professional musicians, lunch, snacks and beverages, camp T-shirt, and finished CD,” says Leila Regan-Porter, executive assistant at the Otis Redding Foundation. The only thing the $350 cost doesn’t cover is overnight accommodations (camp is scheduled for June 3-14 at Mercer University). Finding a camp like this one, that includes several extra costs in the main tuition price, can save you money in the long run.
According to Ann Sheets, former national president of the American Camp Association, about 90% of resident camps and 89% of day camps offer scholarships (Camp Champions). Don’t be afraid to ask if a certain camp offers scholarships.
Camp staff members are friendly, kind, and want every child to have a fabulous summer camp experience. Some scholarships are meant for low-income families; be prepared to provide paperwork that’s relevant to the scholarship you’re considering, such as your 1040. For example, the Otis Music Camp offers “a limited number of full scholarships with application criteria” (applications available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org).
Rachel Foster of Macon’s Sportz Quest gym advises parents to jump on top of scholarships as fast as possible. “It is possible to find great prices for great programs—some receive funding from non-profit organizations or government grants,” she says. “Even private organizations will occasionally have special offers. If you find one of these excellent opportunities, take advantage of it. High quality opportunities typically have limited space, and they fill up quickly.” Keep in mind that you might also get a small scholarship or discount by referring a friend or signing up for next summer’s camp at the end of this summer.
Claim a tax credit
According to Consumer Reports, you can claim a tax credit for day camp if you and your spouse are working, attending school, or looking for a job during camp—which means you need childcare. This credit can save you almost 35% of the cost of camp (up to $3,000 for one child or $6,000 for multiple children). If you qualify, a tax credit can be a very helpful way to save money on summer camp.
Have kids raise the money
If your children are set on going to camp but you’re really struggling financially, let them raise the money themselves. Children can have bake sales, clean out their toys and sell the ones that are in good condition, or sell T-shirts; older kids could wash cars, babysit, or mow lawns for your neighbors. Let your children use their creativity to figure out a way to get the funds they need. They’ll enjoy summer camp much more if they paid for it themselves and worked hard to get there.
Only buy the necessities
Sunscreen and bug spray are necessities for any outdoor camp. But three new bathing suits plus a whole backpack full of toys for free time? Your child can probably live without those. Ask their camp for a supply list that’s divided into “required” and “recommended” supplies so you can get a better idea of what’s truly necessary and where you can cut the cost.
Sometimes, you just have to pay the price
The higher the price, the better the camp? It might be true. Remember, the price of a summer camp reflects the hard work that many people have put in to make it happen. “There are many costs associated with developing a high quality program—staff training, curriculum development, facility maintenance, just to name a few,” says Foster of Sportz Quest. “Tuition typically reflects these costs. Be on the lookout for money saving opportunities, but consider tuition costs an investment in your child. And don’t let price be the primary decision maker.” Don’t be afraid to splurge in the summer and send your child to a really fantastic summer camp, even if it’s a little over budget. The memories your child makes and the lessons they learn at camp will last a lifetime, and ultimately, summer camp will pay for itself several times over. #