Whether we like it or not, summer is right around the corner. Our kids can hardly wait for it to be here. But as parents, we think about summer break from a slightly different perspective.
Since most of us still have to work for the majority of the summer, we are starting to try and figure out what to do with our kids while they are out for the summer. This is where summer camps come into play!
Summer camps can also get pretty pricey these days. So finding summer camps on a budget, can be a second job in and of itself. I have found some great tricks to getting great summer camps, without killing my budget.
The first part of the equation to think about is:
How many weeks you will need them in camp over the summer?
For me, every year ends up being completely different. That is due to what I am been doing for work at the time, and how flexible my schedule will be.
The first few years after my divorce, I needed my kids in camps every other week while I worked.
Luckily, I was able to work it out with my parents so that they would take them during the day for one week during the summer. They did this so that they could spend some more bonding time with them. The side effect was that it helped me work, without having to pay for camp for the kids.
If you are going to need childcare for your kids all summer, then this is the first option I would look at. While it is possible to get in summer camps on a budget, nothing beats free. Especially if it means more bonding time for your kids with their family.
The second part of the equation is:
- how much you make in a week and
- how much camp will cost you?
Does it work out financially to send them to camp? If it doesn’t, and you can work it out to take a week or two off, then do it. If it is close, then you may be eligible for financial assistance. This is what saved me!
Scholarships can really be a blessing for a lot of parents. I have found that most summer camp programs funded by the city or county, have scholarship options. These are all needs based, so you will have to apply for the benefits through the program directly.
I have used three different programs in my area to help cut costs on summer camps. One is through the city of Raleigh, but the other two are not. These programs are:
Raleigh Parks and Rec has a ton of different summer camp options, and are usually a bit lower cost, to begin with than the other two programs. So, I usually start with them as a jumping off point.
All three programs have scholarship options, though. So if you find a higher cost summer camp, that you know would be great for your child, don’t hesitate to fill out the scholarship application to see if you qualify.
An example of how much the Raleigh Parks and Rec Summer camps cost me is:
- $60 – $75 a week per kid – I have to pack their lunches and provide two snacks and a water bottle
- $10 a week per kid, is what it really cost me with the scholarship!
The YMCA summer camps usually run at about $222 per week per child. This is definitely NOT in my budget, even now. Therefore, I can apply for their financial assistance and then the price becomes:
- $17 a week per kid – I also pack their lunches, provide two snacks, a water bottle and their swimsuits and towel
The NC Museum of Natural Sciences summer camps can be a bit more expensive. Right now they seem to be running between $300 – $375 a week per kid. This is REALLY not in my financial wheelhouse! But when I put them in camp there last time, I qualified for the scholarship. Plus, I was an ASTC member, so that gave me an additional discount. The prices broke down like this:
- $225 – $275 a week per kid – I had to pack their lunch and one snack, depending upon the class, because some of them had food included if they were cooking
- $60 a week per kid is what I ended up paying with the scholarship
While this one was certainly more expensive for me, and still is, sometimes the camps they offer are worth it. Plus, the museum usually keeps them longer hours for their camps. So it makes it easier for working parents to have a full day at work. Some of the other camps run less time throughout the day, which can lead to a shorter working day for us parents.
And even though I am now part of a blended family, since we aren’t married and don’t file our taxes together, we both still qualify for some of the summer camps scholarship programs.
When all else fails, my other go-to solution to try is Groupon. Very frequently, there are listings for summer camps at a fairly reduced rate.
The best way to play this, if you have more than one child, is to call them to see if they will honor the same price for all children and/or all weeks you want them to attend camp. The reason is that vendors don’t make 100% of the going price when you purchase a Groupon. They usually make closer to 50% of the Groupon listed price instead.
Therefore, if you ask for the same rate the Groupon is showing, the camp will still be better off because they get 100% of that rate, instead of just 50%. Very rarely have I found a vendor to tell me NO when I negotiate this way.
Summer Camp Overview
The kids really like the opportunity of going to camp, learning new skills and meeting new friends. It helps them socialize and learn new things; while it helps me work without distraction. And it can still be done within my budget.
If summer camps are something you could use for your kids this summer but need to stick within a budget, then don’t forget to:
- look at city and county programs
- ask about scholarships
- check Groupon
If you remember to do these things, you can get some great summer camps on a budget. Your kids and your wallet will thank you for it!
What are some of the best ways you have found to get great summer camps within your budget?