How We Save Money on Summer Camp Programs

By Chonce

| Photographs By SerrNovik

Believe it or not, summer vacation is just a few weeks away. Finding a way to save money on summer camp for your children can be a daunting task. If you don’t have friends or family to help supervise your children, summer fun for kids can put a big dent in your budget.

If your child is old enough to attend summer camp, you may be able find an inexpensive, fun, hands-on, and educational program. But a full-time day camp (five days a week, for at least five hours a day) can cost hundreds of dollars. The latter is not an option if you need an affordable summer camp.

Enrolling my son in a quality summer camp program is a must. Even though I usually work from home, I’m unable to supervise him effectively and finish all my tasks. I want to complete my work without feeling guilty about sticking him in front of a television or video game all day.

Yet my husband and I try not to spend excessively on summer camp for our son. Here’s how we save money on summer camp expenses.

Start Searching Early

Starting your search early is one of the most effective ways to save money on summer camp costs. Most camp programs will offer an early-bird discount if you register your child before a certain deadline. These deadlines tend to start in March or April.

The YMCA already offers affordable and accredited summer days camps and they tend to offer early-bird savings when you register by a specific date in April. When you enroll multiple kids, you may be able to save more.

Registering your child early doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to pay the whole amount in full at that time. You may have to pay an initial deposit up front, but getting started early can help you budget for the remaining costs and have enough time to save the rest.

It’s also important to start saving money for summer camp costs as soon as possible. You might even want to create a savings account devoted specifically for this need.

Apply for Financial Assistance

If you’re struggling to figure out how to pay for summer camp, scholarship funding, grants, or other financial assistance may be available.

Usually, camps offered by local park districts and the YMCA or YWCA will offer lower-income families the opportunity to receive assistance.

You will most likely have to provide information on your current employment and income, but this request might vary by area. Be sure to check out the options and specific requirements where you live. If you think you qualify, this can be a great way to make summer camp more affordable.

Check All Local Resources

Your community may offer discount summer camp programs and you may not even know about it! That’s why it’s important to be involved in your community. It’ll help alert you to these announcements.

Last year, I went to a family-resource fair and found out about a free summer camp and a free baseball league for my son to join. The baseball league ran through a local church and the camp was run through an organization called Communities in Schools.

Spots were available on first-come, first-serve basis to any child in grades 1-5, regardless of household size or income level, living in the school district. It wasn’t some one-star experience, either. It provided lunch, weekly field trips and activities for several weeks during the summer.

Finding that free camp not only saved us so much money, but my son had blast and met new friends.

Communities in Schools (CIS) is an organization that serves children all over the U.S. by providing high-quality resources and programs. CIS is active in 25 states and has 155 affiliations throughout the U.S.

If you can’t find an organization in your area like Communities in Schools, consider checking with local churches and nonprofit organizations that might offer summer camps or other cheap summer activities for you and your family.

Even if you aren’t a member of a church, you can still register your kids for camp. You’ll pay a fraction of what you would for most other summer camps.

This year, we’re sending my son to a Cub Scouts day camp in the area. It’s significantly cheaper than other summer camps and, if you pay weekly, you get a discount for each week you return. It’s also co-ed and you don’t have to be a Cub Scout to register.

Summer Camp Directories

One of the things I do as a last resort to save money on summer camp is use online directory sites like American Camp Association, (for free summer camps), and the Camps Channel.

These sites are helpful if you’re looking for a specific type of camp, like STEM, art, or ballet.

Once you find a camp you like, check the American Camp Association website to see if it’s accredited. You can also select your minimum and maximum budget when searching for a summer day camp on this site.

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