Friday March 24 2017
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Saving Money: Summer Camps

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Summer camps are a popular part of the summer season for many kids, and even a tradition in many families. The cost of sending your son or daughter away for a week or more, or however, can be daunting.

With gas prices, groceries and just about everything else making it tough on America's collective pocketbooks, it's getting more and more difficult for families to send their kids to camp. But there are ways to make camp more affordable.

Be flexible
Instead of a sleep-away camp, think about cutting back to a full-day camp. Or cut back from a full-day to half-day camp. It's just as much fun for the kids and may be a better option for the homesick type, of for those that tend to get bored quickly.

Another option is limiting the length of your child's stay.

Think about the type of camp you want your child to attend. Private camps can cost quite a bit more than other options. Local agencies often run more affordable camps: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, Salvation Army, Jewish Community Center, etc. Some camps also offer financial aid.

Discounts
Want to send a kid to camp? Think about sending two.

If you have multiple children, there are camps that offer discounts based on the number of children you register. Look into it... it could save you a few hundred dollars.

Also, camps often offer discounts for people in specific positions: military personnel, public service such as police officers or firefighters, or even teachers. It depends on the organization running the individual ca mp, but these discounts do exist and are worth looking into when researching camps.

Some summer camps actually qualify as child care, which means you may be able to deduct the cost of the camp from your taxable income. Check with an accountant beforehand, of course.

Save money on gear
Shop for your toiletries, flip-flops, sunscreen, flashlights, sleeping bags and other gear online. There are online camp-specialty sites that can provide you with one-stop shopping.

Labels. Buy camp items once, not every year because your son or daughter leaves it at camp. Buy labels, make labels, use your Sharpies... whatever, but put your name on it!

Book early
Just like booking a vacation, ,many camps offer discounted rate if you pay up front. You typically must pay the entire amount up front to get the discount—and it may very well be non-refundable—but you can save quite a bit of money.

Other ideas include:

  • Volunteer at the camp in exchange for a discount.
  • Can you provide your own transportation?
  • Check into payment plans.
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