Kids Heading to Summer Camp? Try These Budgeting Tips to Save Money

Summer camp is a tradition in many families, and if it is in your family, budgeting for summer camp is the key to keeping it affordable. Here are several budgeting tips for saving money while providing your children with an enjoyable summer (and yourself with a little more summer vacation sanity).

Ask About Your Eligibility for Discounts

Depending on the camp organization and your family, you may be eligible for summer camp discounts that can make budgeting far easier. Teachers, firefighters, military personnel, and police officers may be eligible for discounts with some summer camps, and some church-sponsored camps offer discounts for church members. Ask up front if any discounts are offered and determine whether your family qualifies.

Learn About Sibling Discounts

Many camps offer discounts when multiple siblings attend. Maybe you've sent your kids to separate camps in summers past, but you may be able to find one that appeals to all your children, a move that could save you several hundred dollars through sibling discounts. Sending all your kids to the same camp simplifies budgeting further, because you only have to keep up with one set of camp expenses.

Some Camps Offer Loyalty Discounts

With some camps, signing up for multiple sessions during the same summer can cut costs. With others, attending the same camp year after year can result in loyalty discounts. If you find a camp your child loves, find out if they offer loyalty discounts to make budgeting next year easier.

Next step: Sign up for Mint and learn how easy it is to budget for summer expenses.

Pay Early and Save

Many camps offer discounts if you pay the entire fee early, and the savings can be significant. While this can be a terrific money saver and simplifies budgeting, be certain of your family's summer schedule when you register, because getting the pay-early discount may involve agreeing to a no-refund policy.

Use Tax Breaks

Summer camps can qualify as a child care tax break if your child is under age 13. Additionally, if you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) through your employer, you can designate money for pre-tax dependent care expenses. Camp can qualify if its cost is in line with similar day care options. Using your FSA allows you to spread the cost of camp over the year and pay with pre-tax dollars. When budgeting for camp, if you want to use FSA money, be sure to check with your HR department or your tax adviser to make sure this is an option for you.

Learn About City-Sponsored Camps

Some cities sponsor camps that cost far less than private camps. Additionally, organizations, like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Jewish Federation, 4H, and the Salvation Army offer camps that are more affordable because they're subsidized by the sponsoring agency. Some of these camps also offer financial aid based on household income. Check if your city's Parks and Recreation Department offers camps. They're often reasonably priced and make budgeting for summer activities less daunting.

Explore Day Camp Options

With day camp, you do have to worry about daily transportation, but many day camps are remarkably affordable and cost less than day care during the summer. Some colleges and universities offer day camps that earn college credits for teens. The cost is generally less than enrolling in the class as a college student, and credit is typically given through a concurrent enrollment arrangement with your child's high school.

Quick Budgeting Tips

Here are some more ways to save on the costs of summer camp:

  • Ask if the camp offers referral discounts for referring other kids to the camp.
  • Learn whether transporting your child to camp can save over sending him on the camp bus.
  • Ask if the camp matches fees with competing camps.
  • Invest in labels for your child's gear to maximize chances of her getting it back if she misplaces it. Much camp gear can be reused year after year.
  • If you have to provide transportation, find out if you know any other parents with kids in the camp and consider car pooling.

Budgeting for summer camp can help you keep the costs of summer vacation under control. With a budgeting app likeĀ Mint, you can add one or more line items to your budget for camp to keep up with camp expenses more easily. It's free and syncs to your smartphone as well as your computer, so you can keep up with summer budgeting even on the go.

Next step: Sign up for Mint and learn how easy it is to budget for summer expenses.