There's no doubt that the benefits to kids who participate in a summer camp experience is priceless. For starters, they will probably get to enjoy the great outdoors much more than they do while they're in a school building most of the year. But for many parents, it's important to make sure a summer camp won't break the family budget.
Here are some ways parents can make summer camp an unforgettable experience for the kids, yet affordable at the same time.
Know your Budget Upfront
While a six week trip across Europe would certainly be a phenomenal educational experience, make sure you know what your budget for any camp is before exploring options. Whether you choose a day camp or an away from home camp, budget in costs for possible extras like food, transportation for field trips, any clothing that is required, and extended care which may not be included in the cost of the tuition.
Also, according to Alicia Zimbalist, public relations manager at the Foundation for Jewish Camp, parents should always remember that camp does not need to be a full summer activity. "If the cost is too high for a full summer, even with assistance, parents can consider sending their child for 1-3 weeks, she says." Children will still get to experience camp life!
Be sure to check the Internal Revenue Service's website and guidelines to see if sending your child to summer day camp would qualify you for a Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.
Believe it or not, there are many summer camp programs that offer financial assistance and scholarships to parents/children. Just make sure you apply very early so you don't miss any submission deadlines.
We also found out that some faith-based camps may offer free or tuition reductions to members of its congregations.
Finally, make sure you look into whether you can get discounts on the camp tuition if you participate in early bird registration, if you pay in full instead of splitting payments, or if you are sending more than one child.
Find out if the camp offers payment plans for parents who may need a little more time to pay their child's way. Some camps offer payment plans but just don't advertise them so it's important to ask and see if that's even an option.
Work at the Camp
With many people still out of work, consider applying for a job at the camp itself. One father told us that he works at his children's camp so he can get paid and get free tuition for the kids at the same time!
Children are always raising money for their sports teams, band trips and other extracurricular activities, so why not camp? If your child is old enough and you'd like him or her to contribute to the cost of camp, suggest he or she take up some odd jobs to raise extra money. Jobs could include dog walking, mowing lawns, or even babysitting.
If your child has a birthday coming up, consider asking friends and family to contribute to his or her "camp fund" in lieu of toys or other gifts.