09 Mar 6 Creative Ways to Help Pay for Summer Camp for Your Kids
6 Tricks to Make Summer Camp More Affordable
- Look for Non-profit or lower cost city-sponsored options.
- Do your research to locate any available discounts.
- Apply for scholarships to lower enrollment costs.
- Volunteer your time to offset the cost of enrollment.
- Request a payment plan to spread the cost over time.
- Take advantage of tax resources like flexible spending accounts for dependent child care.
Filling ten weeks of summer with productive and safe activities for school-age children is always a challenge. According to Care.com, families spend an average of $314 per week on day camps, adding up to over $3,000 per child for the summer. Choosing overnight or specialty camps could more than double your summer childcare costs.
Before you enroll, explore ways to save money by lowering the cost of summer camps:
Choose Inexpensive Camps
Lower cost options are available through the local parks and recreation department, YMCA, scouting, or Salvation Army. Non-profit or city-sponsored alternatives can cost half what private camps charge, and all offer financial assistance for qualified families.
Ask About Discounts
Most summer camps offer an array of discounts that can lower the cost of attending by 10% or more each week. Early registration, sibling, and online application discounts are common among both private and non-profit camp organizations. Also, last minute vacancies usually go for a fraction of the cost, so check the camp website often to find last-minute, flash-sale opportunities to book at deep discounts.
Apply for Scholarships
Scholarship applications generally target underprivileged children, but not all scholarships have income restrictions. Approximately 93% of accredited camps make scholarships available, which can lower the price by 50 to 95% of the total camp costs. Early applicants typically get priority.
Volunteer at the Camp
Camp volunteers often receive a discounted rate for the children of volunteers. You could share relevant knowledge or experience with participants, help with pick up or drop off, or assist with the newsletter, website, or other technical needs of the camp.
Enroll in a Payment Plan
Payment plans are a common option for both private and non-profit camps. Spreading out the price of camp over several months will make it easier to fit the cost into your monthly budget. Using a payment plan does not usually negate other discounts available. Most payment options do not charge fees or interest, making it a better choice than borrowing the money by using a credit card.
Use Tax Resources
There are three resources related to taxes, which can help subsidize the cost of summer camp; your tax refund, a dependent care flexible spending account, and the dependent care tax credit.
A tax refund typically arrives early enough to bundle with early registration and scholarship discounts and can be used to pay for the cost of summer camp.
Flexible spending accounts offered through an employer can pay for health care needs, transportation, and dependent care costs. The account uses pre-tax dollars, deducted from each paycheck, to fund qualified childcare expenses. While not all camps meet the criteria, most summer day camps do. You can contribute up to $5,000 annually to the account. Some companies offer a direct payment option, where others reimburse qualified expenses after you submit receipts. You can use your entire annual allotment at any point in the year.
The dependent care tax credit reduces your tax bill dollar-for-dollar, potentially increasing your refund. The tax benefit can lower your bill up to $3,000 for one child and up to $6,000 for two or more children.
Summer camps are an opportunity for children to explore their interests, catch up academically, and build social skills. While it is a major summer expense, you can save money by using creative financial strategies to lower the cost.
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