If you're already on the hunt for activities to keep the rugrats busy, then you're probably also considering summer camp. Camps are a great option because they frequently expose children to experiences they would not get at home while simultaneously teaching skills like self-care, teamwork and conflict resolution.
The challenge, however, is selecting a camp that fits both the child and that pesky household budget. But with a bit of early research and some savvy saving ideas, you can find a great camp option for your child that won't break the bank.
Consider a Day Camp1 of 10
Overnight camps are expensive and, depending on your child, they might not be the right fit. Children can get a similar sense of independence from a day-long program that they can from an overnight one—and Mom and Dad can save quite a bit of money, too.
Look for Early Registration Discounts2 of 10
Many camps offer discounted savings if you confirm your spot early. This includes camps as varied as those run by local organizations and recreation departments to far-flung sleepover camps. Early registration discounts may be due as soon as December or as late as April. Check with your local camp now to see if there is still time.
Inquire About Sibling Discounts3 of 10
In addition to early registration incentives, many camps offer sibling discounts. These can range anywhere from five to 20 percent or more, depending on the number of children you are signing up. Ask about relative discounts—some camps may entertain a discount for cousins, too.
Sign Up for ACTIVE Advantage4 of 10
With an ACTIVE Advantage membership, you never pay processing fees when you register for events through ACTIVE.com or ACTIVEkids.com. Those savings can start to add up if your child registers for multiple camps and events, or if you're registering multiple children. ACTIVE Advantage members also receive exclusive travel discounts, which will come in handy if you want to plan a family getaway when the kids get back from camp.
Apply for Summer Camp Scholarships5 of 10
Many programs will offer scholarships that fund partial or full fees. Ask the registration department about the kinds of scholarships available. Some of the scholarships are need-based, but others are based on talent. For example, if your child is a top violinist, he or she may qualify for a scholarship at music camp. It never hurts to ask.
Submit Your Application Online6 of 10
Many local camps offer small discounts ranging from $5-$20 if you register your camper online. Even a small discount can add up quickly if you're planning to do a few week-long camps in your community. And of course, you're saving precious time by avoiding the hassle of completing paperwork and waiting in line.
Offer to Volunteer7 of 10
Many camps need additional adult help. Offer to be an extra set of hands one day a week or supervise a special event or activity. Even something as simple as teaching a craft can help reduce camp costs. Use the skills you have: For instance, if you're a web designer, offer to freshen up the camp website in exchange for one week of camp for your child. You might be surprised how many camp organizers take you up on the offer.
Ask About Payment Plans8 of 10
Camp organizers understand the financial challenges that come with summer camps. Many are willing to arrange a monthly payment plan to reserve your child's spot. Work with the camp to figure out a plan that works for you. Note that many plans will start well before the first day of camp, so inquire earlier rather than later.
Look Into the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account9 of 10
Many two-income and single parent families utilize their employer's dependent care flexible spending account for childcare. But did you know that some summer programs also qualify? There are rules associated with which programs qualify, so consult with your accountant or the IRS to see if any of the options you are considering are a fit.
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