Inexpensive summer camps

Reducing the Cost of Summer Camp

by Kara Haskins


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The time is coming, time to send the kids off to summer camp, either a day program or an overnight camp. While we all want our kids to enjoy their summer, sometimes the sheer expense of summer camp can be a burden. Is it possible to reduce those costly tuition bills? You bet!

First of all, camps run by non-profit organizations are almost always cheaper than private camps or daycares, with little difference in the quality of care or types of activities, unless you wish to send your child to a camp specializing in something, like rock climbing or horseback riding. If the camp is going to concentrate on one particular activity for the session, you will probably pay a high price. If you prefer a less costly, more well-rounded camp experience with a variety of activities, check out your local organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, local churches, or the YMCA. Some "green" organizations offer day or overnight camps as well. In my area, the local Audubon Society runs a summer camp program. Check the Internet to find programs in your area.

If you are not already a member of the organization, compare the cost of joining for the year versus the cost of camp for non-members. These groups often charge more for programs for non-members, but sometimes the expense to join to receive the members' discount will save you money in the long run. The money you might save is well worth a little number crunching!

Inquire about scholarships. Many organizations offer a number of reduced tuitions to families in need who qualify. Do not assume you cannot afford to send your child to summer camp. It is possibly within your reach, even if money is very tight. It never hurts to ask! All it will cost you is some time to fill out the financial aid forms.

Do you have a special talent you could share with the kids? Offer to run a crafting class, sports clinic or the like in exchange for a discount. By teaching a class or two per session, the organization may be willing to reduce your bill. No special talents? Sometimes hard labor can be used instead! You could donate a few hours of your time painting, doing simple repairs, indoor pre-season cleanup, or clean up work on the camp grounds in exchange for a discount. Many of these organizations are in desperate need of volunteers of all kinds. You may be able to barter volunteer hours for a discount on your camp tuition bill.

Your kids can attend summer camp this year without straining the family budget. Even those of us on the tightest of budgets can find ways to give our children a memorable camp experience this summer. It just takes a little creativity to find ways to reduce the tuition bills!


Kara Haskins is the mother of an 8 year old and an 8 month old. Upon the birth of her youngest, she transitioned into a stay-at-home Mom, making her children, and the frugality necessary to make her one income household work, big priorities.

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