1. Dig for discounts
Almost 90 percent of camps in the United States offer some type of discount. These discounts tend to fall into specific categories. Once you have narrowed your options, ask if any offer a discount for teachers, police officers, firefighters or military personnel. Discounts for these professions usually come in the form of waived registration fees or a percentage off the entire cost. Next, if you are planning to send more than one child to camp, ask about sibling discounts. Many camps offer discounts based on the number of children you plan to register and the savings usually adds up to several hundred dollars. Another option to keep an eye out for are Groupon, Living Social and similar website vouchers, as many camps are turning to these venues to increase enrollment numbers and offer serious discounts.
2. Scholarships and assistance packages
In addition to discounts, some camps offer financial assistance packages. Many of these packages are given on a first-come, first-served basis and are often based on your income level. Even if you make a comfortable living, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically disqualified – many families, especially those sending more than one child to camp, have saved considerable money through these programs. In addition, ask the camp if they offer any program-specific scholarships.
3. Be an early bird
If you are in a position to pay the entire summer camp cost upfront, you may be able to score a lower rate, saving an average of $100-$200 dollars. Also, signing up in advance before the session starts may come along with an early enrollment discount (something to keep in mind if you plan on sending your child to a late session this summer).
4. Consider budget-camp options
While traditional summer camps might be a little pricier than you expected, having affiliations with certain organizations and groups might work to your benefit. Ask about camp schedules and prices at your local Boy and Girl Scouts, church, YMCAs, libraries, sport organizations, school camps and city or community centers. If your children are members of a Scout troop, you might find camp options between $100-$200 per week. Religious venues almost always offer affordable summer camps or summer missions trips, and your town's community center might offer half or full-day camp sessions or lesson-specific programs.
5. Look into tax and accounting deductions
If you didn’t know, summer camp can sometimes qualify as a childcare tax break. If you missed out on early discounts, don't qualify for scholarships, and have children under 13 years of age, daycare and day camp expenses (including transportation) might be considered dependent care services and paid for with pre-tax dollars. Fund your child's summer camp with your independent care flexible spending arrangement (FSAs). FSAs are capped at $5,000 annually by the IRS, and money is held by your employer to fund the plan. Another option is the Child and Dependent Care Credit. This credit lets you deduct up to 35 percent of your childcare expenses, and is capped at $6,000. Ask your accountant about the specifics of these two options.
6. Slash session time
If you found a camp that has ideal recreation, sports, or creative activities and programs for your child but you can't afford the full session cost, inquire about different session portions. Many camps offer half-day and half-summer sessions that are more affordable and still give your child an opportunity to take part in exciting summer activities. Another alternative is limiting which days your child will attend during the week. Although not often advertised, some camps allow your child to attend two or three days during the week instead of the typical Monday-Friday arrangement.
Other quick camp cost-cutting tips
- Inquire with each camp about trade-offs. If you can volunteer one or two days a week, some camps will reduce session fees.
- Ask about payment plans.
- Investigate fee-matching. Some camps will match advertised camp prices with lower rates.
- Ask about referral discounts, allowing you to get a discount if you refer another child who signs up.