Summer camps are smart. They know that now, during the bitter cold of the winter, is the best time to send out their brochures to get us thinking about the warmth and fun of summer!
Let’s face it – it’s a fantastic summer treat to get a week (or two) of quiet time around the house while the kids are at summer camp. The down side, of course, is that those weeks at camp can get expensive! Here’s how you can treat your kids to a fun summer – and yourself to some kid-free time – without completely busting the budget:
Find a summer camp, and check out the prices
Our kids go to a church camp every summer that is a full week long at a cost of $400. One of our sons goes to Boy Scout camp, which is a bit less at $250. It’s surprising how inexpensive Scouting camps can be compared to private camps. Some kids like going to a YMCA camp, which can be a bit more expensive, or to specialty camps for arts, language, or sports. The important part here is to let your kid look at summer activities that are going to be fun and interesting, and for which they are going to be motivated to save money.
Divide that cost out by four months – Feb through May
Let’s say that the total cost estimate is $360. This is a conservative estimate for a week at a pricy camp. Divide this out into four months, and you have $90 per month. This is what your kid’s camp will cost. It’s important to have a conversation where everyone understands what this full cost is – because it should seem like a lot of money to the kid. After all, it IS a lot of money.
Have a talk with your kid about how this monthly savings plan fits into her allowance
Not many kids are going to have $90 of extra room in their monthly allowance to finance this bill. Our kids have a total monthly allowance of $160 – and from that they deduct $20 savings and $15 for charity right off the top. Most of the year, each kid devotes $50 to $60 per month to activities, which is the category we put camp fees into. You’ll notice that this still leaves them over $40 short per month.
We like our kids to go to camp, so we give them an incentive to save for camp. In this case, we’d strongly consider chipping in about half of their camp fees — because we like the week off with no kids, too. Your situation may be different, so don’t be afraid of talking it over, or negotiating an agreement with your kids.
Help your kids find ways to earn the difference
Their total is now $90 per month for the next four months, or $360. Of that total, they’re taking $50 per month out of their allowance, leaving $40 per month they need to save. Where is this going to come from? Tweens and teens have a lot of opportunities to make money, both at home and out in the neighborhood.
For example, our kids have earned money:
- Doing yardwork or shoveling snow
- Walking dogs / checking on pets for vacationing neighbors
- Washing cars and cleaning car interiors
If your kid isn’t already doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, this can be a perfect opportunity to find some new business. It works well to go to the prospective customer with a brochure from the summer camp, and say “I’m trying to raise money to go to summer camp, and I’m looking to work odd jobs in the neighborhood to earn my tuition. Do you have any leaves you’d like me to rake, or cars you’d like me to clean for you?” Jobs like this should pay $5.00 to $7.00 per hour, though you’ll find that some neighbors are even more generous, knowing he’s raising money to go to camp.
You may consider an incentive – you can offer to match whatever your kids can earn on their own outside the house. This can be some extra motivation to get out and be creative in finding neighborhood odd jobs.
Earning extra cash at home
We also have some jobs around the house that we might offer for pay. These are over and above the normal chores that we ask our children to do. These are things like:
- Scanning old photographs
- Washing windows and screens
- Heavy landscaping projects – moving sand, bricks, or logs
These are certainly not everyday chores – in fact, they’re major projects that we could just as easily be paying somebody else to do, so we don’t feel bad about paying our kids to do them. It’s not ideal to rely on this method, though, because this is really more money coming out of our pockets to pay for camp, and it’s a really good thing to teach kids how to go out and make some money on their own.
Summer camp is an opportunity not to be missed for kids and adults to have some time away in the summer. With a little bit of assistance from you, your kids can work to save up enough to fund most or all of their summer vacation, which will make life sweeter for everyone.