Summer camp is a great way to keep children occupied during the summer vacation, but there are financial pros and cons that need to be considered carefully.
1 – The Pros
Children are Supervised
The children are supervised all day so working parents don’t have to worry about who is caring for them, or how they are going to manage if they only get a couple of weeks’ worth of vacation each year but the kids are out of school for 10 to 12 weeks.
Camp will usually work out cheaper than daycare or a childminder due to all of the variety of being in a camp.
Campers will be exposed to a range of activities, including sports, arts, crafts, field trips, and more.
Early Drop-Off and Pick-Up
For a small additional fee, many camps will let you drop off your child before work, such as 8 AM, and pick them up before 6 PM. The cost usually works out at a fraction of what it would cost to have someone mind your child from 3 PM, when camp ends, to when you get home from work.
Scholarships are available for Y camps and even private camps. You just have to fill out an application and then wait.
Counselor in Training (CIT)
Once your child is a teen, there are CIT programs that will give them work experience and a discount or free fees for the summer. Preference is usually given to teens who have been campers there in previous years.
For sleep away camps, CITs will get room, board and a weekly stipend. When they are not working with other counselors or with younger children, CITs are allowed to make the most of the camp facilities.
Camp is Covered by Your Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account
A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) takes pre-tax dollars from your paycheck and puts them into an account you can use for childcare costs, including summer camp. All you need to do is submit receipts for legitimate childcare expenses.
Parents can elect to save a maximum of $5,000 annually, and both parents can have a DCFSA. Since the money is pre-tax dollars, you will also save on your taxes each year.
2 – The Cons
Some camps can be a real financial commitment for parents. If they don’t get a scholarship for their child, it could be a real struggle to pay for it.
Most camps only run for certain weeks of the summer, such as eight weeks. However, most children are off longer than that. Even if they go to camp, therefore, there are still supervision and therefore financial issues that need to be covered for the rest of the summer.
The hours might not be convenient, and still leave parents stuck with childcare issues or pick-up and drop-off issues each day.
Some summer camps and school-led summer programs are better than others. Parents might not be getting the best value for their money, but might not be able to afford a better camp.
Distance from Home
Your nearest camp might still be a good distance away from your home, and perhaps even in the opposite direction from your commute to work each day. Your local camp might also not be very good, but you’re stuck in terms of pick-up and drop-off times.
Places Fill Quickly
Places fill quickly, especially at the better summer camps. Sometimes you have to get a place and give a deposit as early as January each year, which can be a real struggle for some parents, especially just after the holidays.
Summer camps are often the best way to get childcare during the summer vacation, but it’s important to be aware of the disadvantages from a financial point of view when planning your summer.