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How to Lock in Savings for Children's Summer Camp

Authored By: Kyla Ludwig on 4/7/2021

My fascination with Groundhog Day continues.

In my previous post about Taxes | Groundhogs, I compared the two Spring traditions tax season and Groundhog Day. Believe it or not, there are similarities between the two. The most obvious is the anticipation and uncertainty surrounding the unknown outcome. Unlike the surprise of Groundhog Day, I did not foolishly wait around at tax time, hoping some little furry critter would pop out of nowhere and take care of my taxes for me. Wouldn't that have been nice, though? I didn't leave anything up to chance, or Punxsutawney Phil, for that matter. And now, with summer camp season just around the corner, I was determined to get my taxes done. The certainty I'd see a refund this year was motivation enough.

The need to stop overspending and start saving.

Taxes are done. Check! A few hundred bucks are coming my way. Now I'll have a chance to test my willpower and self-restraint. I've already made a promise to myself I'll be smart with the money, even if it's not a windfall. When I find myself with an unexpected windfall of money, I'm eager to spend it right away. I may not even have anything I want or need. I try to convince myself not to spend it like a kid. You know, back when receiving a few bucks from your parents meant immediately spending it all at the local candy store. But try as I might; that little kid inside me still holds some sway, meaning I easily fall susceptible to suddenly "needing" all this other stuff. Maybe I didn't have needs before, but when there's money burning a hole in my pocket, I suddenly "need" a lot! It's a habit I'm trying hard to break. I even try to be laser-focused on sticking to only items on my list. But I quickly find myself falling prey to shopping online… for hours. I get caught up in ads for things I like and never overlook a sale or special offer. How does the internet know the things I've been dreaming about? A daze comes over me. I can't shake it. I fall into a never-ending internet rabbit hole. One thing after another, the items mount in my online shopping cart.

Camp is a necessity for my family during the summer months.

Talking about "needs," summer camp is one to consider. It's an excellent experience for my kids but, as a full-time working parent of two, it is, more importantly, a childcare necessity for me. In recent weeks across the country, kids have been returning to in-school learning. While my daughter and son are thrilled to get back to in-school learning, they're also looking forward to having the traditional summer experiences they enjoy. Since we now have more insight into COVID-19 and vaccines are being administered, I'm hoping my kids will be able to escape the fears they've acquired over a year of remote schooling and no summer fun.

In NH, camps are working with state and local health offices to modify their setup and routines. Camp administrators are adopting measures and following safety protocols set forth by the CDC to mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19. The camps I've selected for my kids to attend have taken the appropriate steps to keep kids safe and at the lowest risk possible. At least in previous years, the whole summer is about their time spent at camp. I'm hoping this year is a return, at least in part, to that same idea of a summer spent outdoors, with friends, having fun.

There are hurdles with planning for summer camp(s).

For me, it's not all fun and games. My kids get to climb rock walls, pretend to be pirates, and play a game of Gaga, whatever that is.… I haven't the slightest clue. According to the camp owners, it's the most popular activity at camp. Instead, it feels like I'm climbing actual rock walls and fighting off pirates as I go through the essential steps: including payment of early registration fees, cancelation fees (if you need to do that), and paperwork galore.

Are your kids not old enough for summer camp yet? Not your family's thing? Let's be honest; whether it's summer camp or daycare, all this costs a pretty penny. If you're looking for activities and caregiving during the summer and can't be there yourself, most parents feel the financial burden of childcare when the summer heats up. Making plans for the summer begins as early as February to guarantee a spot anywhere. I can't believe that's when most camps open their registration for families to book!

There's a recipe for success when it comes to putting your camp plans into action.

But summer's not here yet, and a massive amount of prep work is required early on in the process if you want to get your kids into camp. You must act swiftly every step along the way. A great deal of time and effort is put into organizing and coordinating the summers. It's like a recipe you want to turn out well, but you know it can easily fall apart. If you're like me, you know what a disaster skipping a step in the process could be! Measurements can't afford to be misread. Working parents must check tasks off along the way because they desperately need to book the camp(s) that best fit their schedule and budget sooner rather than later.

It all comes down to the money. And... Location. Location. Location!

Costs vary from one camp to another. According to care.com, the most popular camps are day camps, ranging from $25-$150 per day. There are also overnight camps that could run you $50-$300 per day and specialty camps starting at $200 per week. Specialty camps offer experiences tailored to children's specific interests and activities they're looking to do.

The cost of day camps can differ significantly. There are certain factors to consider because they can play a role in rates.

  • Where is the camp located?
  • Are meals provided?
  • Is there a bus service available?
  • Do they offer before or aftercare, if needed?
  • Are there any field trips with additional costs?

My tax refund came at an opportune time.

When I saw the tax refund was directly deposited into my account, I decided using those funds for a practical purpose was the responsible way to go. Hey, that's a novel idea! My holiday finances post shared how stressful being financially strained can be. I learned the hard way over the years; procrastination is a constant companion for me. But, it also boils down to my lack of savings. In the blog article, I mentioned the option of opening a holiday club savings account. These types of savings accounts are offered by many credit unions. With a dedicated savings account, it means I'm saving funds throughout the year. They'll cover most of the expenses when the holidays draw near. Club accounts provide a solution for those of us wanting to make things easier on ourselves.

So nice they let you do it twice!

As it turns out, Club Accounts are not only available for the holidays. MIT Federal Credit Union offers club accounts, and right now, we're gearing up to start the Holiday Clubs, but you can use them for whatever you need. And if you're stuck for this summer's camps, but don't have a tax return coming, perhaps a Personal Loan is an excellent option to get those deposits in while there is still time.

If you want to go with a club account for NEXT summer, there are also vacation club accounts covering expenses for the other half of the year (that means summer camp in my case). With holiday club accounts, the savings are generally transferred in October (started in April/May timeframe), while the vacation club account savings are transferred in June (started in the October/November timeframe). You can keep funds separate by using these accounts exclusively to save for any goal with significant expenses that may come up twice a year.

Putting money aside is necessary if you think you won't have the means to pay the total price to reserve your kids' spot. After all, fees are assessed right from the start when you enroll kids in a camp session. Usually, those fees are non-refundable.

When managing your money, choose wisely.

With just about anything these days, there are many avenues and options to explore in summer camp. You may not even know some exist. That's why it's crucial to shop around, do your homework, look into other options, seek advice, save up ahead of time, and ask for recommendations. The more informed you are, the better off you'll be in making the right decisions for you and your family.

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