Summer Savings Series #7 – Send Your Kid to Summer Camp Without Blowing the Budget

This post is #7 in the Money Life Network’s Summer Saving Series where you can be entered to win $100.   Also, visit Bible Money Matters for yesterday’s post in the series and My Investing Blog for tomorrow’s post.

I loved going to camp as a kid.  I remember always meeting cool friends and finding something fun in every camp I went to, regardless of the cost.  While going to a big, expensive camp has it’s place, there are plenty of low cost options out there.  Check out these frugal summer camp ideas and other money saving tips.

Frugal Camp Options

Vacation Bible School – Ah, good ole VBS.  Can’t beat this summer-time classic.  Send your kids here and not only will they learn some great biblical lessons, you won’t have to spend much to get your kid enrolled.  You can often just show up the day of and sign up.

YMCA Camps – These can be had for the fraction of the cost of the big camps, plus there are usually many different activities to choose from.  See

Boy Scout Camp – I loved my Boy Scout Camp summers.  While they weren’t free, like YMCA camps, they could be had for hundreds vs. thousands.  See

Church Camp – Ask your local Church about any summer camp opportunities.  I remember going to one of these every year and having a great time.

Community College Camps – If you have a community college in your area, you may want to investigate their summer camp programs.

Secondary Education Organization Camps (i.e. 4-H, FFA, etc…) – These were some of my favorite camps during the summer as a teen.  They were relatively inexpensive, you got to see friends from school, and get more involved in the various organizations.

Special Needs Sponsored Camps – For instance, the awesomely-named Camp Good Times out of Seattle, WA is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and is free for children with cancer.

Do Your Summer Camp Research

Didn’t find anything of interest above.  Check out these resources that will point you towards hundreds of camp opportunities. – Huge search-able listing of summer camps. – Search through a list of 146 camps under $75/week, and hundreds more in other prices ranges.

Go to Summer Camp – Get a Tax Credit

If it’s a day camp you’re interested in and your kids will go there instead of day care (because you work full time), the IRS may give you a tax credit.  Here’s more from

Use Your Flexible Care Spending Account to Pay for Summer Camp

Like the tax credit above, the Government gives you a break on money spent on your dependents for services that allow you to work.  Since day camps are basically a glorified day care service, they can likely be paid for with your companies flexible spending account.  While it doesn’t make it free, you at least get to exclude it from your income.

Ask About Summer Camp Financial Assistance and Discounts

Many camps offer up financial assistance to those who need a little help.  Also, be sure and ask about any early bird specials or discounts available.

Your Teen May Want to Work at Camp

Has your teen been to summer camp every year since Kindergarten?  Maybe it’s time they gave a little back.  If your teen works at a camp it’s likely that there stay will be free and they’ll take home some cash for next fall’s wardrobe.

Other Summer Camp Tips

Summer Camp Tips from CNN Money
All About Do-It-Yourself Summer Camps
Free Camp Starter Kits with Camp Physicals @ Monroe on a Budget
Kids and Summer Camp @ All Financial Matters
Ask for Camp Scholarships @ The Frugal Duchess

Summer Savings Series

Got any other frugal summer camp ideas?  Leave them in the comments below.

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  1. Chief Family Officer says:

    I didn’t see this option mentioned: Our public school district has a summer program that’s open to everyone, including to children who attend private school during the school year. I don’t remember the cost, but it wasn’t expensive.

  2. Monroe on a Budget says:

    Thanks for the link!
    You have some great tips collected, I’ll link back.
    When my daughter was too young to stay home all day during the summer; I did get a tax break for the two weeks I sent her to YMCA day camp.

  3. @Pete – me too

    @FFB & Lynnae – Thanks for your contributions. Both good points.

  4. Don’t forget the Boys & Girls Club, if you have one near you! The ones in our area take the kids on field trips, provide lunch, and everything. And it’s very inexpensive!

  5. Hey, I used to go to Scout camp as a kid!

    I would say always apply for “camperships” (camp assistance or scholarship). Many times there can be money left in their budget because not enough people applied. By putting in an application you may just get a discount to the camp.

  6. Pete @ says:

    great post! Now i just need to work on having kids so I can use your tips!