This past weekend, I finished signing up the kids for summer camp. Camps have changed a lot since I was a kid. I think my mother said she spent about $25 to send me to camp for a week. That was around 40 years ago though. It might have also been subsidized. In any case, we pay a lot more than that for our kids to go to summer camp nowadays.
We used to send the kids to the local YMCA for most of the weeks. That was similar to the camp I had growing up. Play sports, do arts and crafts, go on hikes, and have a little swim time. The price for the YMCA is reasonable and they have long hours which is good for me. Unfortunately, the kids hate the YMCA camp. The camp counselor takes away anything fun if one kid misbehaves. Their groups are big (that’s how they keep the price reasonable), so there’s always one kid that spoils it for the whole group.
This is the first year that we skipped YMCA or a general, old-fashioned camp. Instead, the kids have picked the camps they enjoyed the most over the last few years. Unfortunately, those happen to be the most expensive camps. This is one of those cases where Kids Ain’t Cheap. The good news is that there’s a lot of enrichment.
Kid 1: Nine-Year-Old
We signed up our oldest for 4 camps. He’s doing a theater camp, a sailing camp, a veterinarian camp, and a cooking camp. The theater camp is 3 weeks and the sailing camp is two weeks.
Sailing is big in Newport, Rhode Island. It’s so big that the National Sailing Hall of Fame is moving here. The theater camp is fairly renowned. The veterinarian camp fits well with my dog boarding business. If I’m going to spend a lot for a camp, I don’t mind the money helping out our local animal shelter. I’m a huge fan of kids learning cooking – it’s a lifelong skill that will save them a lot of money.
Kid 2: Eight-Year-Old
Our youngest is signed up for 6 different types of camps. One camp has four separate weeks of activities. They are a maker camp, art camp, Lego robotics, and a sports camp. Drawing and building are what he loves and does best. It’s also being done at his school, so there’s a good chance he’ll know some kids.
Like his older brother, he has a sailing camp and a veterinarian camp (a more junior version of the same veterinarian camp). He also has a cooking camp, but it’s only 3 days as an introduction. Essentially he traded his brother’s theater camp for building and art.
The Cost of Summer Camp
Summer camp has become a big business. Consumers will pay for the education of their kids. Perhaps it is a trap, but I’ve fallen for it.
The 9-year-old’s camps add up to $2,150. The 8-year-old’s camps add up to $2,420. That’s over $4,500 for two kids to have 7 weeks of camp. We are taking three weeks of camp off, but they’ll be small road trips. With hotels and driving and events, they’ll be even more expensive than the camps.
Are we spending too much on camp, or are we investing in education and things we believe in. Perhaps it is a little of both? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
Ha! I don’t usually comment but this topic hits home! I live in Florida (Tampa Bay area), have an 8 year old and 12 year old and our camps total over $3500 for 7 weeks. Add in a plane ticket for my 12 year old to see grandparents for a week and another $550 for a mission trip and I am right with you at $4500.
The 12 year old’s camp is much more expensive but she loves it. It’s an adventure camp that consists of paddle boarding, mountain biking, kayaking, sailing, ziplining which all requires additional fees.
What do I think? I think that my kids will not be on electronics this summer (during the day for the most party) because they will be having fun at camp. And that makes me happy!! They will be hanging out with other kids doing fun stuff and being kids!! Investment is priceless and I am thankful I have the means to make it happen.
Lazy Man says
With great comments like this one Jaime, I wish you’d comment more often ;-).
That adventure camp sounds awesome – do they take adults? You make a great point about not being on electronics all the time.
And it may be partially tax deductible as child care.
Qualifying expenses must be work-related expenses:
Expenses that qualify for the child and dependent care credit must be work-related. That means they allow the taxpayer to work, and they are for a qualifying person’s care. Expenses are for the care of a qualifying person if their main purpose is the person’s well-being and protection.
Education expenses, including the cost of tutoring and summer school programs are not qualifying expenses. However, preschool and nursery school expenses are qualifying expenses, even if the school provides some educational activities such as reading readiness. That is because the primary purpose of nursery school or preschool is for the care of the child.
In a similar vein, the cost of day camp is a qualifying expense even if the day camp specializes in sports, computers, or an academic subject because the primary purpose of the camp is for the care of the child.
Lazy Man says
Yes, I forgot to mention that summer camp – as day care – is tax deductible. We’re filing for an extension this year, but we’ll be figuring out soon how much that’s worth from last year’s spending. Even with the deduction, it’s still expensive.
robyn weinbaum says
Lazy man, not a deduction, a tax credit. different part of the tax return. percentage of credit depends on your earned income and is subject to other limitations [which can change, depending on the mood of congress]
Lazy Man says
I didn’t mean “tax deduction” in the formal term, but just that there is a tax savings. I don’t do my taxes anymore… it too complicated with the various businesses – so the camp numbers just get totaled up and sent to the tax people. We would make the same choices even if there were no tax savings, so it isn’t something that factors into my thinking.
I won’t even tell you how much I spend on summer camp. I can only tell you that to send 1 of my kids to camp for 3.5 weeks (sleepaway), it costs more than what you are spending for both your kids to for the summer. And…I have a second kid who is away at summer camp the entire summer (again, not gonna say how much…only that is cheaper than some instate college tuitions…but not by much).
Camp is expensive. But in this day and age, the ability to separate my kids from their electronics and their overscheduling is a gift I am happy to give them. It also forces them to learn how to be independent, make new friends, solve problems with their friends, and explore who they are without mom and dad hovering over them. It is priceless. Well, maybe not priceless. I am sure I could find a way to do it all for less. But it is an expense I am willing to take on and work into my budget because I think it will have a long-term positive effect. Plus…the wife and I get to go on vacation while they are away!
Lazy Man says
Hmm, I wonder how the cost per hour compares. Our cooking camp is only 3 hours/day, making it about $25/hour. That would be $600/day for 24 hours of overnight camp, right? Of course, you aren’t getting that much of professional instruction – kids have to sleep. You get room and board for those prices, right?
We may look into sleepaway camp next summer. My kids could use the independence. I know I wouldn’t mind having some full days free of parenting.
Ugh! You remind me to look into summer camps. Although, we’ll travel a lot this summer so we might skip the whole summer camp thing. I’d like to get him in a soccer camp for a week, at least. Summer camps are expensive.