Monday, July 13, 2009
Have A Fun Summer With Children On A Budget
Tip #162 - Have A Fun Summer With Children On A Budget – Since we are in the midst of summer, I have been evaluating the choices I have made so far for activities for my children. Some were expensive and some were cheap or free. However, the most important thing I did to keep our summer costs down was to set a summer budget. Cost for activities in the summer can skyrocket if you don’t pay attention. Choices for summer activities include camps, pool memberships, concerts, movies, day trips, water parks, and many other things. Costs can be as high as $4,000 per child for an 8-week summer camp or as low as free if you get very creative with community events, playgrounds, and stay-at-home activities.
Working parents don’t usually have much of a choice – they are limited to either summer camps or some other type of full-time care for their children. But stay-at-home parents have many more options and can occupy every minute of their child’s time or do very little, and it can span the range of prices.
If you haven’t already put summer activities on your budget, why not take a minute to estimate the costs associated with entertaining your children while they are out of school? Vacation is usually a separate budget line item, so that can remain separate. But estimate what it will cost to sign your children up for classes, pool memberships, camps, and miscellaneous activities for the rest of the summer (or for the whole summer and prorate it). You might find that you need to work more free activities into your schedule to keep costs down for the rest of the summer. Or maybe you have been taking advantage of several cheap community activities, and you have extra money to send your child to a camp for a week at the end of the summer. Whatever it is that you determine, make sure you make summer activities a part of your budget. It will give you freedom to know that you can afford the extra swim lessons or whether you need to save money and teach your child to swim yourself.
In Real Life (IRL) – When I made up my yearly budget, I included a line item on there for summer camps. I also included classes that we would be taking in the summer. My goal for this summer was to spend $1,000 for all three of my children’s activities excluding two vacations we have planned. $1,000 may not sound like a lot to occupy three children all summer long, but with some creative planning it can be done. One option was to join the local swim club for $600 for the summer. For that price, it doesn’t sound like a bad deal, and it’s not if you take advantage of it. Since I am not a huge fan of swimming or hanging out at the pool all summer, I chose to seek other activities. Putting all three kids in camp for the summer would have been cost prohibitive. Also, my youngest who is barely 2 doesn’t really need it. My 4-year old doesn’t really like it, which leaves me with my 7-year old who was the only one dying to go to camp.
Armed with that information, I decided to take advantage of the a-la-carte menu of summer activities. Again, my goal was to keep in under $1,000. We basically had 11 weeks total to occupy. Two of those weeks will be taken up with vacations, leaving us with 9 weeks. I tried to scatter our structured activities in with our free time so were not “bored” for too long of periods at a time. Here is how our costs played out:
--I enrolled my oldest in the camp she was “dying” to go to. She is doing a two-week session for a cost of about $325.
--She is going to two weeks of Girl Scout Camp for a cost of $145.
--She is taking one month of piano lessons for $60.
--My middle child is doing one week of “camp” at the local community center for $125.
--She is also doing two mini-weeks at the same place for $75.
--She is taking 6 weeks of gymnastics lessons at the same community center for $30.
--My 2-year old is doing 8 weeks of a “run around and get your energy out” class for $50.
The total cost of our structured activities is $810. That leaves us with $190 to play around with for water parks, ice cream or eating out, and other activities with a fee. These will be alternated into the roation of camps and classes.
In between we have been walking to the library for many story times, puppet shows, and presentations. We have ridden our bikes around town and visited playgrounds. And we have had play dates with friends. I have found that my interweaving the costly structured activities with the less-costly (or free) ones, we can keep our summer costs to a minimum and still have a lot of fun all summer long.