Most kids can’t wait until that last bell rings, signaling summer vacation. Working parents, however, often look to that same day with dread as they add up the total cost of Summer expenses on their wallets.
Vacations, camps, activities, pool time. Together, those Summer expenses conspire to have a huge impact on a family’s budget.
Day camps can run between $100 to $300 a week. Overnight camps can total $1,000 or more. Care.com found that some families can spend as much as $7,000 per child on summer care, including camps and babysitters.
Summer vacations add another line item to the budget. A week at Disney World can set a family of four back about $4,000. The cost to rent a small condo in a beach town can start at $1,000 a week and up during the busy season. For a family of four, just a day at the waterpark or an afternoon baseball game can total $100 or more.
Even swimming at the local pool comes with its own costs. Joining a privately owned community pool can cost a family several hundred dollars for the summer, not including the fees for swim team and all of those ice pops and pizza slices.
What’s a parent, especially one hoping to cut costs, to do?
There’s one easy way to slash those summer childcare costs: Ask Grandma or another relative to help out. Send the kids to them or bring them to the kids for one or two weeks this summer. The kids will enjoy one-on-one time with extended family and you’ll enjoy a break from writing checks to babysitters or summer camps.
If a relative can’t help out, see if another family in your neighborhood, at your child’s school or at work is interested in splitting the cost for a summer babysitter -- even for just a couple of weeks. Your kids will be thrilled to spend a full week -- or more -- with their friends. The other family will be excited to save money. And, even the babysitter will be happy to supervise kids who can entertain themselves together.
Going in together with other families also is a great way to save money on summer vacations. Find friends or family to share a beach house or other vacation rental and food costs for a week. If your group is large enough -- typically 10 or more -- you may even be able to qualify for group discounts on attractions wherever you land.
Don’t promise excursions and experiences that you can’t afford. At the beginning of the summer, be sure to set expectations with your kids and then let them help plan their summer experience.
If they want to see this summer’s blockbuster at the movies, have them add up the total costs for tickets and popcorn and then compare that total to prices at the second-run theater in your town or simply renting the DVD when it comes out.
If they’re hankering to go to a baseball game or waterpark, for instance, check out the ticket and food prices with them. Talk to them about the pros and cons of getting cheaper seats; eating before or after the game; bringing snacks; or taking advantages of discounts for off-peak hours. Do the math. If you don’t splurge during a single trip, could you go more than once during the summer?
It might be too late to plan ahead for this year’s summer expenses, but now is the time to start planning for next year. In the coming months, track your total extra expenses for the summer, including all child care, camps and activities.
When school starts in the fall, add it all up and then, throughout the year, start socking away enough money to cover next summer’s expenses. By the time that final school bell rings next year, you’ll have a pot of money saved for a summer break your kids -- and you -- will look forward to.
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