May 27, 2011

Budget Friendly Summer Fun, Is It Possible?

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Wildlife Garden image

When I was a kid there were no big family trips. No amusement parks. I’m not whining or complaining, just stating facts. We weren’t the camping type of family and we didn’t have the money to take major trips.

My mom always found a way to get my brother and me to scout camp though. I remember looking through the brochure and figuring out which week I was going to go. My brother and I went different weeks. That alone was like a vacation. For as much as I love my brother now, we were constantly at each other during the summers of our youth. Fortunately for my mom, she worked full time.

Now that I’m a mom, summer activities are a big concern for me. As a homeschooler, for me summer is just more time to learn. But in the paradigm of kid activity, summer is high tide. Activity overload, overloaded. There are entire magazines devoted to sleep-away summer camps. And oh, boy, are some of them pricey!

Sleep away camps? Let’s just say that’s not happening! Sure, I went to sleep away camp for the first time when I was 7. But I had been getting myself to and from school by myself since I was 5. And, well, truth be told, I’m not ready for BabyGirl to go yet. There, I said it! I’m trying to psych myself up for when she is accepted into the youth symphony and has to go on the overnight retreat. I need a few months, so just go with me on this.

Day camps aren’t cheap either. One of the camp I wish I could go to, I mean send BaybGirl to, is $795 for a week. Well, not really a week, week. Rather it is 6 hours for 4 days and then 3 hours for the 5th day. So you don’t have to do the math, that’s about $88 per hour. For $88 an hour, when she’s done BabyGirl better be able to get a part time job! That being said, she won’t be doing that camp this summer.

We do a lot throughout the year, so for us summer is a time when I look forward to less activity. BabyGirl will be on a summer recreational swim team and she’ll attend a week of music camp. There may be one or two other scheduled camps but at $200 – $300 per week it’s expensive.

I was talking with my friend, Sally, at lunch about this. We figured that summer activities for the kids would run about $1,000. That’s crazy! OK, maybe not, but I can’t imagine where a family with a few kids would come up with several thousand dollars for summer activities.

As a frugalista, I’m into finding quality activities that fit my budget. One of the biggest changes I’m making this year is that I’m looking to the city aquatics program for our summer swim rather than the private swim program. I’ve researched it and have heard good things. And for 1/4 the price, I think we can manage for 7 weeks.

We’re pretty fortunate to live about a mile from a terrific community college that offers a summer Kid’s College program with activities that range from art and theater to math and engineering. The classes are very reasonable and are kept small to allow the kids to both learn and have fun.

And although we don’t have a pool, we have a very gracious neighbor who extends an open invitation for us to come over and swim. Some days it’s just nice to know we can go over there and BabyGirl can play with a friend and I can have adult conversation.

I know there are many options to use our garden membership and museum passes, making for inexpensive summer fun. There is always the Stuffington Bear Factory and Cerreta Candy Company, both of which are free and pretty decent. And indoors!

It is possible to have a budget friendly summer with kids at home. It take planning, something I’m probably late to doing right now. And it takes the understanding that fun can be had at home too. Even if it means ones house will likely be covered with glitter by time August rolls around.

How do you plan for summer in your home? I know y’all have great suggestions on how mom can avoid going insane because the kids are bored.

Sara

{ 4 comments }

Mara @ Kosher on a Budget May 27, 2011 at 8:38 am

We’re also working on a tight budget for the summer – and yes, we, too, are finding that even day camps are EXPENSIVE.

Since we pay tuition for school, I have this little system that I use – which is to keep setting aside that same amount for the summer months, too. That way, it’s already budgeted and I don’t have to scramble to come up with it. We also knew, though, that that was our limit. So, the kids have some weeks with no camp. Camp Mommy!

The chabad Gan Israel camps tend to be more reasonably priced – at least in our area – and we have found them to be a really lovely, inclusive environment. The boys will do two weeks of that in June/July.

They also are doing a week of art camp (well, technically it’s more of a class, since it’s just 2 hours) at our city’s art museum, a week of scout camp (very inexpensive, but mom has to go for a day to the swamp, too – oh boy!), swimming lessons at our local neighborhood pool (only $35 for 2 weeks!) and T-ball/softball in the evenings.

I’ve found that there are some really affordable and also generally enjoyable activities and camps through the local community center, as well as through the county’s parks & rec department. 2/week softball, for 8 weeks, is just $45, for example.

Thanks for blogging about this – this is always a struggle!

xo

Sara May 29, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Hi Mara,

You’ve always got great insight. You’re right that budgeting for 12 months is just easier and does allow for a camp budget, which you you’ll need. Camp Mommy? Oh dear! That’s when all those treasure box treat come in handy to bribe, uh, I mean, encourage good behavior. I’ll have to see what our Chabad is doing for summer. They often have spring break camp and I hear good things about it.

Thanks for sharing the fun things you have planned for the kids. Our parks and rec doesn’t have a lot, but we’ve got daily swimming and for my daughter she’d swim all day if I let her.

I’ll keep looking for fun stuff!

Sara

Marjorie L. May 27, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Don’t forget the firefighters museum and target free days at several museums. I believe the Phoenix Children’s Museum has a free evening monthly too. The libraries often have free or cheap entertainment, movies, and crafts for the kids too. Sahuaro Ranch in Glendale has a super cheap history camp that I might sign A up for ($35 for a week of mornings).

Sara May 29, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Hi Marjorie,

I love the firefighter’s museum! I went to the Phoenix Children’s museum day once and it was crazy. Totally stressed me out. History camp? That sounds like fun. Maybe not to everyone, but I think it would be terrific. And Sahuaro Ranch is beautiful. Thank you for sharing these.

Sara

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