How to Make Summer Camp Fit Your Family’s Budget

How to Make Summer Camp Fit Your Family’s Budget

Last summer, the New York Times ran a piece about families who can’t afford summer camp or other programs for their kids. It highlights a problem for many working parents: Summertime care for kids is expensive.

This is especially true if your kids are in public school during the year. You suddenly go from paying nothing to have your kids cared for all day to paying a whole lot of money. Many parents may not have much choice but to find summertime childcare.

If this is the boat you’re in, here are a few ways to find a summer camp for your kid and options that may make it more affordable.

1. Check Online for Summer Camp Options

These days most states and major metropolitan areas have parent blogs or magazines devoted to the local area. In my local Indianapolis, for instance, we have Indy’s Child magazine and Both feature a listing of local summer camp options.

Chances are you can find something similar for your area. If you can’t, there are national resources, too. The American Camp Association has a database for finding day and overnight camps in your area. It leans towards ACA accredited camps, though it will list some not accredited. When I ran it for our area, it turned up some but not all the options I know are available. Still, it could be a place to begin your search for a summer camp.

2. Choose a Less Expensive ‘Base Camp’ Option

One thing that makes summer camp expensive is the specialized options. I’ve seen sports camp, Lego camp, technology camp, horse camp and more. If your kid goes to these specialty camps for the summer, you’ll undoubtedly spend more money.

However, many local YMCAs, schools, daycares, churches and city parks programs offer more traditional summer camps. Our daughter’s daycare, for instance, offers a school-aged summer camp program where they hang out at the daycare for much of the day, but also take trips to local parks, libraries, and pools. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s safe, fun, affordable childcare.

If you can find an option like this, build your summer around it. Then you can splurge on a week or two of more expensive specialty camps for your kid.

Where do you find these less expensive options? Check out the following:

  • YMCA: The Y runs summer camps all over the U.S., and sometimes offers a sliding scale fee to make things more affordable. While they offer more expensive specialty camps, most local Y’s also offer traditional day camp options.
  • Churches and religious centers: Many churches and religious community centers offer summer-long day camp options that are quite affordable.
  • Schools: Local schools with before- and after-care programs may transition those into affordable summer camps with fun activities for kids.
  • Parks and recreation: City and county parks and rec departments also run summer camps, and these tend to be more affordable than other options.
  • Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts: If your child is a scout, look into their summer camp options. These are often overnight options, but they tend to be very affordable.
  • Local businesses: Sometimes local businesses offer summer camp-like programs that are for mentoring older kids who may want to become entrepreneurs. These camps may be based on an application process, so be on the lookout well ahead of time.
  • Local colleges: Often local colleges and universities provide camps as a way to get their own students teaching, leadership and coaching experience.

3. Consider a Nanny Camp

Can’t find any affordable summer camp options in your area? Consider putting together a “nanny camp” with friends or neighbors. This is basically a summer-long nanny sharing program.

You’ll hire a nanny to take care of a reasonable number of kids — say four or five — and the nanny can do some summer-camp activities, like going to local parks and pools. This works best if the kids in the nanny camp are around the same age, and if you can provide the nanny with a safe way to get the kids around town.

4. Ask for Assistance

If you can’t afford even the least expensive camp option on your list, ask for financial assistance. Many summer camps offer scholarships for enrollment fees. Sometimes the information about these options isn’t easy to find, so ask about it. Even if you feel like you make too much money to qualify, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

You should also check for discounts. Some camps offer early registration discounts, and others will give you a reduced rate if you pay for the whole season at once. Tons of summer camps also have sibling discount options, which is why it often makes sense to enroll your kids in the same summer camp.

Making summer camp fit into your family’s budget can be tough, especially if you’re not already used to paying for full-time childcare. But there are plenty of excellent, affordable options out there if you just know where and how to look.

Cards for Camp?

You may be tempted to apply for a credit card to earn rewards for your summer expenses. If you do, be sure to check the terms and conditions so you know what you’re getting into. Also, make sure to check your credit to make sure you’ll qualify. You can view two of your scores on

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5 Helpful Apps for Families on a Tight Budget

5 Helpful Apps for Families on a Tight Budget

It’s hard enough to keep a budget for one, let alone get your entire family on track with their finances. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps out there that can help keep you, your spouse, son, daughter and 11-year-old pug (OK, maybe not that last one) from spending beyond your family’s means.

Here are some choice apps that can help with your household budgeting.

1. Goodbudget

Platforms: iOS and Android

Essentially a digital version of the envelope system — you know, where you put money allotted for a particular spending category in one and then don’t use any dollars beyond that — this app syncs up across household devices. That way, everyone in the family can know exactly what’s left to spend on groceries, entertainment and other categories each month. The free version lets you set up 10 regular envelopes and 10 annual envelopes across two devices. A subscription service with unlimited envelopes and device syncs costs $5 a month or $45 a year.

2. You Need a Budget

Platforms: iOS and Android

You Need a Budget (YNAB) is another app that lets folks sharing finances sync their devices and work together. This app pairs with web software of the same name to help users implement the YNAB four big rules: give every dollar a job, embrace your true expenses, roll with the punches and age your money. You can try the latest version, launched in late 2015 and dubbed “The New YNAB,” for free for 34 days. After that, a subscription costs $5 a month or $50 a year.

3. Home Budget

Platforms: iOS and Android

This digital expense tracker from Anishu includes a feature called Family Sync, which — you guessed it — enables household devices to exchange income and spending information within a single, shared budget. There’s a free version (Home Budget with Sync Lite) which limits your expense and income entries, and a paid version (just plain ol’ Home Budget with Sync) that costs $5.99.

4. Wallet by BudgetBakers

Platforms: iOS and Android

This budgeting app lets your share selected accounts with family members so everyone knows what’s going on with the household budget. You can also choose to connect your bank accounts to the app to get automatic updates about their standing. Wallet has a free version with limited features and several paid subscription versions that vary in cost. Its top tier, called Master plan, allows up to 10 users, unlimited bank connections and customized financial analysis. It costs $5.49 a month or $44.30 a year.

5. EveryDollar

Platforms: iOS and Android

This budgeting app helps people apply the money management principles of budgeting guru Dave Ramsey. It syncs across devices so you can budget from your smartphone or your household desktop. There’s a free version and a Plus subscription, which lets you connect your bank accounts to the app and call for support. It costs $9.99 a month.

Balancing the Family Budget

Remember, you’ll want to read the terms and conditions of any app you’re looking to use so you know what it costs, how your data is protected and whether any information will be shared with third-parties. You can find more information for vetting mobile apps on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

And, when it comes to maintaining a household budget, it’s also important to keep track of your credit because a bad or even fair credit score can really cost you on everything from mortgage interest to your family’s cell phone plan.

If your credit isn’t in great shape, you can improve your scores by disputing errors on your credit reports, paying down high credit card balances and getting delinquent accounts back in good standing. And, as always, you can maintain good credit by paying all your bills on time, keeping debt levels low and adding a mix of new credit accounts over time.

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#1 Shopping Deal Hack You Are Overlooking That Could Save Your Budget

#1 Shopping Deal Hack You Are Overlooking That Could Save Your Budget

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are mine.

Through the years I’ve found a shopping deals and hacks that has saved my budget hundreds of dollars. I admit I’m not the biggest shopping fan in the world but I do love a sale. A couple years ago I was named Mobile Shopping Guru by Essence magazine because I knew how to find great deals on my mobile phone. I am still pretty good at finding shopping deals because I simply do not like paying inflated prices for goods and services. 

One of the top hacks I have used for years is shopping online at deal sites like Groupon Coupons. That is the first place I turn when I’m looking for a gift or specific item I’ve been wanting.

Whether it’s a holiday, a birthday, a trip, or something I’ve had my eyes on for a while I go to a site like Groupon to see what they have. If you haven’t signed up for this site you go ahead and do it now.

The main idea of the site is to find local deals but now they have added coupons to your favorite stores like Target, Disney, JC Penny or my favorite, Kohl’s. Instead of hunting everywhere or scouring the Sunday paper you can just go to Groupon and grab your coupons. Print them or download them to your phone to use in the store. You can also shop online with a coupon code.

Here are a few stores you can get coupons for on Groupon right now:

  • 6 pm store #1 shopping deal and hacks to save your budget
  • aerie
  • Ashford
  • Belk
  • Birchbox
  • Carter’s
  • Coldwater Creek
  • Disney Store
  • Foot Locker
  • H&R Block
  • JCPenney
  • Joann
  • Kohl’s

I hope this shopping hack saves you lots of money so you can grow your bank account and have more money at the end of the month

To stay up to date on the latest coupons visit the Goupon Facebook and Twitter feeds.

7 Free Single Mom Budget Worksheets

7 Free Single Mom Budget Worksheets

It’s a new year and probably time for a new or updated single mom budget. What do you typically use to create a budget? Is it something you will use again and again? Maybe you are looking for a new tool or worksheet to jump start the process.

Reasons to Create a New Single Mom Budget this Year

You might not think you need to create another budget. Reasons to consider creating a new budget is because you got a raise or you lost income because of a layoff. Regardless of the reason why it is a good idea to update so you know what will happen with your money this year.

I admit, I am pretty lazy with it comes to making a budget. I’ve used several tools and either didn’t follow my budget religiously or I completely forgot about it. When unexpected expenses come up the budget goes out the window.

My Budgeting on a Smaller Income

I got laid off from my “regular” job in July last year, so budgeting was pared down to rent payment, utilities, phone, and groceries. I had to keep it simple to stay sane.

This year could be different so I’ve compiled a list of single mom budget worksheets to help me and you work this thing out together. I can’t promise I’ll be good, but I’ll do my best.

7 Free Single Mom Budget Worksheets

Free Home Budget Worksheet Download
This site has a list of printable budget worksheets you can download to Excel and use. If you don’t have Excel there are a couple more worksheets you can simply print out and use.

Microsoft Office Budget Templates
I think most people with Microsoft Office have used their budget templates. Just download to Excel or even Word to complete and print.

The Household Planner Free Printable Budget   
This budget worksheet has the typical elements most budget worksheets have. You have your income and expense columns as well as your categories to work with. It is a PDF file you have to download and print.

Dave Ramsey Budget Tools
Dave Ramsey has three different budget worksheets to choose from. The first is a quickie budget worksheet. The next is a Cash Flow worksheets that is more comprehensive. The last is a budget worksheet for irregular income. I think these are great options.

Basic Budgeting Worksheet has a free printable worksheet to help you create a budget. It’s pretty straightforward. Like the others, you simply download and fill in your income and expenses. They also have a monthly spending worksheet to help you keep track of your expenses.

Home Budget Worksheets from CCC
These website has a budget in your pocket worksheet. It is a mini-planner you can keep in your purse or pocket for quick reference. They also have a workbook and an Excel and PDF worksheet you can download.

Practical Money Skills Budgeting
This is one of my favorite websites to learn about money. They have a simple (and colorful) one page budget worksheet. This is great for the person that is making their first attempt at budgeting or just want to move to a simpler method.

These worksheet should get you started on your single mom budget for the year. Feel free to play with it to find the right balance. Also, think about any emergencies you think will come up and try to factor them in. It could be a flat tire, an emergency trip to see a family member, a medical expense, or anything.

Remember to Give to Get More Money

Remember to factor in giving as well. It could be your favorite charity, helping a friend, or donation to your place of worship. Regardless of how you choose to give, just get into the habit of giving. It’s one secret way the rich use to remain prosperous, plus it just feels good!

Happy budgeting!

Download the Automatic Printable Single Mom Budget Worksheet!

I have created a printable single mom budget worksheet of my own that you can download for free. Simply enter your after-tax monthly income and it automatically creates your budget for each category.

Click the image below to go to the download page for the MS Word file and follow the instructions on page 2 (See the demo video below).

singe mom budget worksheet

Save Your Budget: Tips and Tricks to Stretch Those Holiday Dollars

Save Your Budget: Tips and Tricks to Stretch Those Holiday Dollars

There are 5 more days to shop for Christmas (that means you are in last minute shopping mode). Are you ready to brave the stores along with millions of other shoppers? It’s easy to overspend and bust your budget if you are not careful so here are a few budget tips to remember while you are out…

Budget Tip #1 – Create a List

Creating lists, checking them twice – it’s a tradition for many families across the country this time of year as they plan and shop for gifts for friends and family. Even with the economy starting to recover, many people will set a budget before tackling their holiday shopping, but two-thirds of those that set a budget will likely go over, according to a recent survey.

People also think they have a little more than $26 in spare change lying under couch cushions, tucked into purses and pant pockets and tossed about on the floor of the car, according to the survey, released by Coinstar. But the average amount customers convert to a no-fee eCertificate or gift card when they cash in their coins at a Coinstar kiosk is $56 – more than double the amount that consumers think they have, which can certainly help extend holiday shopping budgets.

“We hear all the time how surprised customers are by the amount of money they have when they pour their spare change at our kiosks,” says Mike Skinner, president of Coinstar. “Converting coins to cash vouchers and no-fee eCertificates or gift cards from well-recognized brands is a great way to stretch those holiday dollars – helping consumers stay within their budgets.”


TooMuchCoffeeMan / Pixabay

But finding additional money is just one step shoppers can take to make certain they don’t overspend this holiday season. Here are some other budget tips to save:

Check and Compare Prices

When researching gift ideas, check the prices. This can be accomplished easily by online window shopping. For example, if you have three toy ideas for your niece, compare the prices first, and then purchase the toy that is less than the amount you’ve budgeted for her gift.

Look for Free Shipping

Keep shipping costs in mind. There are many free-shipping deals to be found this holiday season, but if one isn’t available for a person on your list, make certain that the shipping cost added to the gift price is less than the amount you budgeted for that person.

Watch for Holiday Sales

Shop the sales. Your online window shopping ahead of time is a great way to narrow down your list to exactly what you’ll buy, keeping yourself within budget. Then watch the holiday sales. If you are able to buy all your items with coupons and discounts, you’ll be better off in the budgeting department.

Stay on Budget

Don’t let sales and discounts encourage you to spend more. If you are able to find a gift item on your list on sale, consider the money saved as exactly that – money saved. Don’t be tempted to find another gift item to bring the total of your gift up to your original budgeted amount, because chances are, you’ll go over.

With these budgeting tips, and the extra change you find lying around your house converted to a cash voucher or a no-fee eCertificate or gift card at a Coinstar kiosk, you’re on your way to a guilt-free January (at least as far as budgeting is concerned).