Upon learning my kids are going to day camp for four weeks this summer, a neighborhood mother who is an acquaintance said, “Must be nice. We can’t afford camp.”
Now, I’m just going to let the fact that her kids go to public school fly. That she gets to send them off everyday without a thought. Instead I’ll be offering a public service announcement on how to afford camp.
1) Drive old cars. We bought one used, the other new. Both are over a decade old. We have not had a car payment in years.
2) Live close to where you work. Todd’s commute is short. Very little gas required.
2) Never go out. We spend very little on restaurants, and virtually nothing on fast food, due to special needs and special diets. Our booze bill consists of about $10.00-15.00 a month, my contribution to “porch night” with the girls. I drink about 1.5 glasses of wine a week with them. Two if I’m feeling wild. Hot Toddy drinks nothing. Ever. Neither of us smokes.
3) Trade babysitting services with a friend rather than paying for them on those rare occasions when you do get to go out with your spouse.
4) Have kids who are naturally unathletic. We pay nothing for soccer, tennis, lacrosse, you get the idea.
5) Don’t do your hair. I have high lights right now (which I got before my 25th high school reunion last summer and have had touched up once since then). Prior to that I got my hair cut maybe twice a year and did my own color at home.
6) Use the library.
7) Don’t go on big family vacations. We’ve taken two family vacations in the last ten years. One was paid for by my friend who died and left us the money for it. I would rather send my kids to day camp for four weeks than “vacation” because vacations with kids are rarely “vacations” for moms, and I need a break. Did I mention we homeschool?
8)Rarely buy clothes or new make-up.
9) Don’t ever buy soft drinks. Home or out.
10) Get your produce from a co-op. We spend $25.00 a week and get a huge basket full of organic produce which would cost three times as much if we bought it in a store.
11) Bring rather than buy. Todd packs a lunch every single day. He doesn’t spend a dime on cafeteria food or take out for lunch at work. Ever.
I know times are tough for many people. I understand that for some, camp is out of reach no matter how frugal a family is. For others, it is a matter of priorities. If Dad can buy a new motorcycle, there is money for camp. If Mom spends money each week getting her nails done at a salon, there is money for camp. For the most part, except in dire circumstances, we find money for what is important to us. I don’t begrudge anyone their motorcycle, their hair, their nails. Their junk food. Their new car every couple of years. I really don’t.
But spare me the “must be nice” about camp.