How to Afford Camp

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.

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16 Responses to How to Afford Camp

  1. We’re with you. We don’t even own a home. Our two cars are ancient. Our TV is antediluvian. But we’ve traveled around the world AND we’re all three making our modest living as artists.

    I will not, however, relinquish my Diet Coke.

  2. Kathi says:

    Amen, sister.

  3. KFuller says:

    I hope she sees this. She owes you an apology. And she owes you a thank you for the education.

  4. Carrie Link says:

    I love you and everything about you, and in particular, I love this, “4) Have kids who are naturally unathletic. We pay nothing for soccer, tennis, lacrosse, you get the idea.”

    Must be nice home schooling – you get to spend so much quality time with your kids! : )

  5. Shannon says:

    So SO true.

  6. *m* says:

    You rock. Well said!

  7. I think the phrase “must be nice” must be stricken from the lexicon.

    The trouble with me is that I spend way beyond my means, and that includes camp for one of my children that I’ve charged. But I’m not making any excuses.

  8. Amanda says:

    You pay your money, you make your choice.

    Well said

  9. – I think the phrase “must be nice” must be stricken from the lexicon.-

    Love this Elizabeth. I am exploring why this phrase triggered me so yesterday. Why do any of us begrudge anyone else anything? Because we believe someone is getting something we want and can’t have. It brings up tremendous survivor’s guilt for me and also an opportunity to look at my attachment to being the victim. Having to justify my good fortune by pointing out all the ways we scrimp.

    It’s easy to see why I have not drawn more abundance into my life if I squirm at acknowledging what we do have. I just have not figured out a good and kind reply to “must be nice.”

    Anyone have any suggestions?

  10. Meg says:

    “It IS nice. I plan for it all year!”

    You owe no explanations to anybody, ever. “Must be nice” is the equivalent of the 5 year old’s “It’s not fair!” and usually not as well reasoned.

  11. Chris V. says:

    I love this alot…I think it’s so honest.. I agree..
    “It IS nice, and we work our butts off to make it happen..” I also agree that it’s like saying, “It’s not fair!”….. and you sure don’t need to explain this one… !!!!

  12. holly says:

    well said, michelle!

    And, I think your good and kind reply to “must be nice” is right here in this post. You can boil it all the way down to balance. It’s okay to tell her it’s a trade off and a choice and a priority.

    Her: “Must be nice.”
    You: “Thanks, but I’m not sure nice is the right word. I think it’d be more accurate to say it’s a good choice for my family. Camp is our priority so we make it happen by forgoing some of the big money suckers that are just part of daily life for a lot of people. It’s a trade off we’re happy with, a good a balance for my family”

  13. kario says:

    I’m with you, Michelle. I just wish that instead of constantly comparing our lives to each other’s we could celebrate with each other at the successes we have and bond together over challenges. The fact is, each family makes do with what they have and the fact that your kids are going to day camp is not taking anything away from another family. Your kids deserve it (and so do you).

    I love your observation that it’s hard to invite abundance in to your life when you shy away from acknowledging what you have. I feel the same way, but in my case it helps to be married to a man who constantly invites abundance in to his life (and shares it with me) and knows that he deserves every drop of it. And he’s generous with his time and money to boot! Enjoy each single, solitary second of the days of camp!

  14. Alexis Yael says:

    Similarly to how I react to being told “it isn’t fair” I usually just smile and nod. It WILL BE nice. She just phrased it poorly.

    That said, what I find most ironic is that the people who I can think of that have said something like that to me in the past all make more money than we do! (And in my case, they’re usually grousing about not taking as many trips as we do, that’s how my family does things; we love to travel.)

    One car, one motorcycle (bought outright, no payment). Small, affordable mortgage. No debt (aside from that mortgage). Not living beyond our means. We do go out to eat, we choose to. We don’t choose to buy lots of stuff.

    It’s all about making the choices that work for your family!!!

  15. I think a lot of the problem is the whole concept of “deserve”. “I don’t deserve abundance.” “I don’t deserve to be treated so badly.” “I deserve a trip to Aruba after all I’ve been through.” “I deserve that fifth caramel sundae.”

    Who among us “deserves” ANYTHING we’ve got or haven’t got? I suspect that once I can delink “deserve” with “my status and effectiveness as a moral being”, my life will get a lot easier.

  16. Lo says:

    That is a hard phrase to deal with kindly:)
    Why do we have to substantiate to anyone else what we’re doing over at our house:)???

    Great post Michelle! Must mean you PAY for internet:)

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