In my house, the months leading up to the summer always begin with the same decision. Where should we throw our hard earned money so that my kids can enjoy some non-digital fun during the summer months? The options are basically the same every year, and we end up settling for the least painful financial option that will keep our children occupied (and out of the house) for the longest period of time. Now, flash forward to the end of summer, and the conversation usually goes something like this…
Mom: What did you like most about camp this summer?
Kid: I don’t know.
Mom: No, really, what was your favorite part?
Kid: I really liked the ice-cream!
Well, every year, this amounts to the most expensive ice-cream party on the planet. So, the obvious question is why do we continue this vicious pattern? Why are parents so quick to part with our money, just so our kids are out of the house? Most importantly, why do camps charge so much money? Well, the answer is pretty obvious. They charge it, because they know that parents will pay anything.
Let’s look at one case. A popular local day camp with branches in two cities, charges 850 NIS per week, per child. The summer is 8 weeks long. For one child, sending a kid to camp for the entire summer will cost 6,800 NIS. That alone is more than the average monthly salary in Israel! This is only for 1 kid! Yes, there are cheaper options, but when you start adding up the expenses, the costs for these two months become astronomical. A family should not need to go into debt in order to pay for summer activities. One family in my neighborhood has 3 kids who attend various summer camps. They do not send their kids to camp for the entire summer, just for the month of July. This family spent close to 10,000 NIS for 3 weeks of camp.
I am not suggesting a free ride, but the current system is a bit crazy. The camps know that parents are in a bind and the prices seem to go up every summer. In response, the parents, with no other choices keep paying these ridiculous prices. This vicious cycle needs to stop.
Let’s think about alternatives… What types of programs could we do with our kids for a more reasonable cost? Yes, we all work and have commitments during the day, but what if taking a few days of vacation from work could actually save thousands of shekels? What could we accomplish if we pooled our resources and helped each other? Some day trips, sports, factory tours, hours at the pool, and hey, maybe even some educational activities. Should families really need to pay 10,000 NIS for 3 weeks of these activities?
Summer is supposed to be the carefree time of the year, when we can enjoy our accomplishments and relax. Camp should not be the reason why we need to work harder. Now, I am not saying that we should get rid of camps, but I think that we do need some “checks and balances” in place to ensure that our children can experience an enjoyable yet affordable summer. If the camps are not interested in doing this, then yes, they should know that there are other options. This year, my kids will be attending camp for the first part of the summer. After seeing the second half prices, we have decided that there are other ways to spend the time. Yes, this will mean that my wife and I will need to take some time off to do some activities, but in return we get to spend some quality time with our kids and save thousands at the same time. Seems like a “win-win” situation to me.
Parents, before writing those checks and swiping those cards for camp, think about whether other options could work for you.