Monday, June 22, 2015

5 Tips for Keeping Summer Costs in Check #StartSaving

When I was a kid our city had a great thing going on in the summers. They hired high school and university students to work in the city playgrounds, to supervise and lead activities for whatever neighbourhood kids came by. It was like free day camp, every week day, all summer long. The students got experience and earned some cash, and the kids had a great time playing and learning with their friends.

That was a long, long time ago. These days many parents struggle with how to fill the 10 weeks of summer vacation without breaking the bank. Whether it's the necessity of day camps to cover childcare while mom and dad are at work, or the costs associated with sports teams and family outings, the price of summer can really add up.
boy walking dog
One of our favourite free activities - take the dog for a long walk on any of the amazing trails in our area.
This provides lots of opportunities for spotting birds and other wildlife, identifying trees and plants,
and just getting some fun exercise.

According to a recent survey by TD Canada Trust, 55% of Canadian parents with children under the age of 18 take on additional costs during the summer, and 71% of them spend up to $999 per child. When my husband and I were both working outside the home we had to send Boo to full-time daycare for the summer, or register him in camps for any weeks we weren't on vacation. The same with the Teen when he was young. These days, with me working from home we've cut way down on the costs, sending Boo to camp for just a couple of weeks, to give me a break. But activities and travel costs can still add up if you don't plan carefully. Linda MacKay, Senior Vice President, Retail Savings and Investing and Shirley Malloy Associate Vice President, Acquisition & Sales Management from TD have the following tips to help you stay on budget.

Tips for Budgeting for Summer Activities:

  • Check your rewards balance – redeem some of your loyalty rewards, such as points from your First Class Travel Credit Card, to help fund activities and travel (for example, you can redeem your loyalty rewards for certain theme park passes or tours and excursions).
  • The early bird gets the worm – some organizations may provide a discount on early registration; check the sign up dates and sign up in advance to save a few dollars 
  • Budget and start saving early – save a little money each month and put into your TFSA; online budgeting tools (visit can help you determine how much to save each month
  • Shop around – municipally run activities through community centres or the Parks and Recreation department often offer lower cost programming
  • File your receipts – some summer costs could be tax deductible as a child care expense or under the child fitness tax credit on your tax return

I strongly encourage you to keep those activity receipts for your taxes. If your child is attending camp so you can work, that's a tax deduction. If they are in a soccer league or swimming lessons, you can claim (up to a certain limit) under the Children's Fitness Tax Credit, and the Children's Arts Tax Credit covers many cultural and creative programs, including music lessons.

Of course there are many free activities to consider as well. Check with your municipality for free programs (including day camps in some areas) and facilities. Our community centre is just a block away and they have free public swimming in their outdoor pool every afternoon and evening, plus a splash pad that's always available. We love visiting the city-run water park a few kilometres up the road - free again! And, as we live in Scarborough, there's always the beaches. Pack a picnic lunch, a few plastic shovels and pails, and off you go for a day of sun, sand, and surf.

images of free summer activities
Playing in the surf; building with driftwood; swinging in the playground; backyard water fun; getting to know nature; catching stickleback fish in a local pond

Boo loves to just play in the park behind us with his friends (he's old enough now to go on his own!), or to go on nature walks with me on local trails. If you have an inexpensive digital camera around, let your child take that on your walks to capture images of what appeals to them. 

Do you have a smart phone? Think about downloading a geocaching app and spend some time using the GPS functionality to locate hidden treasures. Boo and I started exploring this new hobby last year, and I hope to start finding some caches this summer. I have noted a good many of them hidden in areas we regularly visit, so this is sure to become another free diversion to fill the summer months when I'm not working.

What about you? What ideas do you have for free activities or ways to save on summer expenses?

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by TD Canada Trust. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

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