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When Did Summer Become so Expensive?


When did summer become so expensive?Woo hoo! Summer is here. A lot of people love autumn in Portland, but I prefer summer. The weather is usually very good and it doesn’t get too hot and muggy here. School is also out. We live near Portland State University and the whole area slows down a little bit in the summer. There is less traffic and the campus is much less crowded. It’s nice. RB40Jr finished preschool 2 weeks ago, but he was sick the whole time. He got a fever that turned into a painful ear infection. We all slept terribly for a while because he kept waking up crying in the middle of the night. We’d get up and watch TV until he falls asleep on the couch. I read that ear infection is more painful when you lie down and sitting up to watch TV actually helped a lot. He is on the mend now so we’re all getting back to our normal sleep schedule. This week he is starting summer day camp at his old preschool. It cost $99 per week for half days which is very cheap. I plan to send him to camp every other week so we’ll have some summer free time. I also looked at other summer camps and they cost quite a bit more. When did summer become so expensive?

I’m 42 so I am not that old. When I was a kid, my family did not have any extra money and the kids never went to summer camp. We immigrated to the US when I was 12 so I guess that’s another reason why I’m not familiar with the summer camp concept. I was old enough to watch my younger brothers and we just hung out in the summer. We played at home, went swimming, went to the library, went to the park, and read a lot. None of my friends at school talked about summer camp either. Most kids were from middle and low income families so I guess summer camp wasn’t a common experience at my old public schools.

Now a day, we are doing much better financially so summer camp could be an option for us. It’s probably a necessity for most families with 2 working parents. If you’re working full-time, you have to arrange some sort of childcare for the kids. Even if the kid is 12 year old, you don’t want him/her to sit at home all day and play video games. Summer is a good opportunity to learn more about things that aren’t taught in school. RB40Jr is 5 this summer and I’m starting to look at various summer camps around town. I don’t see much of the typical summer camp where you send the kids off for 3 weeks. I’m wondering if this is an east coast thing. Locally, I see a lot of week long day camps that center on a particular activity or attraction. There are a few week long sleepaway camps. Here are some of them.

  • Zoo camp: $297 per week for non members. Kids learn more about animals at the zoo.
  • OMSI camp: $350 to $700 per week for non members. There are a bunch of different camps at the Science Museum. The cheaper camps are at OMSI. The week long field trips are more expensive.
  • Sports camps: $100 to $300 per week. Kids try soccer, martial art, yoga, rock climbing, tennis, fencing, rowing, etc..
  • Trackers: $325 to $525 per week. Kids learn about wilderness survival, archery, wizards, ninja, and all sorts of other fun stuff.
  • Farm camps: $300 per week: Kids can spend time at the farm and learn where food comes from.

There are quite a few interesting camps. At this age, he probably would enjoy the zoo camp the most. The wilderness survival camp sounds like something that would be fun when he’s a bit older. The price isn’t cheap, though. You can easily spend over $1,000 per month on these weekly camps.

This summer, we’ll stick with the weekly camp at junior’s preschool. I think every other week is just about right. We’ll have time to hang out and enjoy all the fun summer activities outside of school. There are a ton of free summer activities in Portland. We’ll go camping at least once too. Let’s see what fun stuff we can do this summer.

  • Movies at the park – Jaws at a nearby park! That will be fun for the kid. 😀
  • Summer concert at the zoo – This one isn’t free, but it is a great setting for a concert. The Buena Vista Social Club would be a lot of fun.
  • Camping at Crater Lake – I’m looking forward to this trip in July.
  • Trip to the beach – Oregon dunes and seafood, yumm…
  • Free concerts at the park – I love our Park & Rec. There are a ton of concerts all over the city in the summer.
  • Hiking – Maybe we’ll go see the waterfalls this year.
  • Swimming at the pool – I’m sure we’ll spend a ton of time at the pool once it gets really hot.
  • Berry picking – We haven’t done this before so it should be a fun experience.
  • Waterfront Blues Festival – We have been too lazy to go for the last few years, but my friend is coming this year so I’m looking forward to it.
  • A bunch of cultural festivals and neighborhood fairs throughout the summer.

RB40Jr is a very lucky kid to live in a city with so many fun things to do. Once he’s a bit older, I’ll sign him up for some of the more expensive camps. I think a week long sleepaway camp would be great too when he’s a teenager. It’ll give him a chance to learn to be more independent. Anyway, this summer will be relatively cheap for us at around $200 per month. The cost will probably increase next summer, but we’ll have more money saved up too. He is starting kindergarten in September and we won’t have to pay for preschool anymore. YES!

Did you go to summer camp when you were a kid? What’s the plan this summer? Do you think summer is more expensive now?

Image by Josh Felise

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 46 comments… add one }
  • Pennypincher June 15, 2016, 5:02 am

    We played outdoors from sun up until the street lights when on. Then went back out for night time games of “kick the can” in the street. Not a lot of worries back then, and all for free.
    Check out the summer YMCA camps in your area. They are good, old fashioned sleep away camps in the woods near a lake. Best deal for your $. YMCA camps attract kids from all over the country, and the counselors are from all over the world. They teach courtesy, respect, acceptance of others, kindness, teamwork, perseverance, leadership, and all good stuff while having a lot of fun. I guarantee you will pick your kid up 1, 2, 3 weeks later and they will never look more healthy or happier! And they get to be counselors when they are old enough.

    It seems this whole kid recreation/entertainment thing has turned into an industry of big bucks to be made sometimes. I think we are in the wrong business and should join the bandwagon, ha, ha! Like my kids preschool teacher once said, “What’s wrong with just relaxing and doing nothing sometimes?” Well said!

    • Fiscally Free June 15, 2016, 7:59 am

      I also recall running wild in the summers. In retrospect, we probably could have used a bit more supervision.

      • Pennypincher June 15, 2016, 7:32 pm

        Fiscally Free, you are right. There didn’t seem to be much supervision until someone got hurt somehow.
        I’m surprised no one that I knew got hit by a car, train, or simply “disappeared”. We were free to explore just about anywhere within reason. A different world we live in now. Not so much freedom, but the older kids have cell phones that seem to give them more freedom now. Parents still worry. You need to know where your kids, are 24/7.

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 9:54 am

      Seems like kids can’t just play anymore these days. All the neighborhood kids are busy so nobody to play with.
      I forgot about the Y. I will check it out this week. The specialty camps are pretty expensive…

  • Apathy Ends June 15, 2016, 5:04 am

    Summer is always an expensive run for us, we seem to be busy or out of town 3/4 weekends (weddings, cabins, visit family)

    It is an absolute blast – but it’s not fun reviewing the credit card statements

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 9:55 am

      Summer has slowed down a lot for us. We used to have a lot of stuff going on, but we decided to stay in town more now because there are so many things to do here. Also, no more going to weddings, etc…

  • The Green Swan June 15, 2016, 5:29 am

    Summer camps are expensive for kids. My little one is still in full time daycare so we haven’t put him in a summer camp yet, but I’ve heard a lot about them here in Charlotte. They are very popular for working families like you mentioned. But back when I was a kid, this wasn’t really a thing. Similar to you, me and my three siblings kept ourselves busy playing around the neighborhood, etc. Funny how things seem to change. We may want to start a new business and open some summer camps, huh?!

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 9:56 am

      Blogger camp. 🙂
      Just sit them in front of a computer and occasionally coach them.

  • Mike Drak June 15, 2016, 5:43 am

    I never went to summer camp when I was young just hung around with my friends and played outside but then again this was when both parents didn’t need to work and mum was always home. Times sure have changed and summer camps are expensive but necessary for working parents.

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 10:02 am

      Like I mentioned above, there aren’t a lot of friends around in the summer. The kids are all off somewhere. RB40Jr get to see his friends at the summer camps so that’s nice. It’s good for kids to play with kids. I’m sure he’s tired of hanging out with adults too.

  • Paul June 15, 2016, 5:45 am

    I want to know when this became the norm. Maybe it was growing up lower middle class but I never did any of this and no one I knew did any of this either. But it seems expected now. Dont get me started about $400 birthday parties either…

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 10:03 am

      That’s why I wrote this. I never heard of summer camp until I saw it on an episode of Seinfeld. 🙂
      Yeah, birthday parties are really crazy now.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire June 15, 2016, 5:51 am

    It really sucks when your kid is sick – you feel bad for them and it also screws you up during that time as well. Glad you’re feeling better, RB40Jr!!

    I never did summer camp when I was a kid. Similar to you, I think that was a money thing.

    I don’t think our daughter would want to do that. As much as she loves playing with other kids, she likes to know that we’re just a heartbeat away… a tough battle we’re up against.

    We do love camping though and we’ll be doing that a few times this summer. We sometimes go just the three of us and other times we go with some of our friends with kids.

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 10:05 am

      I think sending the kid away for a week would be great. He’ll learn to be without his parents for a while. Maybe we’ll do that when he’s 10 or something like that. He’s a bit too young now. I’m sure there will be some resistance at first, but he’ll have a lot of fun.
      We usually go camping just once or twice. Mrs. RB40 doesn’t like roughing it. 🙂

  • Justin June 15, 2016, 6:06 am

    Sounds like a symptom of a high COL area.

    Our local city parks and rec summer camps are $25-50 per week for all day camps for those kids old enough to start kindergarten in the fall. I think we paid closer to $75 when we did preschool summer camp for our middle kid.

    Otherwise, it seems like there are tons of sports/science/fun camps for $100-200/wk at the Y, the city parks and rec, local museums, or other providers. I’m sure the $300+/wk camps are out there but you would have to pass over a lot of good options at many other places before you hit that price point.

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 10:07 am

      Wow, that’s really cheap. I am jealous. $99/week is the lowest price I could find. The park and rec cost $125/week.
      I will check the Y. Sport/science camp seems very expensive here. How do regular people afford $300/week?

      • Justin June 15, 2016, 12:09 pm

        $300/wk = that’s why people think kids are expensive. I know many people claim child care is that much at age 5 and under before they enter K-12 school (though around here you can find places for almost half that if you don’t need a 5 star top of the line place and are okay with a home daycare).

        We actually found a free science camp focused on Electricity and Magnetism for our kids this summer. Sponsored by Glaxo Smithkline. It’s only half days but hey it’s free and gets great reviews. Just one week. The regular city summer camp filled up and we ended up cancelling the one week we did manage to book since we decided to go on vacation. Oh well! We’ll be spending the camp refund on a pool pass for the kids.

  • Pia @ Mama Hustle June 15, 2016, 6:19 am

    I never went to summer camp as a kid either – it was a money thing, and my mom stayed at home, so there wasn’t a “need” (even though I’m sure she would have enjoyed a break!)

    Since Hubs and I work full time, our kids are full-time at a local daycare. They have a summer camp program that our son gets to go to since he’s 5, and I think it’s pretty reasonable at $150/week. (My daughter’s tuition is more, $225/week.) He gets to go on weekly field trips to local attractions, and he’s really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I think my daughter is bored, and is having a hard time adjusting – plus she gets to hear about all of brother’s cool field trips, but isn’t old enough to go, so that’s not helping…

    I’m glad we can afford it, but our daycare is in a lower income area, and I wonder how some of the other families manage it 🙁

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 10:09 am

      That’s not bad for full day. It’s nice that they get to take field trips.
      I don’t know how lower income families afford childcare. It is too expensive here. I guess one parent just need to stay home if they don’t make much money.

  • Travis June 15, 2016, 6:26 am

    Ever since rich people in Manhattan started going to the Hamptons for the whole summer, everyone else has had to step up their game

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 10:10 am

      When I was reading up on summer camps, I found the top 10 most expensive camps. The cost was $11,000+ for 3 weeks! That’s nuts. I guess rich people has to spend their money somehow.

  • Nicoleandmaggie June 15, 2016, 6:55 am

    Your park district and/or local Y probably have cheaper summer camps.

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 10:10 am

      I will check the Y this week. I don’t think they can beat $99/week.

      • nicoleandmaggie June 15, 2016, 10:57 am

        No, of course not. Daycare is hard to beat unless you go religious. But for the big kid camps. We’re living in an as expensive place right now and it’s easy to find good full day camps under $200/week, but there are plenty of camps with the prices you’re quoting as well.

  • Lazy Man and Money June 15, 2016, 7:09 am

    I went to summer camp as a kid. (I’m 40, so about the same time.) I think the local YMCA was $20 a week or something ridiculously cheap. My mom talks about it sometimes.

    We’re finding the costs of camp similar to specialty ones you mentioned, but a little cheaper than the cheapest.

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 10:11 am

      Oh wow, $20/week is very affordable even 30 years ago. 🙂

  • Fiscally Free June 15, 2016, 7:53 am

    I never went to summer camp, but my family definitely did a lot of camping in the summers. I am very much looking forward to that with my kid.
    I think your every-other week approach to day camp is a good idea. You will get plenty of time with the little one, but still have time to yourself.

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 10:12 am

      To be honest, every other week is all I can handle. He has so much energy and the adults can’t keep up with him. He’s bouncing around all the time… I’m very glad to have a little time to work on the blog this week. 🙂

  • Jonny Pean June 15, 2016, 8:04 am

    I remember saving up all my pocket money for those fun-filled summer camps! I can’t regret those expenses now..:)

  • Physician on FIRE June 15, 2016, 8:50 am

    I think Justin hit the nail on the head. They charge that much for camp in a HCOL area because they can.

    Last year, we sent our first-grader to a 1-week Lego robotics camp. It was a couple hours a day, and $100, which seemed expensive to me. I guess $10 an hour isn’t so bad in comparison.


    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 10:14 am

      Our kid would love the Lego camp. He has got a ton of Lego now and he’s building some crazy stuff. All the Star Wars vehicle looks like they’re in a Mad Max movie (bristling with guns…)
      $100/week sounds okay. I think the Lego camp at the museum here cost $300/week, but it’s half day.

      • Physician on FIRE June 15, 2016, 6:55 pm

        We got to go on the last day and watch them “Sumo battle” their remote controlled robot cars they built. It was pretty cool, actually. But like you, we do Legos at home all the time.

        My boys have all of my Space and City Legos from my childhood 30+ years ago. And I had a lot!

  • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes June 15, 2016, 9:00 am

    Wow, that costs as much as daycare! With two kids, that will cost a lot.

    I remember summers when I was a kid. They didn’t have daycares where we lived.

    I spent the summer *working* for my parents. Every day I would have a list of tasks to complete.

    Dig a ditch. Chop the wood. Mow the lawn . Do the laundry. Etc. Etc.

    I hated it. Now that I’m a parent I can understand though. My parents had to work, and it kept me out of trouble and not in front of the TV.

    • retirebyforty June 15, 2016, 10:14 am

      Better get your kids ready to dig ditches. 🙂

  • Tawcan June 15, 2016, 9:42 am

    I don’t remember spending time in summer camp until we immigrated to Canada. That’s a lot of money for summer day camp/summer day care. Something to think about for Baby T1.0 and T2.0. Probably will end up just letting them run around outside in the yard and take them swimming when they’re older.

  • Roma June 15, 2016, 10:34 am

    I’m 19 and never went to summer camp as a kid. Just did *a lot* of reading and played with my cousins and neighbors. I guess it works out better when you have family/friends close by.

  • Gwen @ FieryMillennials June 15, 2016, 10:49 am

    Millennial here. I probably spent more time t various camps and day cares than I did at home. First I had a single mother so we went to day care. Then my mom got remarried but they both worked late so I went to afterschool care. During the summers I went to day camp, but one week a summer I got to go to the more expensive overnight camp. It stayed that way until I was 11 or 12, then it shifted to me being at home and camp once a summer. Camp is so important to who I am today that I could probably wrote a whole article on that alone. So my suggestion would be to be reasonable about it. Maybe a cheaper option all summer and a more expensive splurge once.

  • CentSai June 15, 2016, 1:26 pm

    We feel the same way! Summer is getting to be so expensive. It’s difficult to financially balance kids camps, going out with friends, and other fun summer activities. Thanks for the advice and thanks for sharing!

  • Josie June 15, 2016, 5:12 pm

    Definitely more expensive on your coast then it is over here in Florida! Camps are big here also. I think a lot of it has to do with how hot our summers are , kids really don’t go outside to play unless it’s at the pool! On average summer camps would be about 500 a month for all of the things you mentioned per Child. I love the idea of sending kids off to have fun educational experiences during the summer but I would also want them to be at home part of the time.

    • retirebyforty June 16, 2016, 9:27 am

      $500/month is a great deal. I think the cost of living is generally lower in FL. Portland used to be affordable, but it’s getting more expensive every day.

  • Whiskeyrun June 15, 2016, 6:40 pm

    Summertime really becomes expensive if your child has athletic talent. Sport camps are REALLY expensive!……..like in the thousands of dollars

    • retirebyforty June 16, 2016, 9:29 am

      But it will be worth it when your kid wins a gold medal at the Olympic, right? 🙂
      We are not athletic at all so I doubt our kid will be special. We’ll try a few things, though.

  • [email protected] Smarter Decisions June 16, 2016, 12:17 pm

    We had the most amazing (and free!) summer park program where I grew up. I remember riding my bike to the park for crafts, games, softball and swimming – every weekday! Swimming was the only cost (at like a quarter a day). We came home at the end of the day happy and exhausted – excited for another day of adventure. They don’t have that anymore in my hometown and I understand why (with budget cuts, etc.) but I was sure lucky.

    • retirebyforty June 16, 2016, 9:39 pm

      Wow, that was great. It’s too bad they discontinued it. Our park programs are very nice, but they are nowhere close to free…

  • Cofrog June 16, 2016, 3:46 pm

    We used to do the lots of camps mixed with the school program and spent thousands last summer keeping our kids busy. This summer we said no more. While they learned some and had a good time, we decided it wasn’t worth the cost. So I decided to work more in the spring (self employed) and take more time off this summer to be with them and have fun.
    We’re about a month in and it’s going well, although I admit a lot of that was due to a family vacation and quite a bit of time with friends. I know several of those friends are vacationing in July, so there may be some cries of boredom, but I’m ok with that, too. We do have the option at that point to send them to the program at school and we very well may do just that. We’ve already utilized that for our youngest (he’s 8) a few times so I can get work done and he can play with friends. It’s much cheaper than a day camp.

    • retirebyforty June 16, 2016, 9:45 pm

      That’s a great plan. I can’t handle being with Jr 24/7, though. Going to a half day camp gives both of us a little breathing room.
      Enjoy your summer!

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