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FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH: It ain’t easy summer livin’ if left in debt from your kid’s camp

Colchester Recreation offers outdoor day camps with an emphasis on playing and being creative in nature.
Many municipal recreation departments offer summer day camps - often the most frugal option. FILE

What are the options in saving and paying for youth programs

One summertime ritual is almost upon us and -  even though the school-related expenses will take a break for a couple of months - the pressure is now on for some families to find the money to pay for summer camp for one or more children.

The cost can easily reach into the hundreds, if not over a thousand dollars, depending on whether it’s a day camp or week-long overnight camp and, although some camps offer breaks for each additional sibling, the expense to keep the kids busy over summer vacation can be daunting.

In many cases registration fees have already been paid or payments made to reserve spots in camps that can be centred on sports, music, arts, religion or specializing in hosting those with disabilities.

Brigadoon Village in Aylesford in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley offers 14 summer camps for children and youth living with conditions and other life challenges. While registration remains open for only a few of its August camps at this point, Brigadoon offers payment options on a family’s ability to pay.

As the camp’s board of directors sees every family as being different, Brigadoon has developed a “pay-what-you-can” fee structure ranging from $375 to $1,300 (the full cost incurred by Brigadoon per camper). Then there’s a customized payment option based on the ability to pay.

Families are given the option of making equal payments or paying the registration fee in one lump sum. Like many camps, Brigadoon also relies on donations by patrons and fundraising campaigns to pay many of its bills.

The YMCA of Cape Breton also reaches out to lower income families with its opportunity fund application that allows people to apply for financial assistance because they cannot afford the full fee under any of the standard payment options.

Of course, proof of income and spousal/child support documentation is required, but it’s good to know these supports are out there. 

There are other options for parents who make a moderate income, but still find the expenses tough to take if looking to enrol more than one child in summertime activities.

Most day and overnight camps make parents/guardians fully aware of the child care expenses deduction for income tax purposes. 

The federal government recently eliminated the children’s fitness and arts credits that allowed a parent to claim fees paid for signing up their children (under 15) to those types of programs. But you can still claim child care expenses paid to  boarding schools and overnight camps requiring lodging.

Other examples include day camps and day sports schools where the primary goal of the camp is to care for children. This would include a university offering a sports study program for youth, which is not considered a sports school.

According to the Canada Revenue Agency, Part A of form T778, the child care expenses reduction, the maximum you can claim for expenses that relate to a stay in a boarding school or an overnight camp is $200 per week for a child born in 2011 or later where a disability amount cannot be claimed.

For children born in 2017 or earlier, the maximum is $275 per week or those born in 2001 to 2010 (or born in 2000 or earlier with a mental or physical impairment where the disability amount cannot be claimed) is a maximum of $125 per week. 

For an exhaustive list of possible deductions, search online for “income tax folio S1-F3-C1, child care expense deduction.”

You will want to stay organized. Keep all receipts for any services your child may get, squirrel it away and dig it out for next year’s tax season.

At Brigadoon, the camp encourages families to look into personal fundraising opportunities or sponsorship through organizations such as the local Rotary club, Lions Club or through your place of worship.

If it’s a camp that your son or daughter really has their heart set on attending, plan months in advance by getting them to raise a portion of it with the help of family and friends.

The ideas can be endless – from your child taking on odd jobs in the neighbourhood such as shovelling snow or mowing lawns to organizing a yard sale of old toys no longer used.

Even the age-old tradition of a curbside lemonade stand could present itself with some extra cash. Every little bit will help as the demand for money needed throughout the school year will compete with our brief two-month stint having fun in the sun. 

Chris Shannon is the business reporter at the Cape Breton Post in Sydney, N.S.  He can be reached via email at or on Twitter @cbpost_chris. 

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