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Summer Camp: Last Chance to Snag a Deal

My daughter started summer camp this week. When I dropped her off, I happened to notice that there were some empty seats on the bus. Thanks to the economy, I have to imagine many programs aren't full this year. This could be good news for families who are still trying to figure out how to entertain their kids this July and August.

Indeed, Jill Tipograph, the founder of Everything Summer, says it's not too late to sign your child up for summer camp. While some of the most popular programs may be full, there are plenty of camp directors that would be thrilled to receive a phone call from a desperate parent hoping to find a free spot for their kid. And some of these camps are even offering families discounts. Typically, these are found during the month of August or for a particularly unpopular week, Tipograph says.

It's tough to say how large the savings will be since they it varies from camp to camp. But if other discounts (such as early bird specials) are any guide, you may find deals worth up to 10% off the tuition. And even if the program you're interested in isn't slashing its fee, you may still be able to save some cash if you are sending multiple children and qualify for the sibling discount.

One more way to save money is to take advantage of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. (The one caveat is that both parents must be working or looking for employment and your children need to be under the age of 13.) This is worth 20% to 35% of child care expenses up to $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two kids or more. The IRS considers summer camp a form of child care since it allows parents to work.

Finally, if you need help finding a camp, you can check out the American Camp Association's Find a Camp search tool.

How do you entertain your kids during the summer?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.

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