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Summer Expenses That Sneak up on You

I used to think the holidays were the most expensive time of year, what with the presents, decorations and Christmas cards. But if the pile of bills, proposals, and camp brochures littering my desk is any indication, summer is running a strong second for seasonal money suck.

Here's a sample of the expenses, both big and small, that I'm looking at:

  • The tree guy wants $700 to prune back several bushes and our cherry trees, whose low-lying branches scrape the car every time we drive up the driveway.
  • The septic tank guy needs $250. I'm not going to argue that one. But we probably have to prune the trees for the septic guy's truck to make it to the house.
  • My sports-obsessed four-year-old son could go to a week of sports camp at Lehigh University for two and a half hours each morning. It's $150 and a schlep getting there. My friends' kids have enjoyed the significantly cheaper Push the Rock sports camps, which bill themselves as "unapologetically Christian in our approach as a camp." Hmm. I'm not sure how much the little guy would get out of that. But I'm willing to keep an open mind in the name of carpooling.
  • Nature camp. Again, $150 per week, per child. Three hours each day of digging in the dirt, wading in a river, looking at animal tracks and identifying birds. Sounds neat. Other possibilities for the first grade set are two weeks of morning art camp or two weeks of morning writing camp. But suddenly I'm looking at a summer as taxi mom. We'll probably hold off on all these until next year.
  • Affordable tennis and swimming lessons being offered, respectively, by the town and an enterprising college-student lifeguard. Those move into the "possible" pile.
  • We already paid $90 for our six-year-old to play town softball this spring. Now a photographer is coming for the team photos. The pre-set packages range from $20 for the basic to $40 for a poster package with trading cards. No thanks, although I am tempted to invest in a team photo to help me learn the names of the girls on the team, who to me are distinguishable only by the configurations of their missing teeth.
  • The school is offering, for $10, Summer Bridge Activity books to keep my daughter's math and reading skills sharp between 1st and 2nd grade. If I buy one, does that put me on the path toward Tiger-mom-dom? Am I the only mom who worries about this -- we never had summer activity books when we were kids and we did just fine, thank you -- or is everyone else just buying the darn book without making a federal case out of it? Will we even open it if we buy it?
As I wade through this pile, I'm trying to balance the needs of the house, the needs of the kids, and the needs of my various bosses. We could punt on all the activities and keep the kids at the daycare and with the babysitter who watches them during the summer. But I want my kids to feel like summer is different from the school year, with time for relaxing at home and experiencing some of the sports and activities they enjoy. I just don't want to run myself ragged -- or go broke -- in the process.

How do you handle summer camps and lessons for your kids? Sign in below to let me know.

Photo courtesy Flickr user bnpositive, CC 2.0

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