What Your Kid Should Pack for Summer Camp

In many parts of the country, it’s traditional for kids to spend a week or two—or even a month or two—away at summer camp. Each camp provides parents with packing lists. However, some of them aren’t regularly updated or are provided by idealistic camp directors rather than real families. In addition to the basics, here are some things experienced parents say are essential for kids to take to sleepaway camp:

  • Fewer clothes than you think: Yes, your kid will need basics ranging from shorts to rain jackets. However, when they’re away from home, most kids wear a few of their favorite clothing items over and over. Help your kid pack enough so they can deal with different kinds of weather and have enough clothes to make it to wash day. But don’t overdo it.
  • Replaceable items from home: A stuffed animal for comfort is great. Just make sure it’s not your child’s one-and-only lovey—in case it gets lost or damaged. Photos of family members, friends and beloved pets can also help cheer up homesick campers.
  • Helpful gadgets: Consider sending your child with a battery-powered clip-on book light (flashlights get awkward to hold), a clip-on fan for some fresh airflow and disposable cameras for taking pictures.
  • Shower helpers: For simplicity, give your camper a bottle of all-in-one body wash/shampoo/conditioner. A small water-friendly tote is great for helping campers schlep gear to the shower. Sew small loops (ribbon or bias tape works great) on towels and washcloths to make them easier for your camper to hang them in the shower room and near their bed to dry.
  • Zip-top bags: They’re great for storing items like cards, camp keepsakes and other items in your child’s bunk area. Larger bags also come in handy for keeping a change of clothing dry when your camper goes on kayak trips.
  • Spending money or debit card. If the camp allows it, it’s nice for your camper to be able to buy items at the camp canteen or in a nearby town, according to the American Camp Association (ACA). The Greenlight card may be safer for campers than cash and prepaid debit cards. Why? Cash can be lost, stolen or spent outside of your agreed-upon spending plan. Campers can’t withdraw cash or get cash back from their Greenlight Card. And if your child loses a prepaid debit card, it’s as good as losing cash. If your child’s Greenlight card is lost or stolen, you can quickly lock it and block purchases.
  • Postcards, paper, pre-addressed envelopes and stamps: Most camps now have a “no electronics” policy. This means your child may not be able to bring a cell phone to call or text you. This can be a great thing. Not only will your phone-free child be able to focus more fully on camp activities, you may also receive a few of those beloved, old-style letters from camp!

One last tip: If possible, have your camper all packed two full days before they leave for camp. This packing tip is borrowed from travel writer Rick Steves. Advance packing gives your camper some time to really relax before taking off for camp. It also gives both you and your child a couple of bonus days to remember any last-minute items you’ve forgotten to pack!

(photo courtesy © Camp Pinewood cc2.0)

What your middle schooler should know about money

Going off to middle school is a big milestone — for your kids AND for you. No doubt, your kids will have more freedom. They may not need as much help with homework, and they may even ditch a few family movie nights to see their friends. 

But it’s a great time in their lives. They’re growing up, learning about themselves and starting to form their own opinions about the world. While they enjoy these new privileges, it’s still important to help them learn valuable life lessons — starting with money.

Opportunities to earn 

Middle school is a great age to start earning money [1]. How? Chores, babysitting, yard work, dog-walking, the list goes on. Get creative with it!

When your kids are earning money, they begin to understand what it means to spend it. They grasp the idea that money really doesn’t grow on trees — it comes from hard work. A great way to teach this is by giving them chores and allowance (you can find these in your Greenlight app!). 

Help them manage their spending

Middle schoolers are busier than ever before, and they’re enjoying their independence. When they head out to the movies or spend the night at a friend’s house, it’s important that you’re there with them… without physically being there. 

Greenlight lets you keep track of their spending habits directly from your phone. When they’re spending too much at a certain store, you can add spending controls. Or when they’re not saving enough, incentivize them with Parent-Paid Interest

Talk about saving vs. spending 

As your kids grow up, they may start to have more “wants.” Use this as a chance to talk about saving vs. spending. 

We recommend a “show, don’t tell” approach. Show them what happens when you save money over time. Nice car? Nest egg for college? Hoverboard? A healthy savings account will get them there! 

Understanding costs

When kids are young, they don’t always understand how much life costs. As you know, it can be… well, expensive. Not sure how to prepare them? Start here: 

  • The next time you’re grocery shopping, point out certain brands that are more expensive than others. See what they say! 
  • Tell them about variable expenses and fixed expenses [2]. For example, your car payment is a fixed expense — you know it’s the same every month, so you can budget around it. But a nice dinner out? That will vary depending on the restaurant, and we call that a variable expense. 
  • Show them the utility bill (fun, right?). Some people are shocked when they get their first utility bill. Do your kids a favor now and help them learn what drives the cost up or down — they’ll thank you later!

Keep the conversation going 

Your kids will still be under your roof for a while, so don’t let the conversation drop after middle school. Their understanding of money will evolve and so will your conversations. And when you hit a roadblock, you can always count on Greenlight to help you out!


[1] Money Talks News , [2] US News

What high school graduates should know about finances

You’ve made it to the finish line. After diplomas, passed tests and signed acceptance letters, it’s finally starting to feel real. 

If you’re scrambling at the last minute to send your kids off with all the knowledge and tips they need for the real world, take a breather. We have a step-by-step guide for raising financially-smart high school graduates.

The basics 

No matter what financial background they have or career path they choose, there are some basics that every high school senior should know before college. 

  • Credit vs. debit. Once they’re 18, they can get their own credit card. Here’s the thing: they have to be able to prove their independent income or have a co-signer (probably you!). Talk about credit vs. debit to decide if this is the right time for them. 
  • Everything costs money. Teach your kids how to budget and monitor their spending regularly so they don’t find themselves in a bad situation.
  • Wants vs. needs. For some kids, this is the first time they’ll be paying for gas on their own. For others, college loans are about to start piling up. Take this as a teaching moment to explain why needs should always come before wants.

Return on investment 

Whether they’re picking a major or starting their own business, an important lesson is return on investment. Start with something like, “What you do now affects what you do later. If you decide to push off your mandatory classes, you may wind up in college longer than you wanted to.” You can also use a calculator to figure out the ROI for a major or minor [1]. 

Keep communication open 

Just because they’re leaving home doesn’t mean they’re all alone — remind them of this. They have you and they have us. Setting the stage for strong communication is really important! 

Let Greenlight help 

Family finance, big decisions, money management… it’s kinda our thing. They may not be right down the hallway from you anymore, but you can use your app to stay connected and keep up the financial learnings. 

Or, send them a nice Greenlight Gift to let them know you’re thinking of them. With all of this help, they can handle anything that comes their way! 

[1] PayScale