Everyone seems to be waxing nostalgic for those unstructured “’70s” summers where kids ran wild, ate bologna, and didn’t come home until the street lights came on. But that might be because summer can be very expensive! The wide array of options and costs for family activities in Toronto can be very overwhelming.
According to a recent TD survey, 55% of Canadian parents with children under the age of 18 take on additional costs during the summer; in fact, 71% of them spend up to $999 per child. The most popular additional activities or programs parents sign their kids up for during the summer include:
- Family vacations (55%)
- Classes – e.g. swimming, dance (53%)
- Day trips – e.g. zoo (51%)
- Summer camp (49%)
- Sporting activities (46%)
When it comes to expenses, our family has all of the above. According to TD, the top ways parents pay for their summer fun are by saving ahead of time to account for the extra costs incurred over the summer (38%), and cutting back on other expenses to fit the cost in to their budget (26%).
TD experts Linda MacKay (Senior Vice President, Retail Savings and Investing) and Shirley Malloy (Associate Vice President, Acquisition & Sales Management) have some other money-saving tips as well:
- Check your rewards balance – redeem some of your loyalty rewards, such as points from your First Class Travel Credit Card, to help fund activities and travel
- The early bird gets the worm – some organizations may provide a discount on early registration; check the sign up dates and sign up in advance to save a few dollars
- Budget and start saving early – save a little money each month and put into your TFSA; online budgeting tools can also help you determine how much to save each month
- Shop around – municipally run activities through community centres or the parks and recreation department often offer lower cost programming
- File your receipts – some summer costs could be tax deductible as a child care expense or under the child fitness tax credit on your tax return
Luckily, living in the big city means we have lots of free and fun family activities in Toronto that won’t break the bank, so we can all have a blast this summer without doing without.
Here are 5 ways to save on summer family activities in Toronto:
1) Free is good:
Toronto has no shortage of free family attractions. Our favourite has always been Riverdale Farm, which is not only free, but open every day–even Christmas. A splurge can be a few cents for some freshly-baked cookies from the volunteer kitchen. Other free favourite places include Kew Beach Park, High Park (and the High Park Zoo).
2) The Toronto Public Library:
We’re truly blessed in this city to have such a fabulous (and free!) public library system. All summer long there are events and reading clubs for your budding (and more experienced) readers in cool, air-conditioned buildings that can offer a little respite from the summer sun.
The CityPASS includes admission to Toronto’s biggest attractions at a heavily discounted price. Though it’s mainly aimed at tourists, there’s no reason why a local family can’t take advantage of deals on admission to the CN Tower, the Toronto Zoo, Casa Loma, the Ontario Science Centre, and the Royal Ontario Museum.
While locals debate if it’s actually “the better way,” parents all agree that children riding free on the TTC‘s buses, subways, and streetcars is a great thing. Plus, kids actually like riding public transit. Imagine that!
5) Parks & Rec:
Even if your kids aren’t enrolled in Toronto’s city-run summer camps and activities, they operate all the great public pools as well. Wading pools in city parks are free, and some of the larger outdoor and indoor pools have waterslides that can rival the GTA’s more expensive theme parks, at the cost of $1 or $2, as opposed to $100 or $200 just for admission.
This post was generously sponsored by TD, but all opinions remain my own.