Summer Camp Business – Budgeting and Finance


You’re ready to start your summer camp and you have everything you need to get started, but when it comes to bookkeeping, financial planning or specifically budgeting you’re at a loss. The aim of this article is provide you with some basic information and a few resources to help you get started.

The most important thing to understand, is that every holiday camp or club is a business. If your camp takes in less money than you spend, you will be out of business in no time unless you have some very deep pockets. The best way of ensuring that doesn’t happen is by creating a simple budget and financial forecast document.

Importance of Budgeting

Your business budget is essential for determining break-even point, forecast earning potential and project your camp expenses. Creating a business budget will provide you with a roadmap and help you keep focus on the bigger picture by developing a financial strategy of what your business is going to look like 3, 6 and 12 months down the line.

Having a business budget in place enables you to plan ahead, prioritize your allocation of funds and gauge whether your financial projections are being met. It will also help you make educated decisions to enhance your business operations with added clarity and efficiency.

By using a plan and committing numbers to paper, your chances of succeeding with your camp are helped by anticipating future needs, spending, profits and cash flow.  Without a budget or a plan, a camp can run the risk of spending more money than it is takes in and be doomed for failure.

How Much to Charge Campers?

The average cost of a day camp in the UK ranges from £19 – £34 depending on the location.

The easiest way of working out your break even figure is to take your daily camp expense and then divide that figure by the number of campers. This is the figure you need to charge to make your money back from that one day (not including your monthly operating expenses).

Before you decide on how much you’re going to charge, do your research and find out how much competitors are charging in the area. Don’t try to undercut them and start a price war because it will backfire in the long run. They are probably operating with minimal overheads and the standard and their camp is probably a poor standard. For the sake of an extra couple of pounds, I guarantee that parents would rather their child had a better experience at camp.

If you charge less you will have less revenue coming in and will need to cut your operating costs as much as possible – we don’t want to be in this position EVER! This can affect both the safety of our campers and our camp reputation.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Do your research and make a decision on what price works best for your market and location.

In the budget sheet below I have set the average cost for each camper to £21 this will vary for you depending on your location.

Example Budget Sheet

The documents contains the following information on separate tabs:

  • Camp weekly budget
  • Start-up costs
  • Operating budget

Feel free to edit the template and change expenses and figure to suit your own camp business.

Tracking and Analysing your Spending

The easiest way to control both your expenses and your income is to pay attention to it. The method I recommend is to purchase an online accountancy subscription such as QuickBooks or Sage.

Online accountancy systems provide an easy to use and affordable solution for book keeping needs making the process of keeping track of your business financials easy (and sometimes enjoyable). Use your accounting software to setup chart of accounts, create invoice, check on your spending and review your camp sales.  Most software packages also provide a payroll and tax add-ons for an additional cost and can even send your tax returns for you.

All online accountant websites offer you a free trial for a month to give it a try (and get you hooked). Try a couple of these and at the end of the month period, review which one works best and you find easiest to use then purchase the subscription package.

Prices range from £4-15 per month (this is far cheaper than an accountant).

3 Finance Tips for Camp Businesses

Tip 1: Measure and analyse bookings and revenue

Track your camp bookings monthly and file your reports. Compare your upcoming camp with previous camp sales at different periods before camp begins.

  • 3 months before = x amount of sales
  • 1 month before = x amount of sales
  • 14 days before = x amount of sales
  • 7 days before = x amount of sales

Aim for a rebooking rate of 60-70% for eligible campers, anything less than that is not good enough. If you’re losing campers, then you need to figure out why, fix the problem and give them a reason to try your camp again.

Tip 2: Reinvest in your camp and activities

Failure to consistently reinvest in your camp, will eventually catch up with you and you’ll see a drop off rate of returning campers. Your camp will get a reputation of having ‘boring activities’ and you will find it increasingly difficult to attract new campers (and old ones). Every camp, invest in a new activity and special attraction, it doesn’t matter what it is as long as its fresh, new and fun!

Tip 3: Don’t short change your customers

Booking a child on to camp represents a large expense and a financial sacrifice for many parents. Don’t add on petty charges or try to up-sell them on something you can provide for free. For example, if you hire a photographer for an event, don’t try to charge them for photos, instead pay the hourly rate for the photographer and provide all photos to parents on a password area of your website for free. If you can’t afford to that, don’t book it in the first place.

Bottom Line

Budgeting sounds more complicated than it actually is.  Thanks to online accounting software, managing your camps finances has never been easier – you will be provided with a simple user interface, examples, tutorials and what’s more it’s extremely affordable!

The goal of managing your finances is to make sure that enough money is available to keep your camp operating, to grow, to compete with other providers, and to ensure a solid emergency fund if required. Understanding your financials is an essential step that business owners must do to safeguard their companies future and succeed as a business.


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