S'mores and Sanitizer-Doing more with less

S'mores and Sanitizer is a blog run by contributor Susan Sultzman. It can be found here This content was created on 6/13/14

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Although I thoroughly enjoy working as a camp nurse, it’s probably not something I would choose to do on my own.  At the very heart of the matter, it’s all for my daughters, Natasha and Claudia, so I can give them an amazing experience for which I could otherwise never manage to pay rack price.  For those nurses whose economic situations can endure it (and relationships that can withstand it), working at a summer camp is a unique way to offer their children the experience of a lifetime.  According to the American Camping Association’s website, there are approximately 9,500 summer camps of all types in this country, and every one of them needs a handful of medical professionals to staff their health centers.  These camps cannot possibly pay the doctors and nurses the same salaries they receive at home, so it’s a common industry standard to reduce or even waive the camp tuition for their children in exchange for professional services provided.  It’s a win-win situation.

When I was “shopping” for the perfect camp (both times), all I had to do was surf the web, find the human resources contacts, shoot emails, and watch the offers come in.  It was mind-boggling. Last year I searched in late May and thought there would be no jobs left, and I was so wrong! I sent out at least a dozen inquiries the first morning and 8 hours later I had about 5 opportunities to choose from.  Most camps emailed, but the director of my camp got back to me via phone.  I still remember when I saw her number buzzing my cell phone, and getting this strange feeling that I should pick that up, not let it go to voice mail.  Hours earlier, I had already given a “yes” to a fine arts camp and was busy with my “no thank you’s” to the other camps, but I picked that call up anyway. And it’s a good thing I did, because she sold her camp to me just with the enthusiastic love in her voice as she described it.  (I shudder to think what my girls and I would have missed out on if I hadn’t taken that call.)   I often wonder how many hundreds of camp nursing jobs remain unfilled out there each summer.

So, back to my original point… although we’re not wealthy, Steve and I do okay, but only because we’ve been creative with our finances from the start.  We purchased a small townhouse in 1997 with a price tag way below what the bank told us we could borrow. Our mortgage is under $1000 including taxes.  Because of this we are not a slave to our finances and largely avoided the woes others have faced in the Great Recession. We endured when I quit teaching and went to nursing school.  We endure in the winters when Steve gets laid off. 

We have always been able to get by with one of us being a stay-at-home parent for our children (except during times when our schedules overlapped, and we resorted to professional child care only a few months at a time).   This is a lifestyle that we chose so one of us would always be with the girls, so we could raise them ourselves and be actively involved in their lives.  We don’t give our kids lots of Things. We give our kids a lot of Time.  This costs our household a lot of potential income, but it’s worth every penny we never see.  And because we live below our means, Steve and I are in the unique position to be able to provide our kids with summer camp.  I find it deliciously serendipitous that because we live frugally, it’s something we can afford to do.