Ugh–I saved too much in the Dependent Daycare Account (DDA)

Note:  unlike non-academics, our DDA cycle is from September to September, not January-January.  So all childcare money must be used up by August 31st.

What happened was when I did the election, I was assuming we’d be sending DC1 to an expensive two week STEM daycamp, which would knock out 1K.  What happened instead is that this year that camp decided that they would only have a residential option, so now we’re spending even more on the residential option but we can’t use the DDA because the DDA isn’t allowed to be used for overnight camps.   Plus it looks like the bilingual daycamp we want to send DC2 to is going to at most be 2K for the entire summer, more likely it will be closer to $1650 because of that vacation they’ll be taking to Disney, which is less than we had been expecting to pay for hir.  (The museum camp we used to send DC1 to is $155/week + $50/week after care + $25/week before care, but DC1’s last year there had some problems with bad management so we are reluctant to send DC2 there given that the management hasn’t changed.  The children’s museum camp isn’t as good as the multi-lingual camp we picked out, but I think it is also more expensive.  I’d been expecting one of those or something similarly priced.)

So we’ve got somewhere between 1K and 2K excess that can only be spent on daycamp, not on overnight camp.  Most likely that means additional camps for DC1.  Unfortunately, at age 11 and going into 8th grade, DC1 has outgrown most of the regular daycamps in town.  The fun local summer camp where they do summer camp things overlaps with Disney, so that’s not happening this year (even though zie loved it last year).  Zie did the university’s math camp last year and can’t do it again this year (plus it was only $100).  Zie is doing another week-long university daycamp for a different department, but it is free(!)  Zie has done almost all of the half-day STEM camps in the area and I’m not sure they’re worth repeating, though we will check to see if the local makerspace has anything new.  There is a non-profit in the town next to ours that should have something cool zie can do (last year zie did game programming in Unity, the year before was art), but the one for hir current age range changes every year so we don’t yet know when or what it will be.  I wish places would put their schedules (and prices) up!

Maybe zie needs to do cooking classes.  That’s $175/week for a half-day camp…  It looks like there are art camps that are $200/week for a half-day camp.  Summer etiquette camp looks pretty creepy (the webpage laments how social upheaval in the 60s and 70s destroyed good manners).  Drama camp is half days at $125/week.  All of these have age 11 as the max of the age range, so DC1 would be the oldest.

Have you ever put too much in a flexible savings account?  What did you do when school was out as a kid?  If you have kids, what do they do now?

29 Responses to “Ugh–I saved too much in the Dependent Daycare Account (DDA)”

  1. Leah Says:

    In the summers, I spent a LOT of time in the church with our dad. My brothers and I did tons of bulletin folding, newsletter folding, answering phones, copying, etc. I learned a lot of office skills. We also developed our skills at balancing hymnals on our heads — that was pretty awesome.

    I desperately wanted to go to double dutch camp, and my mom said no. I distinctly remember that. We did church camp in the summer (but that was overnight) once we were old enough. We also sometimes did roller skating lessons. Otherwise, I don’t remember any other structured activities. We did spend a lot of time at our local pool, and parents didn’t have to be there to supervise once you hit a certain age.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      double dutch camp? was that for learning competitive jump rope?

      • Leah Says:

        Yes! I was pretty good at jump roping as a kid (all that jump for heart stuff, etc). It was one of the sports I did okay at. As an adult, I now know that I’m just much better at individual sports than team sports because I can work at my own pace.

        Anyway, it was a camp to learn how to double dutch, and then there were ever higher levels as you improved. I never learned how to double dutch but always wanted to. Honestly, I’d go do it now if there were an adult opportunity near me. I still really enjoy jump roping but don’t do it often. Hoping I get to as my kid gets older so I can jump rope with her.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s pretty awesome.

  2. CG Says:

    Can you use that money for summer babysitting expenses if you have any? We use our dependent care account to reimburse us for part of our nanny’s pay. Maybe you could hire a college student to drive your kids to some of their activities.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We can if they have any (we definitely used some for good Friday). I’m not sure about how reimbursable chauffeuring would be (I had to spend some time on the phone with our DDA provider because I’d requested reimbursement for a day off that they thought was also covered by after school care, but there was no after school care because it was a school holiday), but in the summer with our flexible schedules driving isn’t a big deal, especially when there’s a coffeeshop on the way.

  3. Katherine Says:

    The summer after first grade I went to YMCA day camp every week because it was all my parents could afford and I hated it. As an older elementary kid, I went to zoo day camp and natural history museum day camp – but not every week. Once I got to be more your DC1’s age, I did a lot of weeks of sailing camp and it was awesome. I love sailing, and that’s the only reason I’m sad I don’t live near the ocean (or a good sailing lake) now. I also did music camp (both sleep-away and day programs) as a middle/high schooler.

    Mostly, though, once I was old enough to be home alone I just stayed at home a lot. I was pretty self-sufficient and did a lot of reading and craft projects. By that time my mom had changed careers from IT to nursing and was working 3 12-hour shifts/week, so I wasn’t alone all day every day, and I also spent a fair amount of time going to the movies/mall/library with friends.

  4. Cloud Says:

    I put too much money in a health care FSA once, I think because the rules changed about over the counter allergy medicine. I can’t remember. It was ages ago and was the final straw that made me decide it wasn’t worth the hassle. My FSA enrollment period for this year is now, and I’m supposed to re-evaluate. Blech.

    I enjoy hearing about the geographic differences in summer camp options and scheduling difficulty more than is reasonable… For instance, here we have to book by the end of March to be sure of getting our top choices. But my friends in San Francisco had to get things sorted out at the beginning of March.

    My mom was a teacher on the same school calendar as me, and my summers were mostly unstructured. My kids go to camps. We used to have the relatively easy “just go through the YMCA camp catalog and pick what you want to do each week” experience, but my 11 year old now finds those camps boring and lobbied for something different this year. So I found her different options for 3 of the 8 weeks we needed covered. For the others, she is stuck with Y camp options. There’s only so much I can do. The 8 year old has one week at a different camp with a friend and the rest at the Y camps, but she still likes those and we coordinated several weeks with a friend, so she is happy.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Some stuff (like the STEM camp) we had to decide on in January! But a lot of stuff doesn’t even make calendars available until April, sometimes May. As DC1 gets older, the deadlines get earlier… some of the high school camps fill up the day they’re announced.

      • Cloud Says:

        I am fascinated by how much this varies. The mixed calendar you’re describing in your area would drive me bonkers, though. At least here, everyone posts their schedule at about the same time!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It does drive me bonkers! But there’s also always last minute openings even in the middle of the summer someplace decent, at least for the under age 10 set. Age 11/Grade 8 is kind of annoying because DC1 is too old/too high a grade for a bunch of camps (including the school one) and too young for others. (Of course, the ones that zie is too young for tend to be expensive and have early deadlines.) And there are a lot of half-day camps. DC2 has a lot more full-day options.

  5. chacha1 Says:

    What did I do when school was out … ran around in the woods and read a lot of books. :-) My mom, like Cloud’s, was a teacher and when our school was out, so was hers.

    In my entire adolescence I can only remember two ‘camps.’ One was a multi-disciplinary summer program for gifted high schoolers. One was a summer program called Girls’ State that was all about government. Don’t remember for sure how long either lasted, but pretty sure Girls’ State was only a week. And there was something else, having to do with 4H I think, but I don’t remember ANY details except that we went to an ice rink in Atlanta where I utterly failed to skate.

    I would have loved a drama camp or an art camp or a dance camp. Maybe even a cooking camp. Back before cooking was a thing I HAD to do, I enjoyed it.

  6. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    I saved too much in a 529 account (saving for private college, but he ended up at UCSB). Even with a 5th year for an MS we’ll have a lot left in the account.

    My son did a lot of theater day camps starting when he was 7 and running until he was 20:

  7. Linda Says:

    Not having a kid, I don’t know about these accounts. Can you use the funds for a child that is not your own? Maybe there’s a needy kid in the area that you could “sponsor” at a day camp with the extra money? Or even one of the children from DH’s cousin’s family? I know you’re charitably inclined, so maybe that’s a solution to your issue.

    As I recall, I was forced to do a lot of unpleasant things during the summer. There was the local 16″ softball league run by the park district that I had to join. We would also get sent to random church daycamps. The latter were really weird since my family was staunchly Catholic, but when it came to getting us away from the house for the summer my parents didn’t care if we were at Lutheran, Baptist, or whatever religious day camp would have us for little or no cost. I hated softball and I hated Christian day camps. I guess my parents did what they could with the limited resources we had available.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Nope. Just your own kid. They’re the same program as the flexible spending accounts for health costs each year– you can’t spend those on people outside your family either. The point is that you be able to work, not that the kids get high quality childcare. I do not know why away camps don’t count because you can only put away 5K for the year total (so difficult to abuse given the high costs of childcare), the kids in question have to be under age 12 or 13 (I should figure out which one because DC1 is almost too old), and away camp does allow parents to work. But there it is.

      • Leah Says:

        Can you get the money back if you don’t use it? We haven’t worried about that yet because we totally use it all in daycare, but that will be a concern as the kids age.

        I run a program for science outreach for middle school ages. Wish you were closer — would love to have DC1. But very few people ever ask us for our tax number to do their FSA thing, so I think most parents stop doing that past the daycare ages.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Nope, just like a health FSA, it goes back to my employer if unspent.

        In your program’s case, it’s probably that most middle-schoolers aren’t still 11 (or maybe 12?), so they no longer qualify for needing childcare.

      • Leah Says:

        I get plenty of 8-11 year olds, so who knows why.

        That’s so weird — you are putting in your salary. Why should it go back to the employer? So strange.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s the way FSAs work (I don’t know why)… same thing with the healthcare version– use it or lose it. The only way I could stop contributing from my paychecks at this point would be via jobloss, divorce, or death. (People can add more if they have a baby or adopt or get married or a spouse gains employment.)

  8. Zenmoo Says:

    I don’t think we have anything similar in Australia. There are government subsidies for childcare that max out at $7,500 per year, but I’m not claiming because it doesn’t cover nannies except in specific circumstances (shift workers/remote families/ three kids under 4). I need to check if I can claim for these school holidays – my kid has pestered me into signing her up for a coding camp and I’m not sure if that is rebatable.

    In general I find my oldest needs unstructured downtime over the holidays – our nanny makes sure the kids get plenty of playground time, a few ‘activities’ and a fair bit of chilling out reading (much like I remember our holidays). We tried doing the out of school hours care program at her school a few times and she just was too hyped up.

    The one big camp I did was when I was 12 and I went to a CTY camp in Switzerland – that was really fun. Otherwise it was swimming and playing with my siblings and friends

  9. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    This was my action today: (though I said fascism instead of pro-trump)

  10. Mary Says:

    Where I live even the cheap day camps are $350-400 week. Plus extra if you want your kid to arrive before 9 or stay after 3:30. And if you want anything like a specialty camp for music/STEM/sports, you’re looking at $600+ week. Plus extra for the extended day that you would need if the parents are working a 9-5 job. So, with two camp-age kids,I never have any trouble meeting the DDA limts.

  11. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Yeegh I do not look forward to managing these logistics, and it’s not that far away for us. Actually, I’m really hoping that I can come up with some kind of summer schedule of activities that JB can with me at home while I work most of the days. We’ll see.

    We almost never went to any summer activities growing up, we just went to work with my parents. There was one summer where I got to do a week or two of free summer school and learned to make ice cream.

    I hate the use it or lose it aspect of FSA/DDA!

  12. First Gen American Says:

    I didn’t do flex spending this year because I was hoping one of my teacher friends would nanny my kids. I almost have her hooked for 2 weeks of the summer. (She works at a bike shop too so it took some convincing.). My older one has aged out of all the fun camps. My younger one isn’t as interested in all the robotics things the older one did.

    I also have the issue of being in a tourist area so most of the camps are either sleep away or “full day” is defined as 9-2 or 3. So needless to say, it doesn’t qualify as anyone’s full day and is geared towards parents who have summer homes here and want their kids out of the house for a few hours.

    There is an amazing coding camp competition that is being sponsored by MIT and I think nasa but a school must sponsor and coach the teams and I couldn’t get anyone from the school to spend part of their summer to do it. The winners get their code put in on space equipment.

    I really should put more effort into a nanny for the summer.

  13. Reminder: Sometimes you need to double-check reimbursements | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] DDA (dependent daycare account) provider this year has been super obnoxious.  After years of correct […]

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    […] are PLENTY of expensive day camps for DC1 this summer, but I only put away $3000 in the DDA after last year’s fiasco). Conferences in expensive locations that aren’t on the west coast are completely wasted on […]

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