Since today is National Son’s Day I was looking back at pictures of my boys. I have two, Auston and Aidon. They are 16 and 14 at the present and have ALWAYS been very active in extracurricular activities. The majority of photos I have on my camera roll are at one sporting event or another. Auston started playing sports when he was 3 years old. As soon as Aidon was old enough to start playing, he did too. Over the last 13 years I don’t know how many track meets, baseball, basketball, football, and soccer games I have attended! Let me just tell you though…IT’S A LOT!!! Juggling two boys playing every sport they could was strenuous on our bank account back in the day. Mainly because we did not budget for it. Having to buy new shoes for every season of every sport, new uniforms, sign up fees, gas and eating out… the list goes on and on. I know I am not the only one that has any understanding of the strain extracurricular activities can have on your financially.
For some of you, it’s your daughter that plays all the sports or is choir, theatre, gymnastics, cheer, etc… The list seems endless on the things kids can participate in these days. And that’s not a bad thing but it can be a very expensive thing. A couple of years ago I even took Aidon to a Rubik Cube competition in Oklahoma. Yes, you heard me. A Rubik’s Cube competition. We had to pay to register for the competition, gas to drive to Lawton, Ok. Hotel stay and meals.
Thankfully my husband and I now budget for these activities. We set up automatic transfers once a month to transfer a set amount into a special savings account just for these expenses. Sometimes that account is pretty empty, like when we are using it to pay for our tickets for the boys football and basketball games every week. And sometimes we are able to build up a little cushion. But we plan for it now. It has made the biggest difference with not being so stressed about the where we were going to have to cut back to pay for those things.
You don’t have to choose between your budget and your children’s happiness. Here are some ways to save on your kids’ extracurricular activities and plan ahead:
Limit the number of after-school activities you allow for each child
If you have several over-ambitious young ones at home, consider limiting extracurricular activities to just one per child. You’ll be doing your children a favor by forcing them to pick an area of focus, allowing them to channel all their energy in one direction. Plus, it’ll be easier for them to keep track of just one schedule – and it’s a lot easier on your carpool calendar, too!
Lots of children’s’ sports programs offer discounts of up to 30 percent just for signing up early. Speak to your children about after-school programs and sports teams well before the season so you can register early and snag those early-bird specials.
Purchase used equipment
Save big on sports gear by purchasing gently used equipment from sites like PlayItAgainSports and SidelineSwap. Some of these sites also allow you to sell your own used equipment.
If you have friends with kids who are also into sports and music, see if you can swap equipment and instruments from year to year.
Rent musical instruments
If you’ve got budding musicians at home, consider renting the instrument they’ve taken up this year. There’s no way to tell if that burst of passion they’re currently nursing for the oboe is just a passing phase or the beginning of a lifelong hobby. Some instruments, like the French horn, can cost as much as $1,000 but can be rented for as little as $50 a month. If your child is convinced they’ve found their instrument of choice, you can purchase gently used musical instruments from resale sites like Craigslist, eBay or Reverb.
Volunteer your time
If you’ve got the time to coach a team or to walk around selling refreshments during games, you might be able to nab a discount on the program’s fees and equipment.
Extracurricular activities are an important part of a child’s development. They allow students to shine in ways that may not be possible in the classroom. It also helps kids step out of their social circles to forge new friendships. They may even be your child’s gateway to a college scholarship and possibly a lucrative career. But extracurricular activities are expensive. If you have several school-aged children and each wants to participate in two activities, you can be looking at an investment as high as $10,000 or more for fees, equipment, uniforms, instruments and supplies. By making smart, responsible choices, you can turn your children’s dreams into reality without draining your wallet.