Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Live on the cheap.
If you’re a parent, you know how expensive it can be to raise children, especially once they reach “activity age”, with participation in sports, dancing, cheering , karate, music. You name the activity, and there’s nothing cheap about it. The key is to choose the ones that offer the right mix of fun and enrichment for your child, and affordability for you.
Here are four ways to cut the cost of kids’ activities…
Take advantage of free or inexpensive activities through the school or local organizations
If you’re just looking for ways to help your child socialize and develop a new skill, you might be able to fill their afternoons with inexpensive activities like the school chess club or chess lessons. art at the local library.
When it comes to sports, who says games have to be so formal and official, especially if your child isn’t particularly athletic? See if your church has an intramural club or talk to other parents about having a weekly outing to the park to play basketball or soccer.
If you choose a more competitive program, don’t let the costs get out of hand
Make sure you know what you’re getting into by asking about additional costs before signing up. It might be $300 for Little League, but does that include uniforms or tournament entries? Are there fundraising activities that can help offset costs? And what happens to those costs if your child gets injured or ends up hating the activity after a few weeks? You won’t know unless you ask.
Call for team spirit
When you start a new activity, ask other parents and coaches if anyone is willing to donate equipment, uniforms, dance shoes, etc., or if it is possible to rent equipment or instruments before going out and buying new items.
If you need to buy new gear, don’t splurge on high-end brands and always look for discounts and coupons. Also, don’t feel like you have to pay for clinics, private trainers, or extra lessons to give your child a competitive edge if you really can’t afford it. Unless you have a future Olympian on your hands, your children’s activities aren’t worth the debt.
Have a heart to heart
Resign yourself to the fact that your child doesn’t have to play every sport or be at the level of travel competition for every activity, especially if it’s going to affect larger areas of your budget. Have an honest conversation with your son or daughter about choosing one or two areas of interest and your budget limitations.
Ultimately, extracurricular activities shouldn’t require you to take on a second job. Sometimes such investments of money and time end up stressing out your student. And once school activities and sports stop being fun, you should definitely ask yourself why you’re paying for them.
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click on links in our stories.