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Paying for extracurricular activities for your kids can be expensive. Average costs vary widely, but can reach nearly $200 for track and field participants to upwards of $2,500 for hockey parents paying for their little skaters.
Whether you've got a prima ballerina or a Cub Scout at home, paying for extracurriculars doesn't have to bust your budget. Here are five ways to save money on extracurricular activities for your child.
1. Choose Low-Cost Activities
Some activities come with high costs, like sports equipment or musical instruments. But other activities have low supply and travel costs, making them ideal for budget-friendly fun. Consider signing your kids up for some low-cost activities like:
- Intramural sports
- School paper or yearbook
- Drama club
- Debate club
- Book club
Keep an eye out for activities that provide supplies and only meet locally to find something that will remain affordable.
2. Buy Used Equipment
If your child decides to try a more expensive sport or activity, shop for used equipment rather than buying it brand new. You may be able to find items online or at local swap meets. They're going to grow out of those cleats in three months anyway—why pay full price today?
When buying used, get some affordable tools to clean up the items and make them like new:
- Eraser sponges: These foam sponges are known for removing marks and dirt.
- Adhesive remover solution: Just a few spritzes of these solutions can help remove sticky residue left by tape or stickers.
- Hand-held, high-pressure steam cleaner: Blast dirt and stains away from your new-to-you items for a fresh, clean look.
- Low-cost updates: Consider replacing cheap parts on used equipment. Add colorful new laces on sneakers or memory foam insoles to give used items a little update.
Used equipment can help keep more money in your pocket, allowing you to better afford the activities your child wants to do.
3. Offer to Volunteer
Local teams or activities may lower costs for some volunteer parents. If you are prepared to be a team parent, manage the organization's website, pass out snacks or tote equipment, you could make the cost of some activities more accessible for your family.
4. Apply for Assistance, Scholarships and Grants
Many programs may come with assistance, scholarships or grants that can be used to pay for extracurriculars. There are also organizations that exist to help kids access extracurriculars regardless of their socioeconomic status. Some of these include:
- Scouting financial assistance: Individual Scouts BSA and Girl Scouts organizations offer individualized financial assistance. You may be able to apply for waived fees or uniform assistance. Partial funding for camping trips and other activities may also be available when you work with your local chapter.
- Dance scholarships: Individual dance schools and organizations may offer scholarships to pay for dance lessons.
- Sports grants: Organizations like All Kids Play provide grants to student athletes from kindergarten until 12th grade.
If you don't see funding available from a particular local organization, check online for more general sports or dance funds. Some organizations may be able to offer open-ended scholarships.
5. Look to Organizations With Free Activities
Local libraries may offer book clubs, craft clubs or story times, all for free. Your place of worship may also have a youth group with a variety of activities throughout the year. Utilizing your community resources can help fill up your extracurricular schedule without spending a dime.
Some of the biggest goals for extracurriculars are socialization, occupation and skills-building. But community service can be an added benefit that helps your child grow and also assists those in your local community or beyond—and it usually won't cost you a thing. Consider volunteering at your local soup kitchen, food bank or retirement home, for instance. Or, if your child loves animals, they may be able to help out at a nearby animal shelter. Depending on your child's age, you may need to volunteer with them, but teens are often allowed to volunteer without a parent.
Not only do these activities come at no cost to you, but they also provide the added element of giving back to your community or a group you care about. Your child can learn many new things from volunteering while also enhancing their future college applications.
Affording Fun for Your Kids
Talking about your budget for extracurricular opportunities can be a great way to get started talking about money with your kids. Make financial planning and budgeting a normal part of life and you'll help your kids learn smart money moves. You can help them prepare to be financially responsible long before they have to start managing a budget themselves.
Other ways to help your kids get off to the right start financially include:
- Adding them as an authorized user on your credit card: When you add your child as an authorized user on your credit card, they can begin to benefit from your good credit behavior. Be aware that some cards require authorized users to be at least 18 years old. Make all your payments on time, keep your balance low and check to see that the card issuer reports payment activity to all three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) to ensure your child's credit will benefit.
- Opening a 529 or custodial account: Consider the benefits of a 529 college savings account or a custodial account to save for your child's education. Funneling the extra cash you save on extracurriculars into college savings could help make college more affordable.
- Freezing their credit if they are at risk of identity theft: If you have reason to believe your child's personal information is at risk, do them the favor of freezing their credit report. This can limit access to their report and help protect them against identity thieves using their information to fraudulently open accounts. Remember to help them unfreeze their credit when they need to apply for a loan or credit card down the road.
Finances and fun don't have to be opposed when it comes to finding affordable extracurriculars. With the right strategy and open budget discussions with your child, you can find enriching, enjoyable and worthwhile activities that won't break the bank.