How to Save Money on Kids' Activities


One thing many parents have in common is that they are rushing around from one activity to another for their children. It takes a full-sized calendar to keep track of who has soccer on which day, and which kid has an upcoming dance recital. If your family juggles a lot of activities during the school year and then in the summer, you know how expensive it can get. Here are few ways to save money.

Buy Secondhand

Gently used sports equipment is surprisingly easy to find secondhand. Before you spring for new sports gear or a musical instrument, check Craigslist, eBay, thrift stores, and even your parent friends. Children often outgrow gear quickly, or they lose interest in an activity. This means you might find equipment such as cleats, shin guards, dance shoes, or a French horn in mint condition for a fraction of the cost.

My daughter is in ballet/tap class, and I am surprised at how many pairs of tap shoes I come across at the thrift store for about $1.99 each. Avoid getting any headgear used, especially bicycle helmets, for safety reasons. Also, if your child or teen is involved in a sport that requires a lot of running, new shoes will be better for their alignment and performance. (See also: 8 Things You Should Always Buy Used)

Skip the Pricey, Special Events

Certain activities will come with seasonal recitals, concerts, fundraisers, and fancy dinners. When you sign up for an activity, know upfront which events are required of you. You are not always required to participate in everything. For example, my daughter's dance studio puts on five or so performances a year, each of which might cost $30–$40 for the costume and tickets to attend. Since she is only three, it is easy to opt out of these performances. The other dance moms are a little perplexed that I would do such a thing, but my main goal is to make sure my daughter has fun and to keep my life simple with two kids under four.

As a child, my sister and I were in Taekwondo. There were always tournaments happening, and I remember wanting to go to as many as possible. Thankfully, my parents limited tournaments because, truthfully, as much as I loved doing them, they drained a lot of my time and energy (and my parents', too). When you sign up for a new activity, find out what is really required of you. If your child is still young, like mine, then feel free to forego the optional extras to save money and sanity.

Enroll in One Activity at a Time

I'm always amazed by the parents that juggle two or three or even five different activities with their children. Amazingly, I've never met a parent who actually enjoys being a human taxi to taekwondo lessons, piano lessons, and baseball games. These parents are usually the ones who are stressed out the most or are barking at their kids to hurry up and get ready for the next activity. Guess what? Your kids don't have to do it all. Pick one activity per season. If you have multiple kids have them all enrolled in one activity. If your youngest doesn't want to take soccer with the rest of your kids, then let them know that they will get to choose the activity next season.

I think as parents, we are so worried about enriching our children's lives, that we forget they need some downtime and relaxation time with us. It's okay to take a season off of youth soccer. This doesn't mean your child is automatically disqualified from future scholarships or from becoming a pro-athlete (unless of course they are close to graduation).

Get the Sibling Discount

Not only will enrolling your children in the same activity save you some time and stress, but it will also save you money. Many places offer sibling discounts, and siblings can often share equipment. If you don't see a sibling discount offered, don't hesitate to ask.

Start a Hand-Me-Down Bucket

When I first signed up my daughter for dance classes, the teacher asked all the moms if someone had outgrown ballet shoes for us. The next week, another mom brought some for me. I offered her money, but she said, "This is just what the moms do at this studio." What a resourceful way to help the whole studio.

If possible, make an announcement to the parents that you are going to start a "hand-me down bucket" or "share bucket." Pitch it as a way for them to help with the costs and to clean out their closets of outgrown gear. This works best in settings that kids use the same items each year, such as dance shoes, leotards, karate shirts, and sparring gear, etc.

Pay Ahead

Always ask about discounts for paying ahead or paying in cash. Some places might give you a discount for paying for the whole year upfront, which can save you $30–$50 that year. The dance studio my daughter is enrolled in offers a $15 discount once a year for those who pay for three months in advance.

How do you save on your kid's extracurricular activities? Share with us in the comments!

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