When it comes to figuring out your back-to-school budget, things such as clothes, backpacks and school supplies make the top of the list. But, if your kids participate in any extracurricular activities such as sports, art classes or music lessons, you may be missing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in additional expenses that should have been figured in as well.
As parents, we hate to squash our children’s would-be talents before they can even be discovered. Just because the family lives by the code of a budget doesn’t mean the children have to forgo expressing themselves athletically or artistically. Sure, it can be expensive getting kids into sports and other extracurricular activities, but with a few creative ideas, you can afford to let your kids participate in the activities they want.
Here are 6 money saving tips for school activities
1. Set Limits for each Child
Set a limit of one sport or activity per season for each child. This allows the child to focus on just one activity, and you’ll spend less in equipment, gas and time, especially if the activity involves multiple weekly practices.
2. Team up with other Parents
Organize car pools with the parents of the other kids on the team to save money on gas. This works especially well if you have multiple children needing to be in different places at the same time.
3. Have your Children Choose from “Cheaper” Activities
Find out what each activity costs in terms of equipment and instruction. Sports such as soccer and basketball are relatively less expensive than say, horseback riding lessons or music lessons, which requires expensive equipment and lesson fees.
4. Rent Equipment
Until you’re sure your child is going to really like the activity and want to pursue it further, don’t buy any equipment unless you have to. Rent musical instruments, or buy used sporting equipment until it’s a sure thing your child enjoys doing it. Craigslist is a good place to shop for used equipment.
5. Seek out a Community Equipment Exchange
Many communities have sporting equipment exchanges where outgrown and cast-off sporting equipment can be turned in and traded so no one has to buy the equipment. This works especially well for younger children who tend to outgrow things before they wear it out. If your community doesn’t have one, organize one yourself: there’s probably plenty of parents willing to participate.
6. Form a Plan with other Parents
Talk with the parents of the other kids on the team and make a pact to keep after-game snacks and celebrations to a minimum.
Sometimes, even with the best laid plans, affording everything your child wants to do is simply impossible. There will be times you have to say no. However, if you feel that allowing your child to take part in an elective program is worth the sacrifice, you can look at your budget and try to find places to cut costs. For instance, my husband and I felt it was worth it to allow our daughter to go to theater camp last summer, so we cut a bit from our vacation budget to make it possible. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, I always say.
Do you know any other money saving tips for school activities?