The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Laurie Blank. Laurie is a wife, mother to 4 and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom and to a simpler, more peaceful life.
Studies show that the average cost of raising a child from birth to age eighteen is nearly $250,000, and a recent study reveals that a decent chunk of that cash is spent on extracurricular activities. In the case of elementary-aged children, it’s an average of $463 this year, and in the case of secondary-aged children, it’s a whopping $1,124 this year.
If you’re “average”, that means you could be spending nearly $10,000 on each of your children’s extracurricular activities over the 13-year period that they’re in school. And that’s simply the national average, which takes into account all school-aged kids – even those not participating in after-school activities. If you’ve got a kid involved in a serious sport such as baseball, hockey, gymnastics or dance, you’re likely spending a lot more than $1,100 a year, even for elementary-aged kids.
If that seems like an astronomical amount of money to spend on kids’ activities to you, you’re not alone. The fact of the matter is that the days when the education system picked up a large amount of the financial burden for extracurricular activities such as sports is long gone, and parents are left to foot the bill.
How can you as a parent keep kids’ activity costs reasonable but still make sure your kids can have the sport or other extracurricular experiences that help make for a fulfilling life? Here are some tips.
Limit Activities to One or Two per Year
Many parents these days feel as if their kids need to be involved in some type of extracurricular activity all year around. The truth is that even one or two activities a year for your child will benefit them and help them to grow in teamwork skills, discipline and obedience.
When considering which activities to sign your child up for, ask them to decide which activity or activities they like best, and narrow the list down to their top one or two. Not only will this save you money, it’ll save time and lower stress levels as well.
Pick Activities That Will Benefit Them as Adults
The reality is that the majority of kids won’t grow up to be professional athletes or world-class Olympians, no matter how much promise they show at a younger age. If your goal as a parent is to raise up a professional athlete, you may want to reconsider your motives and instead choose an activity that will hold life-long benefits.
Activities such as self-defense classes that will show them how to handle themselves should they get trapped in an attacker situation or school sports such as cross country that will help them develop a life-long habit of self-care through exercise are some examples of activities that will benefit your kids long after they’ve graduated from high school.
Do Activities as a Family or With an Organized Group of Friends
Many families choose to do activities together instead of being involved in school-sponsored sports. Some families train for marathons, triathlons and obstacle courses together, or bike together in charity or other events.
Planning regular activities with family members or groups of friends allows those same benefits of teamwork and training for a fraction of the cost.
If you’re set on providing extracurricular activities that do cost more than you’d like, there are a few ways to help make the financial burden less impactful.
Work the Costs into Your Budget
Just like you would with a regular bill such as your utility bill, it helps to figure out the annual amount you’re spending on activities and adding that monthly “bill” into your regular budget, saving the money in a separate savings account or envelope. This way when fees are due you won’t be scrambling to come up with the cash.
Ask if the Studio Will Do a Work-for-Pay Trade
Some sports centers will allow you to volunteer or work there in exchange for lowering your child’s participation fees. Just remember if you do participate in some type of a barter situation to check and follow the bartering tax laws for your state.
Kids reap many benefits from being involved in extracurricular activities. With a little planning, choosing and creativity, those activities can be affordable for almost any family.
How about you all? How do you keep kids’ activity costs affordable?
Share your experiences by commenting below!
***Photo courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/luigi_and_linda/7240626210/