5 Ways to Save Money on Your Kids' Extracurricular Activities

By Tracy L. Hirsch

Whether it’s sports, music, dance, or theater, the cost of keeping your kids involved can add up quickly. Here’s how you can cut costs.

Extracurricular activities have numerous benefits for your children — they get to form relationships with their peers, they get to acquire new skills in a collaborative setting, and they get to tap into their natural talents and abilities and enhance them.

All of these things benefit your child’s emotional well-being, and can help them build confidence while forming friendships and learning about teamwork.

Every parent wants their child to learn and grow, and to bond with other children. While that’s a worthy goal, it often (literally) comes with a cost.

If your child is involved in sports, there’s the cost of equipment and practices; if your child is involved in music, there’s the cost of the instrument and the lessons; if your child is involved in dance, there’s the cost of uniforms and dance academy.

What’s more, if you have more than one child, and each child has multiple interests, you can easily spend hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars a year, especially if travel for sports games or recitals is required. With kids getting ready to go back to school, the budget is already getting tighter!

Remember: Doing extracurricular activities shouldn’t require racking up debt on a credit card.

That being said, here are five ways to save money on your children’s extracurricular activities:

1.) Inquire about student discounts and/or group discounts. While certain activity instructors may not offer any type of discount, it doesn’t hurt to ask! Ask the instructor if they provide a:

Referral discount: a discount for referring friends and family members who sign up for lessons

Group discount: a discount for enrolling two or more children at a time

Returning Student discount: a discount for being a loyal participant for multiple years/seasons in a row

Package discount: a discount for signing up for multiple sessions upfront

Registration discount: a discount for signing up by a certain date

Sliding Scale discount: a discount based on a low level of income

Coaching Discount: a discount is often given if you decide to coach a sports team (In fact, most of the time, your children play for free if you assist with coaching!)

Instructors and organizations may offer one or more of the above, which can save you a lot of money in the long run.

2.) Look into programs that are run by non-profit organizations. While private lessons can be beneficial in certain circumstances, activities that involve participation on a team can often be done for free.

The YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are great places to start, but you can also look into activities that are run by churches, local libraries, and/or county recreation departments in the greater Louisville area.

3.) Lower the additional costs associated with extracurricular activities. While the lessons themselves usually cost money, there are also additional expenses that come with it. Supplies, equipment, uniforms, and gas money to drive to lessons and sports practices add up quickly.

Here’s how to save on those things:

– Buy gently-used equipment or borrow from someone

– Set up a carpool with other teammates to cut down the cost of gas for all parents

– Buy gently-used uniforms and attire from parents whose kids participated in previous seasons

If long-distance travel is involved, the cost of hotels, gas, and/or plane tickets can really add up. Here are some tips on how to reduce travel costs:

– If you need to fly, be sure to book your flight at least two to three months in advance since last-minute flights are more expensive

– If you’re driving, carpool with other team members

– If traveling in a group, inquire about hotel discounts for a block of rooms

girl swim

4.) Find extracurricular activities that your children can do at home. If your child has a particular interest, find out how you can help them learn on an individual level. Here are some creative ideas:

YouTube. If your child wants to learn how to properly swing a baseball bat or wants to learn how to play guitar, there are thousands of free tutorials on YouTube that teach these things. Almost any activity that you can think of can be found in an online video tutorial: cake decorating, painting, skateboarding, photography, and so on.

Blogs. Many blog writers provide expert instructions on how to cook, play music, and learn sports.

Library. Many great authors have written books or created DVDs to teach a particular skill set.

Swap Skills! If you know a fellow parent who can teach your kid a particular skill, you could ask them to teach your child, and then you can offer to teach their child in return.

For example, if you know a parent who is an experienced artist, they could teach your child how to draw and paint. In return, if you are an experienced golfer, you could teach their child the best ways to  drive and putt a golf ball.

Once your child acquires the basic skills for a certain activity, they can then move onto joining a group or team if that fits into your budget.

5.) Teach your kids about budgeting. While you never want your kids to carry burdens that they don’t need to carry, it’s important to thoughtfully talk to your kids about the family budget so that they can understand why they can’t participate in every activity under the sun.

It’s important to lovingly and carefully explain why you may have to say ‘no’ to enrolling in certain activities due to limited finances.

If your children are very young, it can be helpful to explain to them what money is, and how you can be a good steward of your money.

That could also provide an opportunity for you to teach them about prioritizing. If your child wants to sign up for six extracurricular activities that are similar in cost, and you can only afford three of them, you can sit down with them to determine which activities are most important to them, and then enroll them in their top three choices.

You can also explain how you’ve had to cut out certain items and activities in order to save money, and that being part of a family sometimes requires sacrifice.

If your children are in their teens, you can ask them to contribute to the expenses that are associated with the sports and artistic activities that they want to participate in. This will instill a good work ethic in them, and help them learn that they have to earn certain privileges.

They can do jobs for neighbors, family, and friends, such as:

– Walk a neighbor’s dog every morning

– Do yard work (like raking leaves and cutting grass)

– Babysit or assist parents on their local family outings

– Clean houses (like dusting, vacuuming, and mopping)

– Selling handmade goods (such as baked goods, jewelry, art, etc.)

While extracurricular activities are wonderful for our children, it’s good to find ways to cut costs, while teaching them the importance of budgeting and prioritizing. Do you have anything that you would add to this list? If so, please share your suggestions in the comment section of our Facebook post.

Parents supporting other parents is what makes a healthy and thriving community, and creative ideas can be the impetus for success for all involved!

All the best,

Tracy L. Hirsch

Louisville Kentucky Bankruptcy Attorney

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