Extra Curricular Activities and Sports

We have quite a few friends whose kids are older than ours (1year) and are into sports and band and whatever else they're into this month.  They're always talking about how expensive these activities are and how they wind up throwing a whole bonus into these activities.  I'd really like to treat these as a known unknown expense and start saving toward them now so that when the tiny human comes home from school and wants to sign up for football, we can say yes.  I really wanted to be involved in after school activities when I was a kid but money was a limiting factor.  I'd like to do better for my kiddo(s).  


Those of you that have kids in various activities- what's an average spend per year that I could start saving toward?  If I start now I can hopefully help smooth out some of those bumps.  But I don't know what I don't know.  How much do these things actually cost?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!  

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  • I don't have specific advice on prices. Neither of my kids are into sports that much - they were involved in a running club, but didn't want to continue when they had to go virtual, because they enjoyed running with their friends, not just running so they could say they ran. The costs were relatively low, just the club membership, and the cost of running shoes. 

    The one piece of advice that I do have is don't sign them up for absolutely everything under the sun. Pick something and let them get into it. I personally am appalled by some of my kids friends who have absolutely no free time to just be kids. They're always being carted off to some activity or another, and can't play or even do their homework. 

    Just be aware of your kids needs and don't force them into something that will take away their freedom. Balance that with their need to get exercise and also have time to have a life. 

    Sorry, I'm not being critical of your desire to get them involved, and I applaud your desire to plan ahead for the financing of it, but just don't get too carried away. 

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    • Bruce I second steering clear of over-scheduling.  I was involved in several activities growing up, and don't regret it one bit, but there were also times that I decided not to participate in something because it was too stressful for my family (money or time-wise). 

      I have no idea what I'm going to do as a parent, both money and time-wise for any future kids activities we might want to do!

  • You might get some answers here, but in my experience (I'm a fine arts educator), the fees and costs associated vary greatly by activity, age, institution, and locale. 

    Some things to think about:

    • uniform (can range from a band/choir/orch. T-shirt to formal suit/dress, jerseys, practice/game/performance, special shoes, etc. - some of which might be provided by the school)
    • equipment/instrument (rental fee/purchase, beginner/advanced instrument in which family {woodwind/brass/strings/percussion}, sports protective gear, bats/balls/rackets, etc.)
    • private lessons (really depends on your locale and the quality/availability of teachers for this one, but many quality music programs require private lessons for their top ensemble students, and if you want your kid to advance in All-Region/All-State, this is highly recommended)
    • trips (State competition at the high school level for athletics and sports may be covered by the school's budget, depending how strong your local advocacy is for that program.  There's usually a fun/competition trip at the high school level in fine arts annually or on a yearly rotation.  Whether the people in your area can afford to go to Disneyland/Hawaii or the local water park is likely how your program decides which adjudication to attend.)
    • special events (camps, games, socials, formal banquets probably just need money for appropriate clothes/food/tickets)
    • clubs (maybe a membership fee, materials, transportation)

    Basically, the older the kids get, the more $ the activities can be because they get involved at a higher level.  Most beginner levels have lower costs, which help ease into the activity.  However, really ask what opportunities are offered at your school.  I know that, as educators, we try to keep a balancing act between offering awesome opportunities to those who can support going above and beyond while also opening up as much of those opportunities to those who wouldn't be able to participate otherwise.  Each program should have a budget that covers certain costs, and Title I schools have money that can be used certain ways, and there are often fundraisers, and there are also often "Angel" funds for those in need.  It really depends on how much your local community values the programs you're interested, and if the school/administration are set up to provide appropriate support for that program to grow.

    The above items are just for school-sponsored events. 

    Select athletics has (I hear) quite high costs for membership plus specialized gear/equipment/uniforms.

    Activities outside of school like gymnastics, competitive cheer, dance, horseback riding, ice skating, etc. will have tuition costs for frequent classes (increasing with age because training time increases), shoes (pointe shoes are expensive and don't last long!!!), and performance/costume/competition fees.

  • Hi there, from my experience, the cost will be driven by different factors. Here are my general thoughts on getting kids in activities. I also second the "don't overprogram" philosopy. 

    Location - your location will often be an important factor. Larger urban centers tend to cost more because there is higher demand and less availability.

    Level of competition - if you are involved in the recreational level of a sport or activity, the costs are generally lower because they have fewer practices/games and do not participate in as many out of area competitions. It is the out of area competitions that can really drive up costs due to travel, accommodations and meals. TIP - if your chosen activity has one major competition per year (our cheerleader had competitions in Anaheim and Vancouver BC), see if you can match it up to be a vacation for the entire family. We did the competition over the first weekend and then spent the week in the area as a vacation.

    Activity - Some activities just have higher costs. Ice hockey in Canada is super expensive between equipment, ice time and tons of travel. Soccer is super cheap since it is a pair of shoes and the fields are often city owned (at least for most Canadian cities). I am sure that the same applies for non-sport activities.

    Parental involvement - When you do start to look at activities, make sure you understand the required level of parental involvement or the cost to write a cheque to not be involved. For example, in most organizations, there are fundraising requirements to support costs. Some of those organizations will allow you to write a cheque to cover the expected fundraising amount by participant. Then, you do not have to sell chocolate/raffle tickets etc because you just pay it upfront. Fundraisers take time and effort as well. Some organizations also want you to pay for the fundraiser upfront  and then you keep the funds when you sell the item. 

    Interest - Most families start their kids in activities that the parents know and/or are familiar with. You will have a better sense of what the requirements are from a commitment perspective and help with learning. But, you should also take the child's interests into consideration as well. If you love being in plays and center of attention but your child does not, you might want to find something a little more suited.

    Availability - Some activities do not have organizations in your area. You may want/need to start them if you want your child involved. 

    Research - I would highly recommend looking around over time to see what activities are available to you and see how they are run. Take some time to go to games/recitals/competitions. You can learn alot by observing the parents at these. Feel free to talk to the volunteer boards of the organizations to get a feel of what they are like. Decide if you will support by being part of the board (it often means free registration for the child if you do, but not always). 

  • We are in the “activities” phase for our two girls.  They both seem to have settled on Dance (ballet/tap/jazz etc) at a fairly serious studio.  One bonus is there is only one travel completion a year.  We spend 4500 a year on monthly tuition.  Another 2000 for costume fees and that one competition.

    Our son is less into activities, despite our best efforts.  We do spend 100 a month on swimming for him and another 80 a month on drum lessons.

  • As you can see by the other comments the cost of kids activities can very greatly.  I think at this point you need to decide how much you are willing to budget monthly and just start saving that. 

  • YNAB is excellent for this. I was always shocked when I saw how much band or athletics wanted! I can't give you any specific advice as my kids have been out of the house for a while now but I wish I was using YNAB when I went through that. Anything is better than nothing. Ask around what the average costs might be. I'm sure it fluctuates at different ages as well.

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