9 Quick Tips for Saving Money on Extracurricular Activities for Kids

by Allison Martin · 10 comments

Your child’s Extra Academic Activities, or extracurricular activities, can be rather steep. On top of paying for regular school functions and events, these activities go above and beyond the normal curriculum. As a mother of two very athletic boys, I’ve spent my fair share of cash on sports programs and outings.

Thankfully though, I’ve discovered a handful of quick ways to save money. With sports especially, this is one area that many parents frequently overlook when trying to cut costs. Here are nine tips for saving money on extracurricular activities, without having to say “NO” to your kids.

1. Give Them a Budget

What better way to keep your child’s after-school expenses under control creating a strict budget for them to stick to? You can establish this figure at the beginning of the year, and let them know they have a certain amount to spend.

Then work with them to keep track of deductions by using a spreadsheet, notepad, or even separate account to ensure compliance. Your kids will be able to pick which activities they prefer doing, based on this budget plan.

2. Get in on Early Registration

Several leagues and organizations offer discounts to those who jump on board as soon as the registration window opens. It may only be a few dollars, but every penny counts when you’re trying to stick to a budget while teaching your kids to do the same.

My son’s football season ended two weeks ago, and they opened pre-registration for next season, just a few days afterwards. The savings were $50, so that was well worth it considering we only had to leave a small refundable deposit. In additiona, we’re certain he’ll be playing next year.

3. Turn a Blind Eye

The local recreation center and other leagues in my area always seem to be distributing flyers to children while at school. You know where they end up? In the pile of papers for parental review.

Although the prices aren’t steep, I’ve learned to quickly turn a blind eye when we’ve reached our spending limit before my son has a chance to get excited about any new sports or activities.

4. Minimize Fancy Equipment

If you currently have a child who’s involved in any sort of athletic program, you’re probably well aware of the endless supply of gadgets available to supposedly “enhance” their performance.

In some instances, these items can be more costly than the actual registration fee. Don’t succumb to this marketing tactic! Figure out if the equipment is really necessary, and if so, shop around at second-hand athletic stores. Once you’ve established a strict spending limit, follow through with other creative ideas and don’t fall into the trap of buying fancy upgrades or accessories.

5. Set a Workable Schedule

Familiarize yourself with the local leagues, and when their seasons run, so you can create a budget-friendly list of activities for your children to choose from. Work with your kids to pick their top activity but let them know they can’t sign up for every sport on the list.

This way, you won’t run the risk of participating in too many sports at once, exhausting your budget midway through the year, or even worse, burning out.

6. Check Out After-School Activities

Are there athletic activities at your child’s school? Is there a local sports program that works with your school district? If so, do your homework to see if they’re a good fit since these programs are typically more cost-efficient and convenient for parents.

Check out the local community board, or newspaper, to see what after-school activities are available in your area. How do these prices compare to outside extracurricular activities?

7. Search for Scholarships

If you’re extremely strapped for cash, inquire with the league’s director about scholarship programs or financial assistance that your child may be eligible for. In many instances, if our son or daughter’s coach really desire to have them on the team, they’ll help us make a way.

You might also be able to find local sponsorship-type scholarships where a local small business can help give you the funds, in exchange for wearing a branded tshirt or using equipment.

8. Choose Cost-Efficient Leagues

Startup or community center leagues are another set of affordable options to be on the lookout for. What after-school programs are offered in your area? Do you have a local rec center or Boys and Girls Club nearby?

With the exception of tackle football, we usually enroll our boys in sports programs offered through the nearest community center. There’s no travel required, practice schedules are limited and the fees are less than $50.

9. Become a Volunteer Coach

For several years, my husband and I have served as volunteer coaches for local sports teams that our sons belong to. Not only do we enjoy interacting with the children, but we’re usually able to take advantage of a hefty discount, in exchange for our time and commitment to the league.

Organizing a sports team takes a lot of work, so many coaches need assistance and help as much as possible. You’ll be driving your kid to the games anyway, so why not participate?

As your children grow older and become more involved in competitive leagues, the overall cost will undoubtedly increase. But it’s wise to get the biggest bang for your buck while they’re young, and teach them to be mindful of the extra spending costs.

Are your children involved in extracurricular activities? How do you save money on these costs? 

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  • lesli says:

    Last year I started a small budger for my 10 year old. She has done really well and I am so proud of her. So when I read your tip for giving kids a budget I was so happy I made that decision. I am hoping that as she gets older she will be able to budget her finances. All the schooling we go through they never teach budgeting so many adults struggle with budgets. It is up to us parents to teach the next generation.

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

    I’m a big fan of the budgeting idea–it empowers kids to make decisions for themselves while teaching about personal finances (perfect combo!). Volunteering as a coach is another great option. This is slightly different, but, I volunteer at my yoga studio in exchange for free yoga classes. It’s a great system for me and, like you said, I’m already going to the studio so I might as well be more involved.

  • Jonathan says:

    Setting a budget for your child is a really good idea. It helps them to get used to money and understanding the concept that there isn’t an endless supply of money available to them.

    It’s also a great idea to encourage them to make use of recreation areas Laurie Laurie getting interested in sport with low costs like soccer

  • moneystepper says:

    Discussing the extra-curricular activity budget with your children initially seems like a weird idea.

    However, after thinking about it further, its genius. Not only does it teach them to prioritise the things they do, it also educates them about the importance of the budgeting process. Great advice, thanks!

  • Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom says:

    Out daughter is only 2 and we haven’t had to spend too much on this year. But, I do really like the idea of giving her a budget to make her own choices, when she’s old enough. Thanks.

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