Playing sports is a fun part of an active childhood, but the associated costs can sometimes be a real financial workout for parents. By the time you pay for registration fees, equipment, uniforms, training and more, the costs can really add up.
In fact, one survey shows that parents in the U.S. spend an average of $671 per year on kids’ sports. At least one in five ends up spending over $1,000 per child, every year! Talk about your wallet taking a hit for the team.
Here are nine tips for saving money on your kids’ sports.
1. Take it slow at first. Part of growing up is finding out what you like to do—and what you don’t. If your child is trying out a sport for the first time, don’t go all in at first. Buy the minimum needed in case this is a once-and-done deal.
Look for low-cost recreational leagues or after-school programs to give them a taste of a new sport. Also, encourage your child to focus on one sport at a time, rather than spreading themselves (and your money) too thin or getting overscheduled.
2. Pick a sport that doesn’t require a lot of equipment. Sports gear makes up the majority of the cost of sports programs. These expenses may recur annually as your child grows, or if he switches positions, say from pitcher to catcher.
If your child is on the fence about what sport to try, suggest a low-equipment one like swimming, volleyball or cross country running. A swimsuit and goggles will cost much less than a helmet, pads, cleats and uniforms.
Sports that don’t include much equipment and don’t cost much to get started:
- Cross Country Running
- Track and Field
Sports that require pricey protective gear and/or costly equipment:
3. Choose the right team. Talk to your child about what she’d like to get out of the sport. Maybe it’s just hanging out with friends, meeting new people or getting some exercise. If that’s the case, look for a low-key recreational, school or church league.
If your child is more serious about the sport and her goal is to get a sports scholarship or compete on a regional level, then perhaps a more elite travel club is the right choice despite the higher fees and travel costs.
Look for leagues that keep their games local. Travel teams are increasingly popular, but they can quickly put your family on financial and time management overload.
4. Sell your kids’ old stuff. Maybe your daughter tried softball and it just wasn’t for her, and now wants to try soccer. Or your son didn’t want to stick with lacrosse after a season.
If your kids’ sports clothing and equipment are still in decent shape, resell them online at sites like eBay or Bonanza, or sell locally with Craigslist, LetGo, OfferUp or Facebook Marketplace. Use the money you make to help pay for the next sport or activity your child chooses.
You could also donate the clothes, shoes and equipment to a charity and enjoy the tax write-off. Many will even pick up the donations from your home.
5. Buy secondhand. For some items, like helmets, it’s safer to buy new. But for most other items, like bats, rackets and balls, check out secondhand stores like Play It Again Sports or Sideline Swap.
Visit your local Goodwill or thrift store; you’d be surprised at the selection of sports clothing, shoes and equipment that are available. Also check for gently used items online at resale sites like eBay, or locally on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
Ask family and friends if they have any sports equipment or athletic gear sitting in their garage or basement that their kids have outgrown or no longer use.
6. Swap and save. Chances are, you’re not the only parents on your block that are looking for a way to save money on their kids’ sports. Many sports organizations support and facilitate swapping or trading gently-used uniforms and equipment in order to cut down costs and waste of perfectly good apparel.
Look online or check with your kids’ school or local sports leagues for sports equipment swaps in your community. Each parent bring items their children no longer use, and, in return, can take home some free items others have donated to the swap.
If you can’t find a local swap, get a few friends together and host one of your own!
7. Buy during the offseason. Try to time your purchases in the off season. For instance, buy swimsuits in the middle of winter and ice hockey skates in the summer, when they are more likely to be on sale.
Big retailers usually have semiannual clearance sales to get rid of last season’s styles. This is a good time to buy shoes and clothing.
It’s also a good idea to buy up a size or two, so your young athlete can still wear them after his next growth spurt.
8. Car pool. Shuttling your kids back and forth to practices, games, team parties and award ceremonies not only uses gas but can be a real time suck for parents, especially if you have multiple kids in different sports.
Set up a car pool with other local parents on the team. You’ll save on gas and time, and your child will get to know his teammates better.
9. Explore financial aid. If the cost of your kids’ sports is still too much of a burden for your family, talk to the coach or league coordinator about possible financial aid. Or, reach out to a nonprofit like Good Sports, Kids Play USA Foundation or your local YMCA.
Discuss the situation with grandparents and other family members to see if they would be willing to pitch in to help defray the cost.
If your child has a birthday coming up, ask family and friends to consider purchasing sports equipment as gifts, or to give gift cards for stores that sell athletic clothing and equipment like Under Armour or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Children’s sports can teach your kids positive lessons about physical fitness, discipline, social skills and teamwork. Just be sure to avoid injuring your finances while you provide your kids these lifelong benefits.
BONUS! 2 More Savings Tips:
1. Open a special savings account and add to it during the off-season so you will have money when the new season starts up. If your child plays football every fall, for instance, save a set amount each month during the spring and summer.
2. Use Tower’s World Card for everything your child needs to get suited up and ready. Earn 1.5 rewards points for every $1 on purchases. Redeem your points for cash back or gift cards to athletic apparel and sporting goods stores.
Resources: bethkobliner.com, Nationwide, thegraciouswife.com, huffpost.com