Raising kids can be a daunting experience, and an expensive one. From diapers to daycare to orthodontia and, yes—participating in team sports. Depending on age and commitment level, extracurricular sports fees can range from hundreds to even thousands of dollars per year for families. You don't want to discourage your child from participating, because the benefits can be life-changing, including helping with organizational skills and boosting educational success.
Statistically, American families spend an average of $700 per year, per sport, says a 2019 survey from the Aspen Institute and Utah State University. But it's likely that many families shelled out a lot more—upwards of $9,000 per year per child. That can certainly be budget-busting for many families.
Here are some ways to minimize expenses.
1. Remember that not all sports are created equal. Costs can vary based on the necessary equipment—ice hockey, lacrosse, skiing and tennis can be very expensive due to helmets and other gear. Some other sports like flag football, cross country, basketball and soccer can be less expensive.
Travel teams are selective youth teams that play at an elite level in a variety of sports. If your child participates on a travel team, expenses will climb as players are required to travel long distances to participate in games, tournaments and showcase events. In addition, don't feel pressured to pay for clinics, private coaches or extra classes to give your kid a competitive edge, especially if you really can't afford it.
2. Speak realistically with your child. Address competition level (like a school team vs. travel team). Avoid trying to keep up with everyone else just because they're doing it. Limit the number of activities your child is involved in. This also avoids having your time and money completely eaten up so that your son or daughter can participate in two sports at once.
Don't be afraid to tell your child that you just can't afford that travel team with the $1500+ commitment, plus the expense of out-of-town overnights for games. Sure there will be fun in all of this, but don't forget that this can add stress to the family, and take on a negative role in your child's academic life and stress management. Many kids and parents roll with the punches, and power to them. But some others soon become aware of the time and money commitment which can get tiresome. Here's a good rule of thumb: when it's no fun for anyone, don't do it or choose another sport/activity with fewer demands.
3. Is a scholarship your motive? If you're planning for your child to get a full scholarship to college by way of expensive club teams and training, statistics show that only 2% of high school athletes get a scholarship to play at the Division 1or Division 2 levels. A full-ride scholarship is even rarer. In fact, most sports scholarships are divided among many team players—which may help a lot, or not enough. It's true that many parents spend thousands of dollars over the years for their child to master a sport in a quest for the full-ride scholarship, which may in fact be as much as college tuition.
If the only option is for your child to earn a scholarship, you may be better of putting the money in a savings account and planning to pay for college yourself or with the assistance of federally-backed student loans.
4. Explore free or cheap activities through school, churches and local organizations. Introducing your child to athletics can be a very positive thing, because it helps them to participate plus allows them to try different things. Don't discount the free and cheaper activities your local and county organizations provide. They are often nominally fee-based for a few months, and charge fees of approximately $50 to $100 for a full season. Regular times, plus perhaps a little equipment, may be enough to get the younger ones active and interested. It's a great way to introduce younger children to sports—and to see if it's a good fit before committing to the bigger team effort.
5. Ask about fundraisers to offset costs. Many sports teams plan fundraisers to generate income for the team and help mitigate costs per family. It's a good question to ask before signing up, both from a commitment perspective and a financial perspective.
6. Inquire about hand-me-downs from other families on your team, for new gear uniforms, dancing shoes, cleats, etc. There may even be an opportunity to rent the equipment; it's always a good idea to ask around before you splurge. This may help you to skip the brand new equipment for the time being.
7. Purchase and sell. If you do have to purchase equipment or sell some to keep expenses at bay, consider online resources, which likely carry some fees to get your gear in front of a large audience. There are some great deals to be found at these sites and stores. Here are a few favorites:
- Sideline Swap: Enables you to list your item for free in seconds by uploading a few images and adding a description. If someone wants to buy your item, they will pay for shipping.
- eBay: The go-to online marketplace where many people look for used equipment. Easy to buy, easy to sell.
- GearTrade: This site helps people give their gear new life by selling unwanted sports equipment. There's a flat selling fee of 13% that you'll be charged after your item sells.
- Play It Again Sports: This popular retail franchise lets you recycle your used sports and fitness equipment. You can sell it directly to the store, trade it for store credit, or consign it through them until it's sold at a negotiated price.
- Pawn Guru: This site simplifies the process of choosing the best pawn shop for your area, allowing you to post your sports gear and get quotes from local pawn shops. You can compare the offers and accept the one that gives you the most cash for your item. Plus, you can shop there, too.
- Sports Exchange: This sports equipment shop offers three ways to get rid of your gear in exchange for cash: you can consign it, sell it to them for cash, exchange it for another item or get in-store credit.
- Facebook Marketplace: This is a great place to list and sell sports gear locally. It's free and easy to use. Simply create your post, write a short description, upload images and set your price. Since you are selling locally you can sell your gear in-person and accept payment in cash. For security reasons, pick a local public place to meet for the exchange.
Resources: Money.com, junglescout.com, dollarbreak.com, First Coast News
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