As the school year gets into full swing, many families are excited for the start of fall sports. It’s the perfect season for kids to get outside and run around in the crisp autumn air – but as we all know, the cost of kids’ sports can add up fast.
Read on for a quick guide to what seasonal sports expenses you might want to prepare for, how to budget ahead, and how to save.
Most sports leagues charge general registration and participation fees, which cover everything from coach salary, to tournament entry, to building or outdoor facility space. Depending on the sport, fees can be quite high – ice hockey, for example, has an average registration fee of more than $600.
Some leagues offer a discount for early registration, so check in with team leadership and see what’s available. It might also be possible to get some money knocked off of fees if you’re able to volunteer throughout the season. Some parents even take on the mantle of assistant coach to reduce their spending – and get a fun new way to interact with their kids. If none of these are possible, then the best option is simply to budget ahead. A single-use savings account can be particularly useful when it comes to putting aside money every month in preparation for a specific expense such as the fall or winter sports season.
Sports gear usually isn’t included in the registration fee, which means this needs to be a separate line item on your budget. Again, your spending may vary significantly depending on what sport your kids are involved in. Skiing and snowboarding tend to have the priciest equipment, but swimming goggles, tennis balls and soccer cleats can also make a major dent in any parent’s wallet.
The easiest way to lower your sports equipment budget is to purchase used gear. Check out secondhand websites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay, or whatever’s most popular in your area. Garage sales are another great resource for inexpensive sports gear – you’ll often find markdowns that are even better than what’s available online. Finally, if your kids’ school doesn’t already have an annual equipment swap, why not organize one? Sports gear swaps are the perfect way for everyone to spend less, share more, and clear out some storage space.
No matter what age or level your kids are at, chances are there will be some travel costs involved in their sports experience. Away games may mean you need to cover a hotel and meals, but even local practices can lead to a sizeable bump in weekly gas spending. Higher level players could get the opportunity to travel to games in other states or even countries, leading to airfare expenses, too.
Carpooling can help reduce gas costs for local transportation, and it’s a big time-saver for everyone. When it comes to the larger costs associated with away games, ask the coach well ahead of time what costs you’ll be responsible for, so that your family can plan ahead and get this into the budget. It’s also worth asking about the need for parent volunteers, as away trips often need additional adult supervisors and you might be able to get a reduction in your child’s travel costs in exchange. On the other hand, if you do end up with significant travel expenses for your kids, consider putting this spending on a credit card where you can get cash-back or travel rewards.
Once your child has chosen a sport they love, they may become interested in boosting their skills with private coaching, or perhaps a special clinic or camp during school breaks.
Budgeting will be your key tactic to plan ahead and be prepared for these costs. Chat with your child right now about what sports activities they might like to do during winter break, spring break and summer break. Then, get together with other parents and see if any of their kids are interested in something similar. If enough kids are interested in outside instruction or a clinic, it may be possible to organize a group registration discount.
While there are many expenses associated with kids’ sports, there are tons of benefits too. Sports activities can help kids stay healthy, build friendships, and learn valuable teamwork skills they can carry with them for years and years to come. If you’re concerned about the financial impact of your children’s sports ambitions, consider speaking with a financial expert who can offer more tips on debt management and making smart household budgeting decisions. HUECU members have access to the GreenPath Financial Wellness Program as a free benefit of Credit Union membership – so get in touch if you’re interested in debt management or other financial education.