I’m at a good stage of life. With my kids getting older (one in high school, one in college) we’re down to just one competitive sport in this house: swimming. Swimming doesn’t require a lot. Some suits, goggles, a few training aids, and towels … lots of towels.
Even though our cash outlay for sports is relatively low now, I’m a survivor of youth soccer, T-ball, baseball, softball, basketball, dance, and golf. So I know firsthand that the cost of uniforms, shoes, and equipment can add up fast. Here are some things I learned that have helped with the youth sports budget over the years.
Help Your Kids Choose Their Sports Wisely
If your child is young and you are really just looking for a little physical activity and the experience of being on a team, choose a sport where the costs are minimal. Generally speaking, sports offered through a parks and recreation department, for instance, will be less costly (for both equipment and fees) than those organized through more competitive organizations.
A pair of soccer cleats is considerably less expensive that a set hockey goalie equipment. If you’re in an area where it’s popular, you might also want to avoid lacrosse — I hear that’s also expensive. All the same, you might want to consider the options from the standpoint of long-term activity. Golf clubs are expensive, but that’s a sport your kids can enjoy for the long haul. Weigh the overall value of the sport your child is playing — the percentage of their lifetime they can spend playing it — when deciding what to put them in. Also, sports a competitive these days and most kids will ultimately have to make a decision about which sports to play and which to leave behind. Doing this early can help you reduce costs, because basketball shoes won’t necessarily need to be purchased again if your child plays in a travel league that starts two weeks after the school’s season wraps up.
Know What’s Necessary
Some overeager coaches will provide a list of “necessities” a mile long. Some of those might end up making you say, “That was nice to have, but we wouldn’t have died without them.” Particularly at younger ages, ask some other parents or gently approach the coach about what’s mandatory and what can be postponed until you know you’re kid is going to at least make it past the first season.
How to Save Money on the Equipment You Really Need:
Depending on the sport and the school or organization it’s being offered through, there may be a rental program available for some equipment. Even some dance studios offer this for recital costumes. Be sure to check out this angle before you invest.
Not all sporting equipment needs to be bought new. Even shoes, if they were very gently used, can be purchased second hand. Good sources for used sporting equipment are garage sales and Craigslist. In some areas there are even consignment stores that specialize in sporting goods.
Even better than buying used or renting is borrowing. Ask your friends and neighbors. They may have an old baseball glove or set of youth golf clubs in their garage that their kids have outgrown. Just make sure the fit for your kid is proper.
At the end of the day, you just want what’s best for your kids. Help them pick a sport or two that will make sense for everyone and that they can be excited about. The last thing you want to do is buy equipment for a sport only to have them lose interest a week into each season. Teach your kids to focus on improving and being team players when they make commitments. It will likely save you more and prove more fruitful for your kids in the long run.
Julie Mayfield is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about everything having to do with personal finance. She shares money saving and debt reduction tips on her blog, The Family CEO. When she’s not reading or writing about money, you can usually find her hanging out with her friends and family and cheering on the Kansas Jayhawks.
Julie is a PerkStreet customer and a regular guest columnist on the PerkStreet Blog. Interested in joining the roster of talented bloggers? Email the editor at kyle.psaty[at]perkstreet[dot]com
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