Keeping your kids in the game

Save on Youth Sports

by Anthony Lynch

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Youth sports have never been more popular, and with the tremendous explosion in popularity, there comes a price. Anyone who has a child in youth sports these days, especially if it's a club or travel team, will agree that the multitude of associated costs can sometimes strain a family budget. No matter what the sport is, the dollar signs start to add up fast when you factor in league or tournament fees, equipment, uniforms, travel, meals, training, etc. Plus, as sports can now sometimes run year round instead of just seasonally, there seems to be no end to the contributions a parent must make to keep their child's burgeoning athletic career in motion. By some estimates, the average sports family spends over $2,000 a year in sports related costs alone!

With that being said, here are some practical tips you can apply to your child's given sport or passion to help keep your expenses down without sacrificing their ability to participate or enjoy in the fun.

1) Ensure your player's commitment.

Is the money you will be paying out well worth it? Have a frank discussion with your child beforehand to gauge their level of interest. It can be very frustrating for a parent to commit financial resources out front, only to find their child's interest waning or low level of commitment.

2) Get your player to contribute.

Depending on your player's age, you may want to have them contribute to their sport's expenses. Or maybe agree upon extra chores or things the athlete can do as a way to show how much they appreciate and want to help out in pursuit of something they love and benefit from.

3) Try a rec or community league first.

Is this your child's first time trying a sport? Instead of going all out with a club or travel team where the fees and costs are generally higher, why not see how much your child enjoys the sport first by engaging at a lower level like those offered by community or recreation programs. Normally these are less intense programs that give your young athlete a chance to learn the basics and get their feet wet, while also costing only a fraction of what higher-level leagues and programs require.

Related: Keeping Kids in the Game with Creative Financing

4) Purchase or sell your used sports equipment.

Kids grow fast and sometimes can quickly outgrow supplementary equipment or gear. These days there are a lot of businesses that offer sales of used or secondhand equipment like Play It Again Sports. Craigslist is also a great resource to find great deals. Keep equipment expenses minimal until you are sure that your child is serious about pursuing this sport or activity. As an aside, never skimp or go cheap when it comes to things that enhance your child's safety, such as helmets, padding, etc. Those types of things are well worth the cost in terms of peace of mind and injury prevention. The flip side of this is to sell your own used sports equipment and generate some returns on your initial investment to put forward to future purchases.

5) Plan meals or snacks in advance.

If your child is playing a travel sport that requires long weekends of tournament games, you might find yourself on the road a lot and forced to eat out quite frequently. These meals can add up quickly. To keep costs down in this area, prepare meals and snacks ahead of time that you can take with you. Not only will this reduce your expenses, but also it's likely your child will end up eating healthier, more nutritious meals because of it.

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6) Look for volunteer opportunities.

Do you have an area of expertise that you can contribute to a team, perhaps as a coach or team parent? Many programs will reduce your costs or credit your player's account the more you volunteer in return to help out the program. Not only is this a great way to cut your costs, but it also shows an example to your children about how committed you are to their passion.

7) Organize a fundraiser.

Fundraisers can keep costs down for the team and provide a great way for the players to bond and to give back to the program. Popular examples include car washes, bakes sales, apparel sales, etc.

8) Plan ahead on travel events.

When it comes to team travel costs, plan ahead and look for group discounts. Designate a parent who hunts down the best deals when it comes to hotels, airfare, team events, etc. Hotels will often offer tremendous room rates if they know you can bring a substantial group to their venue. Also, focus on places that offer complimentary breakfasts. Not only is it easy and convenient, but it also saves you the cost of a big meal for your team and ensures that they fill up on important nutrition to start the day. Additionally, when a team lodges in a common place, it helps with team bonding and activities.

Reviewed February 2018

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