Kids participate in summer camps and after school programs year round. While family schedules certainly vary by region, one thing seems to be true throughout – kids are busier than ever before, and in turn pocketbooks are being stretched further and further. Between camp, swim lessons, sports team tryouts, art, music and field trips – the cost of extracurricular activities can really add up quickly. It is important to plan out a reasonable budget to spend on these enriching events that will deepen your child’s passions and sense of self but don’t necessarily need to deepen debt.
What You Should Spend
Having a “what you should do…” category is somewhat unfair and misleading, as the answer will vary greatly from family to family. The true answer comes from not what amount you SHOULD spend, but rather what amount you can and want to spend. Extracurricular activities should never send you into financial peril – though it is important to provide your child with their own interests and identity whenever you are able to.
The average American family tends to spend on average $200 per month, per child. Obviously if you have only one child, the cost will be much easier to handle than if you have a brood of five. Again, just do what you are able, and provide a healthy, happy home for the rest of the time!
Depending upon the activity your child is involved in, your costs will vary greatly. Below are some examples of what you can expect to spend, though again this varies by region and family commitment level.
A little girl with dreams of becoming a ballerina can expect to set back her parents’ 2nd honeymoon fund approximately $60-150 per month in tuition costs. This number is dependent upon the number of classes taken each week.
- Most recreation programs will charge around $60-80 for a once-per-week basic class in ballet, tap, jazz or hip hop.
- Performing & Competition Dance – this is where things get a bit more expensive. A dance recital usually costs around $75 per costume, which may or may not include dance shoes, tights, etc. If your child plans on hitting an elite level, your monthly tuition cost will be much higher as many more classes will be required. Finally, competition teams tend to average around $400 per competition.
These can be one of the most expensive extracurricular activities around and it doesn’t really seem to matter which sport it is.
- Softball can average $15 per child, not including uniform, bat, glove, cleats and more.
- Youth football’s going rate is approximately $400 per child.
- Soccer, basketball and tennis are also within the $400 range
- Sports clubs and competitive leagues carry additional costs – especially for travel
If your child(ren) plan to participate in sports – it’s fair to say that $9,000 will cover three kids in the family playing three different sports.
- Youth classes at a community center average around $30-60 per month
- Elite instructors typically charge between $50-150
- Outside of tuition costs are uniform and travel costs at times
Ways to Save
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to cut costs and save your sanity while still letting your daughter try out for the figure skating club. Be wise with where and how you spend your money – especially if you are new to an activity, it is easily to be swindled into spending more than you need to.
- Look into used or free equipment. Many cities have second hand stores for musical instruments and sports necessities. You can also search around online, look in your local newspaper listings, or just put out a plea on Facebook for the item you need.
- Ask parent friends what they’ve thought of a particular coach or studio. Research them online too and see if you can find any reviews, positive or negative. Cost will often be mentioned if a person felt their time was or was not worth it. You can find dozens of free parent reviews and recommendations at ActivityHero.com!
- Make a family rule to keep costs under control – allow only one extracurricular per child per season. Or, settle for only rec center programs versus private studios during the school year, with more intensive opportunities made available over the summer.
- Research locations that offer financial aid or some sort of assistance that your family is eligible for and try them out before the more expensive places.
In the end, kids thrive and succeed in a successful home environment – extracurriculars are icing on the cake of life. Do what you can and find simple and free ways every day to build up your child’s self-confidence and interest in the world around them.
Written by Tamara Warta