Extracurriculars are a great way to get your kids engaged. When you sign your kids up for activities, they can make new friends, form healthy habits, and develop skills that can benefit them later in life. That said, extracurriculars will often come with a price.
Many extracurriculars cost money to enjoy, and if your child likes to sample a range of activities, you may have trouble managing the expense of registration fees and required equipment needed for your child to participate. Take a look at these tips to help keep your finances in check and help determine when the costs of extracurriculars are worth it.
Look for Extracurriculars That Your Child Shows Interest In
Finding an activity your child really enjoys can make your decision to pay for it easier.
Search for extracurriculars that allow your child to try the activity beforehand. For example, a martial arts academy or an art center may offer one free trial class for new students. It’s a smart way to recruit new participants, and it also allows your child to try something new without financial consequences.
Not sure what your child may enjoy? Think about the things they seem to like doing around the house.
- If your child loves running and jumping, they may like a high-energy activity like gymnastics, track and field, or dance.
- Do they sing in the shower? Getting involved in a choir or learning to play an instrument might be for them.
- Do they enjoy spending time outdoors? Scouting may be a good fit.
Remember, as tempting as it may be to try a variety of extracurriculars, participation in too many activities can wear your child out. You may want to limit each season to one sports activity and one artistic activity, for example. As they get older, focusing on just one passion may work best.
Listen to your child’s input. Parents sometimes push their kids to continue with an activity because they’ve already invested money in it, but that’s counterintuitive. No one is happy if the child isn’t enjoying themselves.
Managing Extracurriculars for More Than One Child
Paying for activities can put a dent in your wallet. When you have more than one child, you may be financing several extracurriculars at once. You need to make sure you can sufficiently support each child’s activity.
Ask your kids to rank their activities from most to least favorite and use their responses as a guide. If you have to pull back on a particular activity because of expense, at least you know which activities your children prefer.
Talk to your kids about money, too. They should understand that activities have a price, and if they aren’t enjoying it, it isn’t worth the investment. Try not to make them feel like they “owe” you for paying for the activity, however. That could discourage them from participating in something they really love.
Embrace low-cost activities that more than one of your kids can do together. If your children have similar interests, look for opportunities to save on multi-child enrollments. For instance, a children’s fitness center that offers a discounted family membership if you enroll more than one child.
Making a Plan to Cover Extracurricular Costs
As your children age, their activities may become more expensive. A soccer player might want to join a club team. An equestrian might want to compete in shows. Continuing to support your child and providing them with opportunities is important for their development, but it shouldn’t break the bank. Here are a few things to consider when you’re planning for extracurricular costs.
1. Factor Extracurriculars Into Your Budget
The most basic place to start is evaluating your budget and ensuring that there’s room for extracurricular costs before you agree to sign your child up for an activity. If you don’t have a budget, consider creating one today. Seeing where your money goes each month may help you identify spending patterns you can adjust, like meals out, or expenses you can reduce through comparison shopping for Internet or cell phone service.
2. Plan Ahead for Incidental Expenses
When you dash from practice to practice, the drive-thru can become your best friend. But while fast food may seem inexpensive and convenient, the costs can add up over time. Add this to the extra cost of travel for activities, such as gas, tolls, and more wear and tear on your car, and extracurriculars may end up costing more than you initially thought.
To avoid negative impacts of these costs, plan ahead and get creative. Prep meals in advance and focus on things that are quick, easy, and can be eaten on the go. To reduce transportation costs, pair up with another family and trade off driving.
3. Reimagine Gifts
No matter your child’s age, they could likely make do with less “stuff.” Reconsider what you or they are telling family members they’d like as gifts for birthdays or holidays.
Instead of focusing on toys for younger kids or more gadgets for older kids, ask for contributions to their extracurricular activities, like enrollment fees or new uniforms. To show them how special their gift was, send a personalized thank you note with a photo of your child participating in the activity.
4. Have Your Children Contribute
If your child is old enough, help them learn the value of working by encouraging them to get a part-time job. Whether it’s a formal job at a local business or doing chores for neighbors, they may feel more invested in their activities if they’re working for the ability to participate in them.
Use Extracurriculars as a Learning Opportunity
No matter how you decide to help finance your kids’ participation in extracurriculars, use it as a learning opportunity for them. Talking to them about priorities and goals, as well as having them contribute to financing their activities, is a great way to introduce them to money management.
For tips on how to teach your child of any age about money, visit our WalletWorks page.