Saving Money on After-School Activities

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After-school activities give kids the opportunity to exercise, have fun and expand their interests. They also come with a hefty price tag. How can you get your kids involved in extracurricular activities without emptying your wallet? We spoke with a couple of experts (and parents!) to get their best tips.

Go discount or gently used when possible

If the opportunity presents itself, seek out used items. Robert Nickell, aka Daddy Nickell of the DailyDaddy blog, says, “There is no need to buy pricey, brand new uniforms! Take the kiddos to a secondhand store and see if you can find gently used sports uniforms for just a fraction of the price. You may be surprised!”

Seek out early-bird discounts or group rates

If secondhand options aren’t available, seek out and take advantage of early-bird discounts or group rates for equipment and uniforms. Author and marketing consultant Linda Carlson recalls, “My daughter rowed for Green Lake Junior Crew in Seattle during high school and didn’t think she wanted the expensive one-piece uniform when a group purchase was organized. But come spring, when she was to compete in several regattas, she either wanted it or was expected to have it, and we not only paid the $100+ regular price, we had to have it delivered by FedEx.”

Skip water bottles and sports drink bottles for reusable bottles

Buying individual bottles of water and sports drinks can quickly add up. Nickell advises, “Buy a refillable water bottle for the kids’ after-school activities so that you don’t waste money on countless disposable water bottles. This will also help to eliminate a lot of potential waste!”

Look for city or nonprofit programs

“Look for park department and nonprofit programs,” Carlson advises. “Our daughter rowed through a city program (less expensive than club or private school programs), and when she did lifeguard training, it was through a free city program.”

Opt for recreational vs. travel leagues

Nickell advises checking out recreational leagues before jumping in the deep end of travel leagues. “If your child is just trying out a sport or wants to do it for fun, sign him/her up for the recreational or park & rec program, as it is significantly less expensive than the travel leagues. If they enjoy the sport and want to play at a higher level, you can always make the change to a travel league next year.”

Check out discount stores for new and discounted supplies

You won’t want to pick up secondhand athletic shoes, but you don’t have to pay top dollar for them, either. “Take your kids to a discount store like Marshall’s and see what options they have there.”

Chaperone and pitch in whenever possible

Chaperoning and assisting for games and matches can give you opportunities to travel with the team for free. Carlson recalls, “I chaperoned a trip to Canada, which meant free travel and lodging. This also meant I crossed the border with the team. Possibly easier than waiting in line by myself.”

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