Kids Don’t Have to Be Expensive: How to Save Money on Extracurricular Activities
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We’ve all either heard or read about how expensive children can be. Recent numbers tend to be around the $250,000 mark from birth to turning 18, and that doesn’t include the cost of college. Having three children, numbers like that make Mrs. Frugal Rules and I choke at times thinking about how it could all add up. When you start to throw the cost of extracurricular activities into the mix, it only gets worse.
But, I’ve got a secret for you…kids don’t have to be that expensive! I’m not delusional to think that it doesn’t cost a lot of money to raise a family, but we all have choices in life. We could certainly spend as much as we wanted on different things for the little Frugal Rules’ but we have priorities like saving for retirement, putting away money for college and many other things and thus are left to find creative ways to save money on extracurricular activities.
We also have an agenda behind saving money on activities for our children – we don’t want to overschedule them. I grew up playing four different sports. While I loved it, it left me little time just to be a kid. We don’t want that for the littlest members of the Frugal Rules home.
We also want to give them exposure to different things so as to help them learn what they enjoy so they can have as much of a well-rounded experience as possible. Just because I may love football, that doesn’t mean our sons will and thus we need to give them opportunity to find things they enjoy without pressuring them.
With that in mind, I thought this would be a great topic to look at for our Frugal Hack Fridays. So, if you’re looking for ways to save money on extracurricular activities for your children take a look at some of the things Mrs. Frugal Rules and I have done to keep our budget happy.
Ideas to Help You Save on Extracurricular Activities for Children
Volunteer. Mrs. Frugal Rules and I have done this, as did my parents. Volunteering is a great way to save money, especially when it comes to sports. If your child likes sports like soccer or volleyball you know how those costs can add up, and that’s not to mention the travel costs. You can volunteer to coach, officiate or provide administration for the team. Often times that will either significantly reduce the cost or get you a full scholarship. That’s also not to mention the time you get to spend with your child.
Find out what your community offers. About six months ago we were able to get the middle Frugal Rule involved in a community program here in Omaha called Sprouts. He absolutely loves it and best of all the program is free. The idea behind Sprouts is to offer free music education to children and they can start at either the age of 3 or 4 and can be done all the way through eighth grade.
*Related: Need to buy your child a cell phone? Read our guide on the best kids mobile phone plans that won’t break the budget.*
The program runs weekly throughout the year and he gets his own violin (did I mention it was free) PLUS the free lessons. You can’t beat that! Our youngest just turned 3 so we’ll be signing him up once registration opens. I know there are other community programs here in Omaha and if we have them in our little city then I can guarantee you they likely have them in yours. We have good friends who did the same thing with their children and got them to learn things like fencing for free.
Take them to the museum. Another great opportunity we have here in Omaha is the art museum has a program where you can bring your child in the first Saturday of each month for a number of different activities. Those might include hands on art activities to demonstrations involving learning more about art to music. Again, the best part of this is that it’s all free and if it’s available in my area I’m fairly confident it is in yours.
Teach them how to build something. This is not something we’ve done much of, mainly as I have two left hands when it comes to wood working, but is something we definitely plan on doing with our kids more. If you have a Home Depot or Lowe’s where you live they offer regular Saturday morning activities where they get to build something (think a picture frame around Valentine’s Day) and they get to keep it.
Not only does this allow you as a parent to work on a project with them, but they also get to learn how to work with their hands. If working with your hands isn’t a strong suit of yours, then you’ll likely learn something as well. Again, it’s all free!
There are only four ideas here, but it scratches the surface of possibilities for extracurricular activities for your kids that are budget friendly. Don’t miss the opportunity to teach your children about money, in this either. Unfortunately, we can’t have everything in life. It’s just not possible. But, that’s not to say at all that we can’t have things we enjoy. In fact we should have them. However, that also brings in the need to prioritize.
Involving your children, as appropriate, in the decision making of which interests to pursue should very much include considering the financial impact and the time impact so that you can take advantage of opportunities without overscheduling or overspending. If done wisely this can be a great way to provide a hands on approach to teaching children about money and something they’ll want to be a part of as it’ll mean they get to do something fun.
If you’re a parent, how do you save money on extracurricular activities? What do you do to protect against overscheduling? How did your parents help you discover new things without burning you out?
John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.
Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.
Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.
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