With back to school comes back to school expenses! Beside the normal books, indoor shoes and coloured pencils, it is also the time that many of the extracurricular activities begin. Extracurricular activities are awesome. They give your child a chance to shine in a non academic setting! From learning about team sports on the ice to learning how to paint with a new medium in art to getting their senior care badge in girl guides, the benefits are endless. Unfortunately, like cake, too much of a good thing is bad! In today’s rushed environment, parents are looking for ways to keep their children busy. This results in over scheduling and burn out for both the child and the adult. Children need down time to learn how to just be a kid and play!
In our house, extracurricular activities sometimes invoke emotional, financial and time constrictions. Having three kids and a husband who works most nights, makes extracurricular activities a huge stress on this Mom. Not only do I worry about how to get each to each sport, but I worry about the cost of the program and the extras (equipment, recitals, etc.) that go along with it!
According to a recent TD survey, four in ten Canadian parents with children under 18 years old spend $1,000 or more on extracurricular activities per child during the school year. With the stress of finding a way to budget for these activities, half of Canadian parents say they either limit the number of activities or don’t sign their kids up for extracurricular activities at all because of this cost. That would mean for my family, I would need to budget for an extra $3000 a year to put my children in activities.
Tips to make Extracurricular Activities affordable:
Recently, I attended an amazing TD event in Toronto with a dozen other super Moms and Shirley Malloy, Associate Vice President of Everyday Banking at TD. The conversation revolved around the importance of extracurricular activities vs free time and how to make it affordable for families everywhere. Here are the tips we came up with:
- Research programs first. Many programs offer early bird fees, multiple children deductions, etc. You can save hundreds of dollars by being the early bird!
- Sign up for trial sessions. One of my favourite things is when an activity offers a trial week. It allows your child to see if it is something they really want to participate in. This allows you to see if it is a good fit for your child, your time commitment, and if your child will get along with the coaches. My son did this with karate and we learned pretty quickly that his opinion in the trial session was his overall opinion of the sport.
- Stick to a budget Just like everything else in life you need to stick to a budget to avoid overspending. When creating an after school activity budget be sure to add 5-10% for surprise costs! (i.e. equipment, recital tickets, supplies, etc.)
- Tax Write Off In some places, the government offers you a tax deduction for signing your children up in physical activities. Research what your area does and use it as tax write offs if possible!! Every little bit helps!
- The goal of after school activities is fun! Sign them up for things they love only! Begin by thinking about your child’s personality before selecting an extracurricular activity (do they do well in groups or as individuals) then ‘Ask them’ – ask your child what they want to do! But hold them accountable! My son was famous for coming home and saying ‘so and so is playing baseball, I want to play!’. Knowing my son and his attention span, I knew this wasn’t the sport for him. After a lengthy discussion and some practice at a local park, he realized he didn’t really want to play!
- Don’t Pay Full Price! Your child is not in the major league. Especially when they are starting out look for cost saving ways for equipment when possible (swaps, used etc).
- Community is BEST! A cost effective option for extracurricular actives is your local community center. My DD loved to dance, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for the commitment of $500-1000 payout. When she was three I enrolled her in our local community center for $35/8 week course. We did this several times to ensure that she loved this sport, before moving on to a dance academy!
What tips or tricks do you use to help keep down the costs of extracurricular activities?
Disclaimer: I received compensation from TD as part of my participation in the #StartSaving event. All opinions and stories shared are my own.