With back-to-school around the corner, parents are starting to think about extra-curricular activities and the financial pressures when budgeting. How to budget for kids’ activities? After-school and weekend programs like hockey and swim practices, or dance and music classes, can make the school year even more expensive!
According to a recent TD survey, four in ten (40 per cent) Canadian parents with children under 18 years old spend $1,000 or more on extracurricular activities per child during the school year and half (51 per cent) of them find budgeting for these activities stressful.
Also, half (50 per cent) of Canadian parents say they limit the number of, or don’t sign their kids up for, extracurricular activities due to cost! So how can parents afford to pay for extracurricular activities, and how to budget for kids’ activities? Here are some ways to budget for kid’s activities.
How to Budget for Kids Activities
Don’t invest too much off the bat
If your child is young or starting an extracurricular activity for the first time, consider signing them up for classes offered through the city’s park and recreation department as they can be less costly than going the private route. Or, ask if you can try out activities before you commit or negotiate a trial class/lesson to see if the program is a fit for your child.
My son wanted to try martial arts. I wasn’t sure he’d love it, so when I saw a local studio offering a free class, I signed him up to give it a try. After the class, I asked him what he thought – he “kind of” liked it. So I knew that the interest just wasn’t there.
As younger children are still discovering what interests them most, you may not want to invest too much in one activity at a young age. Had I signed him up right off the bat, I would’ve lost at least $100 upfront.
I had also signed up my son for skating lessons like his big brother… but he hated it. He would cry every time on the ice. After the third try, I pulled him out of the class.
When he told me he wanted to take art lessons, I explained that this time, he would have to commit – he couldn’t back out. Luckily, he loved the classes and took lessons for two years. So it was quite the surprise when he told me wanted to get back into skates and play hockey like his big brother!
Your child’s interests may change throughout his/her childhood and that’s ok!
Avoid costly surprises
Before signing up your child for an extracurricular activity, think beyond the cost of the class itself. There could be more expenses down the road, for example, purchasing equipment, costumes, hotels for tournaments, etc. Be sure to thoroughly research the class and ask instructors or coaches about all of the materials needed and any extra costs before signing up.
Create a budget and stick to it
Before the school year starts, create a budget for all the annual expenses you can think of related to that extracurricular activity, plus five to 10 per cent extra to cover potential surprises like the end-of-season framed team photo or a championship sweatshirt.
There are online budgeting tools to help determine how much you’ll be spending monthly and ensure you stay on track. Saving a little each month and putting it into your savings account or TFSA can also help offset extracurricular expenses.
Also, consider having your child sit down with you as you plan for these costs as it’s a great way to teach them about the importance of budgeting and saving. And, it’s never too early to learn about responsible money management, so even if it’s very little, have your child contribute to the cost of their activity.
Shop around for discounts
You can find bargains on used sports equipment, gear, instruments, etc. at consignment stores, through friends and neighbours, or even online. I have a Facebook group for moms in my area and they post items for sale on a daily basis. Kids will outgrow equipment and gear quickly so there are plenty of gently used items available. Also, look for opportunities to save through group buying options or online deals.
File your receipts
Keep a record of all your child’s extracurricular activity costs and payments. Some fitness and art classes could be tax deductible on your 2016 tax return. Receipts also act as a good reminder of what items you paid for this year when it comes time to plan for the next time around.
Return on enjoyment
The most important thing is that your kids are having fun. Are they learning something? Do they enjoy the classes or lessons?
When my kids tell me they LOVE playing hockey, I know we’ve made the right decision as a family to enroll them into the sport. They’ve not only learned the sport, more importantly they’ve learned discipline, teamwork, and that hard work and perseverance pays off. They’ve also made great friendships.
The time the boys spend laughing in the dressing room with their teammates, and the little nudges and fist pumps they give each other on the ice, makes the time and expense all worth it.
How do you budget for kids activities?
Disclosure: This post is proudly sponsored by TD Canada Trust. The opinions on this post are my own, as always.