My Kids’ After School Activities Are Costing Me What?

by Tamila McDonald
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cost of kids' after-school activities, cost of kids' sports, cost of kids' activities

On average, Americans spend over $233,000 raising one child. That’s nearly $13,000 a year. While the majority of that money goes to housing, food, childcare, transportation, health care, and clothing, some $900 of that falls into a miscellaneous category, which can include expenses related to after-school activities.

What Qualifies as an After School Activity?

Nearly any activity or program your child participates in outside of school hours may qualify as an after-school activity. This includes classes, lessons, or groups that don’t technically take place immediately after school, such as activities in the mornings or on weekends.

Extracurricular sports, dance classes, scouts, art lessons, and swim classes can all fall into this category, and nearly every one of them comes with a price tag.

How Much Are After School Activities Costing You?

As of 2016, the average cost for after-school activities was about $739. Elementary school kids tend to have the lowest costs, coming in around $463. By middle school, that price reaches $629. For high school children, the average was approximately $1,124.

Where that money goes varies depending on the activity itself. If you get your child private music lessons, you’re likely paying for an instrument and the instructor’s time. Private activity-oriented lessons or group classes, such as for swimming, gymnastics, dance, or martial arts have similar costs, along with extras like any required attire.

Being part of a school band usually involves buying or renting an instrument, as well as costs for a uniform. If the group travels for special events, like parades, there may be additional transportation fees or even overnight hotel stays as well.

Joining the Boy or Girl Scouts also comes with fees. Along with membership expenses, you also have to shell out for uniforms at a minimum. Then, if you want to add extra scouts-related activities, those programs come with a price tag that’s separate from the membership. For example, participating in camping trips may come with site fees for a tent, camping equipment, and food costs. Plus, you may have to either drive them to the site or pitch in on renting a van or bus.

Sports programs may come with uniform and transportation costs, as well as any activity, registration, or coaching fees if the extracurricular isn’t available for free through your kid’s school. If your child takes part in a sport every season, you could pay these expenses three or four times a year.

Controlling the Cost of After School Activities

If you want your child to participate in after-school activities, there are things you can do to control the cost. First, speak with the program’s administrator and see if the fees are set or if there’s a sliding scale. Some programs allow lower-income households to pay less, ensuring children all have a chance to take part.

For uniform or attire costs, you may be able to strike a deal with parents of older children. Since kids can outgrow their clothing quickly, you may be able to find a parent who will sell used items at a discount or even give them to you for free. Similarly, if a child is about to age-out of a program, parents may be looking for an easy way to get rid of the uniform.

When you need to buy sporting equipment, check used sporting good stores, thrift shops, and even garage sales. Sometimes, you can find high-quality items for less simply because a person or their child tried the sport and didn’t enjoy it, so they choose to offload the equipment. You can also check sites like Craigslist or Freecycle, or apps like LetGo.

Searching for used musical instruments may help you save. Alternatively, you can check with local music stores for rental programs. Opting to rent can save you a bundle if your kid needs a half or three-quarter sized instrument now but will progress to a larger version in a year or two. Similarly, if you aren’t sure your child will stick with the instrument, renting can be a great way to try one out without the commitment of buying.

You May Need to Limit Your Child’s Participation

At times, it may also be necessary to limit your child’s participation in high-cost extracurriculars. For example, you may want to limit them to one sport or kind of lesson. That way, you reduce the amount of equipment and attire you need as well as face fewer registration or instructional fees.

You may also want to price shop before signing your child up for a program. The cost of classes can vary dramatically from one school to the next, so you may be able to sign your kid up for less by shopping around. This is especially true if you have a YMCA nearby, especially since many of those locations offer memberships on a sliding scale.

Alternatively, if you have experience in a sport, playing an instrument, painting, or anything else they may value, you can always teach them yourself. This may be ideal for younger children who may lose interest in an activity quickly.

You can also band together with other neighborhood parents to arrange activity days. This allows your child to benefit from the social element but removes many of the costs related to items like uniforms and transportation.

Ultimately, there are options for controlling the costs of after-school activities. Just follow the tips above, and you may be able to save substantially, allowing your child to take part for less.

How do you save on after-school activities for your kids? Share your tips in the comments below.

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