As the school year gets underway, the seemingly endless opportunities for extracurricular activities are knocking on the door. You know who else is knocking? The “my kids go to soccer M/W/F, Spanish on Tuesdays and art class on Saturdays” mom.
Admittedly, I fall victim to society’s new(ish) expectations for tots to have a full calendar and I fight off pangs of guilt (especially on the heels of the “parent sacrifice” stories from the Olympics) as I contemplate the high cost of extracurriculars for our family.
Until our kids can play “free” school sports, we’ll have to pay for their activities. We try to snag early registration discounts, but some activities have a registration fee in addition to a monthly fee. And, we almost always need gear: shin guards (x3 because the dog WILL eat at least one pair), specialty shoes, leotards/uniforms, etc.
For our oldest son (age 5) to play soccer 10 times this fall, it is going to cost $100 - and the coach is a volunteer. With a registration fee, it costs $150 for my daughter (age 3) to “dance” for 45 minutes/week for eight weeks.
For two children in one season, this brings us to $250 and does not factor in valuable family time we lose shuttling to and from practices and lessons. In a move to save money and sanity, we recently joined our local YMCA.
We received a friend referral, which drastically reduced our registration and monthly fees, and while the programs still cost extra, they’re much less than private companies - and they’re all in one place, often simultaneously. While the Y probably isn’t going to groom world-class athletes, it will keep me sane for a few more years while the kids try different activities.
Plus, this Olympic athlete didn’t even seriously start her sport until she was 23. So there.
I do want our kids to participate in a lot of activities and I will nurture strengths as they come, but I also know that there is a lot of value in unstructured free time: come home after school, play in the back yard, build a fort, pretend the dogs are your classmates and read to them.
You know … kid stuff. Do you have any advice for me? How does your family balance the time and budget burdens of extracurriculars?
Author Stacey Bradford talks about the costs of raising kids and offers smart planning tips.