When I was a child, extracurricular activities were not as prevalent as they are today. Sure, they existed, but the pressure for a child to be actively involved in them was not as intense as it is in today’s world. Kids today, frankly, are quite often over-scheduled and have too much to do. I know some of my daughter’s elementary school-aged friends have a different activity every night. Personally, I think that’s too much. Kids need down time where they can just relax and play on their own. I allow my own daughter one activity at a time and feel that with homework and household responsibilities, that’s more than enough.
I do see the value in letting kids participate in something extra. Whether it is sports, music lessons, Scouts, church activities, or some other organized activity, the lessons learned can be very valuable. My own daughter has tried a few things but hasn’t found that one great activity to stick with and that’s fine. She’s done soccer, swimming, violin lessons, piano lessons, and now field hockey. Depending on the activity, kids may learn social skills, teamwork, the importance of physical fitness, how to read and play music, survival skills, discipline, the importance of community and helping others, and much, much, more.
Most activities are not free though, particularly if you are taking lessons or participating in a sport. For a family that is on a tight budget, this may seem like a lost cause. After all, putting food on the table is more important than learning how to play baseball.
Before you give up entirely though, be honest about your financial means. Can you afford it? What can you afford? Sit down and look at your budget. What is a realistic amount of money that you can put towards extracurricular activities? Even if your budget is really zero, there may still be options.
Here are a few ways I’ve found to reduce the costs of extracurricular activities for your kids:
1. If you are considered “low-income” and qualify for public assistance, you have more options than you think.
The YMCA and many other places offer scholarships to low-income kids. If you qualify for food stamps, WIC, or other forms of assistance, check with your local YMCA and other non-profit organizations that offer kids’ activities because many of them will let your kids participate for free or for a much smaller fee than other kids.
2. Check with local churches and other religious institutions.
Even if you are not religious or don’t attend church services, many churches would love to have your kids participate in youth groups, sports, and other activities. Most of these are free and if they do need to pay for something, they will have fundraisers to help off-set costs.
3. If you need special equipment, consider buying used, renting, or borrowing it.
When my daughter started piano lessons, I could not afford to buy a piano. So, I found someone who had an old keyboard they didn’t want and they gave it to me for free. For the first 10 months or so of lessons, it was perfectly fine. It only had 61 keys (as opposed to the 88 keys found on a regular piano), and about 6 of the keys didn’t work. But, for a beginner, it was fine. After about 10 months, she started doing more complicated pieces and really needed the full 88 keys. However, I still could not afford a real piano. I was able to find an 88-key digital piano for around $200. See this 88-Key Digital Piano if you are looking for something similar.
Before she started piano lessons, she tried the violin. Instead of buying a violin, we were able to rent one from a local music store, with no contract. In other words, after she realized the violin was not for her, we were able to just return the violin without any cancellation fees. Later, we also found that you can find decent beginning violins on Amazon for well under $100! Had I known that when we started, I probably would have just gone that route instead of renting one. Here is a full size option, but if your child is small, they also have smaller violins: Violin Starter Kit
If your child plays sports, you can also find used equipment on Ebay, Craigslist, or even your local thrift stores. Also check with neighbors and friends. It’s possible that their kids tried a sport and didn’t like it, so they have the sports equipment lying around taking up space. You might be able to at least borrow it for free.
4. Check with your local Parks and Recreation Department.
Private, for-profit groups, often charge a lot more money for lessons than city-run and non-profits. Our local Parks and Recreation office offers swimming lessons, art lessons, music lessons, soccer teams, baseball teams, summer camps, and more for kids who live in our city. The costs are quite low compared to for-profit leagues.
5. Check with local universities for music lessons.
If you happen to live in an area with a college or university, there may be low-cost music lessons available that are taught by music students. Also, just ask around. There are wide ranges in cost for music lessons. It pays to ask neighbors and friends, call music stores, look at ads on Craigslist, and more.
6. Plan ahead.
Another way to prepare for the cost is to start saving for it long before you need the money. If your kids are still very young, start researching the costs now and start saving for it now. When they are old enough, you will have some money set aside to cover equipment and fees and other up-front costs without breaking your budget.
Extracurricular activities for kids are definitely a luxury for some. But there are ways to reduce the costs and even find free or inexpensive activities that your children can do without breaking your budget.
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Quick Links to Info on this Page:
- 1 Here are a few ways I’ve found to reduce the costs of extracurricular activities for your kids:
- 1.0.1 1. If you are considered “low-income” and qualify for public assistance, you have more options than you think.
- 1.0.2 2. Check with local churches and other religious institutions.
- 1.0.3 3. If you need special equipment, consider buying used, renting, or borrowing it.
- 1.0.4 4. Check with your local Parks and Recreation Department.
- 1.0.5 5. Check with local universities for music lessons.
- 1.0.6 6. Plan ahead.
- 1.0.7 Make money at home!