Finding a way to fund your child's extra-curricular activities

Keeping Kids in the Game with Creative Financing

by Kathleen Frassrand

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With family budgets stretched to the breaking point, many parents are canceling their children's costly extra-curricular activities. Before pulling out of little Katie's violin practice or Johnny's soccer team, consider some creative financing strategies.

  • Know what you need. Calculate exactly how much money each activity will cost. Be sure to include money for gas in your budget. Fuel prices can significantly increase the "true cost" of classes. Have a designated saving spot for all the cash you accumulate. This can be as simple as an envelope with "Gymnastics" on the front, or you can open a free savings account at the bank. Having a separate location for earmarked money ensures that it won't get sucked up in household spending.
  • Host a garage sale. When a favorite sport is at stake, children will give up a lot more of their unused toys and possessions. Clean out the closets and the garage and put it all up for sale. Not enough stuff? Ask friends and family members to donate their unwanted items too. When sale day is over, be sure to stash the cash in a special spot.
  • Birthday cash equals swim team splash. Instead of receiving another sweater or high-priced toy, ask Grandma to pitch in to the sports fund instead. Most relatives would rather help pay for a sport or activity that lasts all year then a toy that is discarded after a week. Who knows, your child might just hit the jackpot and get both the funds and the must-have new toy!
  • Get creative with the household budget. Drop those expensive drinks and switch to water. Make one meal a week vegetarian. Clip coupons, shop sales, and make a weekly menu. Raise your A/C by one or two degrees. Skip the brand-new wardrobe and stick to outlet and consignment shopping. Even a few dollars here and there add up to big bucks over the course of a month.
  • Stop the small spending and start a coin jar. Carrying cash in your wallet ensures that you will spend it. Stop the fly-bys at the convenience store and the drop-ins at the donut shop. When you do spend cash, immediately place your change in a coin jar. The bucks add up and help push the sports fund over the top.>
  • Split up the weekly allowance. If your children are old enough to earn an allowance, they are old enough to help fund the cost of their activities. Designate a portion of allowance to be added to the sports fund. Still short? Children can do a variety of jobs around the neighborhood to help raise money. Babysitting, lawn mowing, gardening, and dog walking are just a few options.
  • Try trading services. Small business owners love to trade services. Can you build a website in exchange for some classes or coaching? Can you scrub the gym once a week? How about offering to hand out flyers or donate some time answering phones? The possibilities are endless so don't be afraid to ask.>
  • Donate blood and platelets. It's a win-win situation. There is great need for blood and platelets donation in the United States. Blood donation centers often give gas cards, gift cards, and even cash as a thank you. When redeeming a gas card, be sure to swap the corresponding cash out of your gas budget and into your sports fund.
  • Look for scholarships. Many organizations offer scholarships, and not just for school. Some are willing to fund sports and other activities that help children grow and develop a good moral character. Call around to the different clubs and organizations in your area to see what is available. Don't forget to talk to the heads of your sports organization, as some offer scholarships to the truly needy.
  • Use credit card cash-back bonuses. Using credit cards wisely can make you money, but only if you pay off your charges each month. Be sure your credit card has a cash back program, and pay all of your bills with that card. When you've racked up enough bonus cash, request a check. Remember to deposit the money directly into the sports/activity fund.

Sports, music, and specialty classes don't have to be sacrificed just because money is tight. Get creative, find the funds, and enjoy watching your children blossom in their chosen activity.

Kathleen Frassrand is a freelance writer living in North Florida.

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  • Do your kids enjoy music? Use these tips to buy them a musical instrument on a tight budget.
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