By: Tracy Cooper Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers
The kids are back in school, and that means that kids’ sports events are in full swing. Recently TIME magazine shared that kids’ sports is a growing business – a $15.3 billion industry that has nearly doubled in the last 10 years. Between league fees, camps, equipment, training and travel, families are spending as much as 10 percent of their income on sports, according to survey research from Utah State University – and that number can go up substantially if your child starts to compete at a higher level or if you have multiple kids participating.
What can parents do to manage costs? Here are some simple tips from Tracy Cooper, Certified Financial Planner, Director and Southeast Division Sales Performance Manager for Merrill Edge, to help manage the cost of kid’s sports.
Plan & budget
Your child’s sports involvement is a lifestyle expense, so you will need to plan. Creating a budget before the season starts allows you to have good handle on how many games are home or away; on the cost of travel if games and meets are a far distance; and on what type of equipment or uniform costs you anticipate for the year ahead.
Make sure to periodically review your budget. If the costs are mounting, and you are wondering where to pull the extra cash from, look at other discretionary spending items and see where there may be opportunities to reduce spending. Also look for opportunities to do new things; when traveling for tournaments and/or summer camps, think about how the trip can be extended to include a family vacation.
Get creative and go simple
The laundry list of sports equipment that the little athletes require can seem endless. However, you should be mindful of what equipment is the most important. Buy only what is necessary and consider used sporting goods stores, friends and neighbors and possibly renting. Kids grow quickly, so sometimes they might only get one season out of a pair of hockey skates or cleats – don’t be shy to borrow, buy used, or rent.
Find ways to share
It never hurts to be creative with your planning. Parents can save gas by carpooling to tournaments with other fans and can avoid paying for expensive concession stand food by packing snacks or organizing a potluck before the game.
It also makes sense to ask your children to have some skin in the game and help fund (through monetary gifts or part-time earnings) to help defray the expenses. Helping young children build financial literacy can reap great rewards for them in the long run.
Finally, it is important to remember that recreational sports are a lifestyle expense that need to be funded from current income. You should avoid running up debt to fund these activities. To that same point, do not lose sight of long-term vs. short-term goals. For example, make sure you continue to contribute to your retirement plans (401K, 403 B etc.) and education funds (529’s).
As a parent, it is understandable to want to give your kids everything – just be sure you are being thoughtful about the expenses involved, because there are plenty of ways to plan and save.