If you’re a parent, you’ve probably at some point encountered the high cost of putting your kid in a sports league.
Hockey sticks. Baseball bats. Skates. Basketball shoes. Golf clubs. High-end uniforms. The cost of equipment alone can stretch your budget and wreak havoc on your bank account. In today’s world of competitive youth sports, some parents can spend up to $10,000 a year funding their child’s athletic pursuits.
Equipment is just the tip of the iceberg. Travel teams, personal trainers, summer camps—all of these costs can add up in a big way, especially if Junior enjoys playing a sport and starts developing a talent.
Traci, a parent in Wichita, Kansas, says, “We spent over $5,000 on baseball! The costs covered uniforms, equipment, hotel stays, equipment fees, etc.”
So what’s a parent to do?
Of course, you love your child. Of course, you want him or her to achieve any dream. But where do your budget and your other financial priorities enter the picture? If your child really is passionate about playing a sport, you can still provide that outlet without breaking the bank.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Buy used equipment.
New high-end equipment like shoes, bats, skates and helmets can cost a couple hundred dollars—at least. Instead of buying new every single season, why not find a discount on some lightly used equipment? We’re not talking about a pair of nasty, stinky old shoes. A lot of “used” equipment hardly looks used at all! Some sports stores specialize in used stuff, or you can always find some online. You can save some serious cash when you buy used!
2. Sell used equipment.
Unless Junior has a little brother, you won’t need those size five cleats again. Sell them online or to other parents looking to buy used. Use that money to purchase this year’s equipment. Next year, rinse and repeat.
3. Consider recreational leagues.
The popularity of travel teams—local all-star teams that travel regionally and nationally—continues to grow. Most of these teams are filled with future high school players. But they aren’t cheap. According to SmartMoney.com, the average cost of playing on a youth travel team is anywhere from $1,000–3,000 per season. Local recreational leagues offer the benefits of competition and exercise without the inflated costs.
4. Pick a sport (or two).
If your child is playing in four different sports, the expenses will add up quickly. Narrow it down to one or two sports per year. You’ll save on all the equipment costs, plus you’ll have a few months off from driving them all over town!
5. Be realistic.
The NCAA estimates that only 3% of high school basketball players play in college. Only 6% of high school baseball players make it to the next level. The percentage of high school players who make it professionally is less than 1%. The truth is, your child probably won’t make a living playing sports—and more than likely won’t play in college. Is it possible? Of course. But that doesn’t mean you have to prioritize summer sports over paying off debt and saving for the future.
Remember, you will have more costly expenses in the future, like college tuition. Use some common sense and be reasonable with your spending. Include these costs in your monthly budget.
We know you love Junior, but he probably isn’t the next Lebron James. Some parents lose their minds when it comes to youth sports. Don’t fall into that trap. You can provide an active, healthy lifestyle for your child—one that includes team sports—without busting your budget.
It's important to teach your child team-building principles as well as money skills that will affect the rest of their life.