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Keeping Costs Low for Afterschool Activities

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Between the fees, uniforms and equipment, kids” extracurricular activities can be expensive. These expert tricks and tips will help you save a substantial amount of money, while your child still reaps all of the benefits of participating.

Know what you’re getting into. Before you register, calculate the costs associated with an activity over the course of the season or year. If you are unsure of the various expenses, ask the coach, group leader or another parent. Add 10 percent to cover surprises and see if it fits into your budget. If it doesn’t, move on to more cost effective options.

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Prioritize activities. My children want to do every activity you can think ofone time. Look for activities that allow you to drop in once before signing up for a full commitment. After they have tried it and decide to commit, stick to it and resist adding any new activities until the session is over, or for a certain length of time you decide.

Find cheaper options. Nonprofit or school-based programs tend to be a fraction of the cost of private offerings. Many schools offer sports and arts for a small fee or no fee at all. Find introductory classes for music, language or individual sports like ice-skating, at local recreation centers and libraries.

Rent or buy gently used equipment. Kids grow quickly and can lose interest often, so used equipment is typically in good condition. Craigslist.com, secondhand stores and equipment swaps are great options to find inexpensive equipment, for sports, music lessons and more.

Volunteer, barter and ask kids to pitch in. You may be able to exchange services to help cover the costs of extracurricular activities. Ask the organizer or studio owner how you can help to offset costs, and if scholarships are available. Also, consider having your children chip in some allowance money for fees or equipment. At a minimum, talk about what trade-offs you have to make to pay for their lessons.

Extracurricular activities can be expensive, but they don’t have to break the bank. The trick is to be proactive both in your budget and your choice of activities.

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Rachel Namoff is a financial literacy expert and managing partner at Arapaho Asset Management (aamisit.com).

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