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6 Budgeting Tips to Save on Your Kids’ Sports

Youth sports teams encourage physical fitness, teamwork, communication and self-confidence. But they often come with a hefty price tag.

In fact, a survey of more than 250 parents who use TeamSnap, a team and activity management service, found that the largest portion of respondents pay between $3,000 and $5,000 for youth sports each year, with some paying as much as $10,000.

As Ben Edwards, a sports dad and founder of moneysmartlife.com, points out, costs can vary based on what sports your children play and whether they participate on a recreational or competitive team.

For instance, playing on a competitive youth ice hockey team often involves more equipment and is more travel-intensive than, say, running with the school track team.

We talked to Edwards about budgeting tips to keeping your kids’ sports costs in check.

Avoid late registration fees

Often the biggest cost is the fee to register your child for a soccer, baseball or other sports league, so pay attention to the registration deadlines. “Sometimes if you register early they’ll give you a discount,” Edwards says. “Or if you register late there’s a late fee.”

Attend a gear swap

Both of Edwards’ kids play soccer (among other sports), so he’s attended gear swaps instead of buying new soccer equipment each year.

“Basically at the start of the season, they’ll have a day where people can bring in their old gear that doesn’t fit anymore,” he says. “You add your kids’ old cleats and old shin guards to the pot and you’re trading up every time they grow out their equipment.”

If your community doesn’t have a gear swap, check consignment shops, yard sales or used sporting goods stores like Play It Again Sports for deals on gently used apparel and equipment.

Volunteer to help the team

Some leagues give a registration discount to parents who volunteer as a team manager or co-captain, says Edwards, who’s used this option himself.

If you’re planning to attend most practices and games anyway, this option could make sense.

Use hand-me-downs

With multiple kids who play the same sport, you can get more mileage by handing down outgrown gear and attire to younger siblings.

But if, like Edwards, you have a son and daughter, avoid colors or designs that are gender-specific and would make hand-me-downs harder. “When you buy stuff, try and buy it neutral so it’s easier to hand down,” he says. Kids can easily wear an over-sized jersey while they grow into it, but shoes should fit properly to avoid injuries.

Ask about league discounts

Sometimes sports leagues negotiate discounts with local sports shops for families that are part of their league. Edwards says his family has used those discounts to buy sporting equipment as well.

Participate in a car pool

If you’re a team captain or manager, you may have to attend every practice or game anyway, points out Edwards.

But for other parents, car pools can make a lot of sense, especially if your child plays on a travel team with lots of away games.

By taking turns driving, you’ll save on gas and your little athlete will get extra time to bond with teammates to and from games or practices.

Your turn! How do you save money on kids’ sports? We’d love to know about your smart money-saving strategies! Share in the comments below.

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About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is freelance writer who's covered personal finance and small business for publications including Bankrate.com, The Boston Globe, Entrepreneur.com, Learnvest.com, and USNews.com.

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