Back To School: Investing In Kids’ Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities can be the best part of growing up. Fun with friends at after-school soccer practice. Looking through viewfinders for a weekend photography class. Learning how to write code. Space camp!

But these activities come with financial costs, and some are higher than others. So how much do extracurricular activities cost, and how do your kids benefit?

What You Pay For
Singing lessons. Football games. Coding classes. Your kid could come to love almost anything, but how do you know until they enroll? And how much are you willing to pay?

Suz’s daughter plays soccer. Kids Sports Lunch BoxBeyond the health benefits of exercise, Suz’s daughter is making gains in personal and social development. “She loves being active and loves playing soccer. But between seasonal costs, uniforms and travel…it can get up to $2,000 a season.”

Michael, father of four, has two children who love baseball. “Each bat costs $400. And because of their growth as players, there were seasons when I had to buy new bats every year.” So how did it all add up? “In bats alone, I spent $800 a year for a while. Then, after adding in cleats, uniforms, equipment, training aids, coaching, etc., I probably spent $10,000 each on their sports careers.”

This might sound high, but it’s actually pretty normal. A recent survey conducted by Capital One® found that one third of the families questioned planned to spend over $1000 per child, per year on school and after-school activities. The costs will rise as your kid gets older, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy investment.

What You Get
So, where’s the ROI? How do your kids benefit socially, academically and physically from your financial investments in their activities?

While Suz agrees that it can get expensive, she still believes it’s money well spent. She claims, “It’s worth it because she loves it and she’s learned so much more than how to be committed to a team. She’s gained discipline with her school work and great time management skills. She gets it all done!”

Beyond good sportsmanship, parents like Amy, mother of two, love the fact that her kids have built lasting friendships through their activities. They’ve also learned to value the money spent on their sports and hobbies. “The kids know that once they sign up for a sport they have to complete the season…they’ve learned to follow through on commitments and not be wasteful.”

It’s also been proved that extracurricular activities help kids build self-esteem, boost grades, reduce stress and just be healthy in general. They’re learning life skills—things they’ll carry into adulthood to help propel their future careers.

Michael recalls of his baseball all-stars, “My kids learned a sense of pride, confidence and healthy habits they wouldn’t have found elsewhere. It’s money well spent.” He goes on to say, “They learned how to fail and come back even stronger. If a teammate makes a mistake, they’ve learned to support that player because it could easily be them. It’s motivated them to succeed even more...” These skills and perspectives have followed his kids into adulthood. “Now, if they get rejected for a job, it doesn’t stop them. They just work harder to succeed.”

Lessons like this become invaluable as adults, “It helped them learn that they don't know everything, no matter how good they are. It taught them acceptance despite shortcomings, and has made them more compassionate adults,” he concludes.

And while the kids’ sports industry reaches 15.3 billion, parents will continue to justify the charges accrued. And who can blame them when the benefits are so bountiful.

Of course, beneficial extracurriculars aren’t limited to just ball games. Jill is a mother of two young ladies and both love to dance. “They were never really ‘sporty,’ but they’ve always danced.” Is it worth it? She counsels, “It’s a small fortune, for sure! Our youngest is headed to a national competition soon. It’s close to $2000 for 4 days, but the confidence she’s gained through all of it makes it worth every dime!”

And if your kids aren’t into sports and physical activities, there are a lot of other options out there. Elementary aged students who show extra interest in math concepts and problem-solving could benefit from after-school coding programs. If your child has a love for linguistics, maybe try a language arts program. Intellectually stimulating activities such as these can help start your kid on a successful career path at a very young age and help them academically at the same time.

Ways to Save
While some families might spend up to $10,000 a year on kids’ activities, there are always ways to save. Garry’s son plays a few sports and sometimes it costs a pretty penny, but to him it’s worth it just to get him to kick the tablet habit. “It can be expensive, but he needs more activities that don’t revolve around computer screens.”

And there are ways to save when it comes to kids and after-school fun. Garry says to “connect with other parents about carpools, resale gear and uniforms. And make sure your kid really wants to participate.” Amy’s found this tip particularly useful, “If your child sticks with the same sport or team you can typically cut costs by not having to buy a new jersey or equipment every single season.”

Suz suggests to simply “start saving now.” No matter what your kid’s into, if you follow some simple guidelines to cut costs up front and focus on how they’ll benefit in their future, it should end up being a worthy investment. As Jill puts it, “Ask any parent of a dancer, athlete or artist. Watching them perform is an unbelievable experience.” And who doesn’t love watching their child feel like a star?

Original article appears in Forbes.
Photo by Offset.

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