If you have kids playing fall sports, you’re probably enjoying the last week or two of life as you know it. (Or you may be enjoying a week or two in between summer and fall sports.) Ready to resume the craziness of weeknight practices and weekends jammed with games? As if you had a choice!
For many families with kids, participation in sports can often lead to forgotten financial commitment. We’re talking new gear, more gas used shuttling from place to place, more dining out, game-day snacks for the team, coaches’ gifts… the list goes on.
How do you give your kids the experience (not to mention great exercise) without gutting your monthly budget? Of course, the best way is to plan and budget for these expenses in advance, because they can add up to a hefty financial hit even for the thriftiest among us. That’s advice for next year, but there are plenty of ways to soften the blow.
Hunt for hand-me-downs. Football is easily the most expensive sport on the planet. Shoulder pads from $50 to $400. Helmets at $100. Pants and pads for $50 and up. Cleats for $75 or more. Are you kidding me? (Here’s hoping Jack never plays!) That’s not even counting the fee to get him on the field. But equipment is expensive no matter the sport.
Like with anything that kids wear — and outgrow — it only makes sense to scour your family and personal networks for perfectly good stuff that may be gathering dust in someone’s garage.
Play it again. And again. If the hand-me-down pipeline isn’t there for you, try checking the used gear market. Bats, gloves, golf clubs, all the football stuff above and more can be found all over Craigslist http://kansascity.craigslist.org/ and eBay http://www.ebay.com. This goes both ways if you have equipment to sell. If online isn’t your thing, check out Play it Again Sports in Overland Park www.playitagainsportskansascity.com, which buys and sells used sports gear at a discounted price.
Hitch a ride. I know people who drive 50 miles round-trip every weekend, 10 times per season, for their son’s football games. And he’s in 4th grade! I can’t imagine what it costs with a kid on a traveling team, no matter the sport. Yes, it’s hard to not be at a game, but you don’t need to be at every practice, unless you’re assisting or coaching. You can carpool with other families and cut your gas bill dramatically. Do it with one other family for games and cut it in half. http://drivelesssavemore.com/pages/carpooling-benefits
Cook to win. The game starts at 6 p.m. It’s not over until 8 p.m. Too early and too late to cook anything at home. So what happens? Fast food on the way, or on the way home. That’s not good for the budget or your ballplayer. Get to know your crockpot! There are tons of recipes www.chef-in-training.com/2012/08/50-slow-cooker-recipes that can cook while you’re at work and be ready in time to feed your starting lineup, with enough left over for another meal in the week. You’ll also want to pack your car with healthy snacks (carrots, granola bars, cheese sticks, etc. to keep your family happy on the drive to/from the game, which will also help you avoid any unnecessary stops when you hear, “I’m hungry” from the backseat.
It’s almost here, so if you haven’t prepared your budget yet, start your fall sports savings strategy now and avoid getting your budget stuck in the penalty box. Game on!
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.