Personal Finance

Spring sports and your wallet — don’t kiss your money good-bye

While it may seem like we just entered winter, spring sports are right around the corner. Taking expenses like sign up fees, equipment and coach gifts into consideration now can save you money down the line. It’s especially important to plan for these expenses if you have multiple children, in multiple sports.

Here are my tips for staying ahead of the game.

Capture all expenses

If you’ve had kids in sports before, you know there are certain “extras” that can come as a surprise if you aren’t prepared financially. Enrollment costs are just the beginning! Do some proactive research and make calls ahead of time to ask for specifics:

From the Organization or League:

What equipment is mandatory vs. optional? For example, a contact of mine signed her little one up for cheer with optional monogrammed coats and bags available. Come to find out, every other kid on the team ordered them, so she would have liked to know more about the optional choices ahead of time.

If you volunteer as a coach can you save on enrollment fees? This could provide the benefits of both spending time with your child and saving money in the process!

From the Coach:

Will an end-of-season lunch or dinner be planned? Will you be asked to provide snacks and drinks for the team during the season?

From the players’ parents:

Do they intend to purchase a gift for the coaches after the season? o Is anyone open to carpooling to longer distance activities?

While building this network seems like a lot of work up front, it’s the best way to get an accurate savings goal before signing your child up.

Name your savings accounts

When Jack and Pete were born, my husband and I started a “baby account”, intended for clothing, birthday parties, gifts, activities, etc. We simply drop some money into this account each month for anything that may come up. This is one of the best decisions we ever made as parents! Now that they are older and showing more interest in activities, the money is already sitting there! We continue to replenish our funds monthly.

Swap when possible

Sports equipment is so popular on neighborhood “swap and shops”, that now many neighborhoods have private groups specifically for buying and selling of sports apparel. Most kids outgrow their pants, cleats, equipment, etc. in just one season of play, so you can bet they will be lightly used and in good condition. Make a mental note to sell your items each season, too, and return those funds to your savings account.

Take your own photos

Purchasing a photo package is usually an option on most teams. I’ve been surprised to find that my own smartphone takes wonderful photos that can easily be printed and shared with friends and family members. No, they aren’t professional, but your loved ones will be more excited about your photo gift than the number of pixels. If you have a friend with a professional camera, ask them if they’d be willing to snap a team photo.

Don’t let another sports season end with you wondering how you spent so much. Plan ahead to be sure your financial expectations match up to reality.

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, visit http://communityamerica.com.

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