August is typically a very busy month. Families are enjoying the last few weeks together before the kids head back-to-school, yet fall extracurricular activities are very much on top of mind. When it comes to planning activities, parents have to be conscious of not only scheduling the time but also the expenses involved. Costs for extracurricular activities can add up pretty fast, especially when there are multiple children involved. I should know. Between my son and daughter, they have been lucky to have done a lot over the years – soccer, dance, golf, tennis, volleyball, softball, figure skating, baseball, hockey, swimming, drama, karate, piano, programming and drawing. And our pocketbook has the wounds to prove it.
According to a recent TD survey, four in ten (40%) Canadian parents with children under 18 years old spend $1000 or more on extracurricular activities per child during the school year and half (51%) of them find budgeting for these activities stressful. Half (50%) of Canadian parents say they limit the number of, or don’t sign the kids up for, extracurricular activities due to the cost.
My husband and I feel strongly that our kids participate in some kind of extracurricular activity. We believe that extracurriculars teach them so much more than the task at hand – being a team player, setting goals, social skills, etc. So we make the budget work to provide extracurriculars for our kids.
How to Keep Extracurricular Activities Affordable
Shirley Malloy, Associate Vice President of Everyday Banking at TD, shared some tips for keeping extracurriculars affordable. These include:
Avoid costly surprises – Be sure to factor the incidentals beyond the initial cost of the activity, such as the equipment and supplies required. When my daughter was in dance, we had to pay for her year-end recital costume and tickets to see the performance. Rep team sports will have tryout fees and out-of-town tournaments, which means added costs for travel, meals and accommodations.
Create a budget and stick to it – Sit down and list all the estimated annual costs related to your kids’ preferred extracurricular activities. Add in 5-10% extra for unexpected ‘surprises’ like championship sweatshirts or fundraising shortfalls. Online budgeting tools can help keep you on track, and putting a little money aside each month into your savings account or a TSFA sure makes those big expenses easier to manage. Be sure to include the kids in these discussions – it’s a perfect opportunity to teach them some important financial lessons.
Shop around for discounts – We often ask friends and family for their gently used sports equipment that they no longer need. People usually will love you for taking it off their hands. If there are a few of your child’s friends joining a program together, ask for a group discount. I asked and received a “referral” discount when a few girls on my daughter’s hockey team joined the same camp that my daughter has done over the years.
Don’t invest too much off the bat – It’s important to be sure your child enjoys the activity before investing too much in it. Local parks and recreation programs offer low cost options, which are great for a child trying something new. That was the route we took when my daughter decided to play hockey. The “Learn to Play Hockey” program was enough for her to get a feel for the game, which didn’t require much of an up-front investment. When she decided to continue, we enrolled her in the local girl’s hockey association to play house league.
File your receipts – Be sure to keep track of your expenses related to your kids’ extracurricular activities throughout the year. Use a spreadsheet or an old fashioned file folder so you’ll be able to see how much you’ve actually spent, and make it easy to claim the Fitness and Arts tax credits on your 2016 tax return.
Think return on enjoyment: Remember that at the end of the day you are paying for these extracurricular activities and experiences, so they should be providing your child with a return on enjoyment. Each month, sit down with your child and evaluate what they are learning through the class, if they are having fun, what they like about it and what they don’t like about it. Use this information as a guide to when you are choosing next season’s activities, and don’t feel tied to that one activity.
Benefits in Extracurricular Activities
As our son is a bit on the quiet side, we encourage him to join team activities. We found that it has helped him come out of his shell. As parenting coach Terry Carson points out, after-school and weekend activities help prepare children for adulthood in a variety of ways. For example:
- Music exercises both the right and left side of the brain, which helps kids become better multi-taskers.
- Competitive sports help promote kids’ physical fitness along with developing team skills.
- Drama helps kids sharpen their memory and improves concentration.
- Running, swimming and diving help kids stay focused on self-made goals and accomplishments while keeping an eye on their own personal best results.
- Scouts or Guides are great for learning to get along in social settings as well as working towards achieving goals.
Beware of overscheduling, for your sake and your child’s. Don’t waste time rushing yourself silly if your child’s just not that into it. Have a conversation with them to be sure they understand the commitment. I don’t miss the days of waking up at 5:30 a.m. on weekends to get my son to hockey. But I would do it, if he loved playing. He didn’t enjoy it, so after that season ended, hockey was off the table for him.
Kids require unstructured free time for their development and to enjoy quality time with family and friends. When kids are overscheduled with extracurricular activities, the whole family can get stressed out and tired. After school activities that involve fighting traffic, rushing through dinner and doing homework late at night can take their emotional toll on both kids and parents.
How do you manage your kids’ extracurricular activities?
To learn more, visit: www.tdcanadatrust.com
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by TD Canada Trust. As always, all opinions remain my own.
About Wendy Morelli
Wendy loves her 2 kids and her iPhone, not necessarily always in that order. She is an app obsessed mom who loves everything tech and is (unfortunately) old enough to remember the brick Motorola cell phone and the Commodore computer. Her love for technology stems back to the 10+ years of working for technology based companies. Wendy's alter ego, "AppHipMom" has been featured in Canadian Family, iVillage, Women in Biz, EverythingMom, BlogHer and Savvy Mom.