Kids’ Sports on the Cheap

October 4, 2012

Do your kids play sports that you have to pay extra for them to join? Both of my daughters do or used to.

My eldest played club volleyball for two years. My youngest plays club basketball and is about to start playing club field hockey. I’m sure we have spent thousands over the years on these activities. We’re not alone.

A recent RetailMeNot survey found that, on average, parents spend $671 a year on sports-related costs, with 21% of parents spending more than $1,000 per child.

At least my daughters don’t play football. That survey found that, as far as parents are concerned, it is the most expensive sport for a child to play. While there aren’t any numbers that show how much parents spent to have their kids play football, in people’s opinions football is the most expensive sport.

Here is that top 10 of the most expensive sports:

  1. Football
  2. Baseball/Softball
  3. Hockey
  4. Basketball
  5. Soccer
  6. Gymnastics
  7. Golf
  8. Track & Field/Cross-Country
  9. Volleyball
  10. Swimming/Diving

When asked where their money was going, 28% of these parents said uniforms and appropriate sports apparel were their biggest on-going cost. Other parents reported the following items as their biggest expense:

  • sporting equipment (27%)
  • team dues (17%)
  • travel (11%)
  • sports camps (8%)
  • practice space time (such as field, court, ice rink, and gymnasium costs) (4%)
  • coaches’ fees (4%)

While more than half of these parents (51%) said they did not expect to pay travel costs outside of using their personal vehicle or public transport, 49% of these parents reported that they did expect to incur travel-related costs to support their child’s sport. I know that I have with both volleyball and basketball tournaments that not only required airfare but car rentals and lodging as well–sometimes for as long as a week.

So where does this leave you if you want to have your kids play sports but don’t want to go broke in the process?

First, when it comes to equipment, see if your school district or other parents might be organizing an equipment swap. I’ve seen people get brand-new cleats this way, because parents bought them expecting their son or daughter to be the next soccer star only to find out after the first practice that he or she didn’t want to play after all.

Another cheap way to get equipment is to buy used. When my daughters first tried out softball, we got their bat and gloves from Play It Again Sports, a sport resale shop. Garage sales are also a good place to get equipment on the cheap.

If you must buy sports equipment from a big box or sporting goods store, always looking for a coupon, or go through a cash-back site such as Ebates. In fact, when you shop through Ebates at Sports Authority, Chammps and the Nike Store, you can get as much as 6% of your purchase in cash back.

As far as league fees and whatnot, before you sign your kid up for the expensive travel league, have him or her try out the (often cheaper) developmental league or even just lessons that the organization may offer. That field hockey club that I said my younger daughter is going to join? She’s actually trying the Sunday morning developmental league, at half the cost, to see if she enjoys the sport enough to commit to the travel team.

How about seeing if there is a free trial or a special offer for beginners? This is what we did last year when my older daughter thought she might want to try fencing. For $60 she got 10 lessons and a free foil. At the end of the 10 lessons, she realized that fencing wasn’t for her. At least I hadn’t signed her up for the class subscription, which required an annual commitment of $50 per month!

I think it’s great to get kids involved in extracurricular activities, especially if they love it and it can help them later in life, either with lessons about playing on a team or, in regards to education, help them score a college scholarship.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /

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2 Responses to Kids’ Sports on the Cheap

  1. Jen on October 4, 2012 at 8:28 am

    There is a new site launching soon – I’ll be interested to see what their pricing is like. If it’s like their other sites –, – you get points from purchases for future discounts.

    • Leah Ingram on October 4, 2012 at 8:59 am

      Good to know. Thanks, Jen, and thanks for reading my blog!

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