Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Are You Going Broke Paying for Your Kids’ Sports?

By Renée A. Hanson

Back in the day, kids honed their athletic skills at the neighborhood park.

Now organized sports teams, camps and clinics have replaced parks and pick-up games. What’s more, the cost of youth athletics, like many consumer products, has dramatically increased.

In addition to team fees, there’s often pressure to buy expensive equipment and to pay for private lessons and pricey camps. Plus, there are extras — such as weekend or out-of-town tournaments, embroidered sweatshirts, team photos, and post-game celebrations — that can strain your pocketbook.

How can you rein in costs?

First, and foremost, evaluate your goals and expectations for an athletic activity, and determine what level of play and involvement makes the most sense given your child’s time, talent and interest... and your budget.

Second, keep the following in mind:

  • You can always say no to a sport if the cost is too expensive.

  • An intramural team may be a more affordable alternative to a traveling team, because intramural teams tend to have fewer practices and games and rely on volunteer coaches, which helps reduce their cost.

  • You can use team meetings as an opportunity to ask important questions, for example, “Do the kids really need new warm-ups every year?” or “Can out-of-town travel be limited to one trip (or none) per season?”

  • You can help get your child’s team involved in fundraising activities — for example, car washes and pancake breakfasts — to help generate revenue and offset costs.

Third, for every dollar you spend on sports today, invest the same dollar amount in a college savings plan for your son or daughter. Since athletic scholarships are few and far between, this will help ensure that your long-term goals of a college education for your child aren’t compromised by your current investment in their athletic development.

Last, but not least, if you’d like help determining what you can afford to put toward your child’s athletic interests, talk to your financial advisor. He or she can help you establish a budget for your children’s extracurricular activities based on your current income and savings goals.

Renée A. Hanson, CFP®, CEP®, CDFA™, CFS, is a private wealth advisor with Hanson, Ayala & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Her passion is in helping women achieve their dreams and financial goals, regardless of life’s many obstacles. Renée is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of AZ, CA, CO, GA, IA, IL, MI, MN, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, SC, TX, VA, WA, WI. Please visit: to learn more.

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