The back-to-school season is not only a hectic time of year, but also an expensive one that should be budgeted for. Between buying school supplies, new clothing or school uniforms, and planning healthy and affordable lunches, the costs of sending your child to school can certainly add up quickly.
Now that school is in full swing, after school activities are also starting up. Extracurricular activities can greatly enhance your child’s physical, social, and academic development. However, practices and meetings can eat up a huge chunk of your family’s budget if you do not plan for it. If you follow these steps on how to create a budget for after school activities, you will not have to worry about busting your budget or delaying financial goals such as paying off debt.
Find Your Child’s Interest
Once kids see or hear about an activity, they usually want to try it. But it doesn’t make sense financially or for your child’s future to enroll them in everything at once. Instead help them pick one or two activities that they really want to try. It’s important to teach them how to make choices, especially when it comes to teaching kids about money management.
Try not to let your own interests influence your child’s choice. After all, if it something they are not interested in and do not want to attend, it will be money wasted.
If you are enrolling your child in a new activity, use it as a trial period before you invest in uniforms or expensive equipment. You’ll know quickly if it is something your child actually enjoys. In the meantime, consider borrowing equipment/supplies or asking other parents if they might have stuff their child has outgrown.
Determine the Trust Cost of the Activity
Now that your child has made a choice, it’s time for you to do your research. Ask other parents, teachers, and coaches about the cost of registrations and equipment. Don’t forget about the occasional pizza party, t-shirt, photos, or a new uniform.
Be sure to factor in any travel these activities will require. Will you need to drive to games in other towns on the weekends? How often will you need to bring your child to and from meetings or practices? Don’t forget to factor in other costs such as takeout if you will not have time to cook on activity days.
Be realistic about how much these things will cost and look for ways to save such as registering early, buying used equipment, borrowing from other parents, carpooling, etc.
How to Budget for these Expenses
After school activities should be considered a periodic expense since they happen year after year and are something that you can proactively plan for.
Each month when you are filling out your budgeting worksheet, be sure to include the estimated cost in the children’s activities line item.
If you are working on getting out of debt, you may need to cut back on other budget categories to help you cover the cost of your child’s activities. Use this Save by Cutting Back guide for tons of ideas on how to save on housing and utilities, insurance and retirement, food, transportation, health care, and clothing and services.
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