Tips to Save Money on Extracurricular Activities

One of the most talked-about parenting topics this time of year is of course back to school, but also extracurricular activities. Not only do you have the back-to-school expenses of supplies, clothes, school fees and more – there’s also paying for your child’s extracurricular activities which typically start in September and runs through the school year.

I don’t think I’ve had one adult conversation these last few months that didn’t include discussions on activities, enrollment dates, schedule times, and the dreaded fees.

With three daughters in competitive cheerleading {who also usually take swimming and skating lessons at some point in the year, sometimes in conjunction with dance classes too}, I know all too well the strain it has on the budget.

Tips to Save Money on Extracurricular Activities

Not only is it a scheduling juggle that would make anyone wave the white flag, after-school and weekend programs can make the school year even more expensive for families.

We all feel that strain, but it’s shocking to learn the hard facts on the financial pressure of extracurricular activities. According to a recent TD survey, four in ten {40 per cent} of Albertan parents with children under 18 years old spend $1,000 or more on extracurricular activities per child during the school year and half {51 per cent} of parents find budgeting for these activities stressful.

While personally I thought this number would be much higher {I’d love to know what the statistic is on other amounts}, I do know many parents who simply don’t enroll at all because of cost, but then deal with the stress of not having their kid in activities when they know they’d greatly benefit.

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Of course the end goal with any financial responsibility is to try to cut down those costs!

Tips to Save Money on Extracurricular Activities from TD Canada Trust:

Avoid costly surprises: Before signing up your child for an extracurricular activity, think beyond the cost of the class itself. Sometimes it’s the incidental fees related to that class or league that put us over our budget – such as the purchase of equipment or an instrument, or accommodations for weekend tournaments. Ask instructors or coaches upfront about all of the materials needed and any extra costs before signing up.

Create a budget and stick to it: Before the school year starts, create a budget that estimates all the annual costs related to that extracurricular activity, plus five to 10 per cent extra to cover potential surprises like the end-of-season framed team photo or a championship sweatshirt. Online budgeting tools can help you determine how much you’ll be spending monthly and ensure you stay on track. Saving a little each month and putting it into your savings account or TFSA can also help offset extracurricular expenses. Also, consider having your child sit down with you as you plan for these costs as it’s a great way to teach them about the importance of budgeting and saving. And, it’s never too early to learn about responsible money management, so even if it’s very little, have your child contribute to the cost of their activity.

Shop around for discounts: You can find bargains on used equipment and gear (and instruments too at yard sales or consignment stores, through friends and neighbours, or even online. Considering that kids will most likely outgrow equipment and gear quickly, this is a great option. Look for opportunities to also save on the activity, through group buying options or online deals.

Don’t invest too much off the bat: If your child is young or starting an extracurricular activity for the first time, consider signing them up for classes offered through the city’s park and recreation department as they can be less costly than going the private route. Or, ask if you can try out activities before you commit or negotiate a trail to see if the program is a fit for your child. As younger children are still discovering what interests them most, you may not want to invest too much in one activity at this young age.

File your receipts: Keep a record of all your child’s extracurricular activity costs and payments. Some fitness and art classes could be tax deductible on your 2016 tax return. Receipts also act as a good reminder of what items you paid for this year when it comes time to plan for the next time around.

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.

One tip which wasn’t mentioned above, yet is something that really helps our extracurricular costs, is to inquire about fundraising through the extracurricular activity’s organization. With ours, we pick and choose ongoing fundraisers which happen throughout the year {through the academy’s parent association}, and participating in select ones really helps to reduce our monthly fees. Some of them are standard product-sales, yet there’s also fun events and functions which we all like to do, especially for the social and community aspect. 

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My tip plus the tips mentioned by TD Bank Group are sure-fire ways to save money on extracurricular activities. Following these tips ensures my daughters can keep doing what they love to do, because … the costs of parenting doesn’t have to be as much as they seem at first glance. 

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Do you have any other tips to share? 

Disclosure: This is a compensated post for TD Bank Group, yet as always, all opinions are my own.



  1. Bot of my boys do karate and it’s expensive. I do get a discounts for having two siblings enrolled at the school, but I wish there was a way to save even more.

  2. My son was in karate for quite a while and we always budgeted for it. He now wants to move onto things so I’m going to take a lot of your tips under advisement and try to save before he even starts the next sport.

  3. There are also lots of ways to get money for sports fees paid by various agencies. Its not a crime to be working poor LOL, someones got to work those minimum wage jobs. We were able to get registration fees paid directly to various programs my kids were in. Through our SKlotteries program (kidsports) will pay for the largest fee you have (like football) Ask your school if they have anything like this. Our school had fees set aside for programs because they WANT kids to be active (they covered our basketball fee as well as uniform fee) You never know unless you do some research in your area or province (even our town had a grant but that was for hockey and figure skating, which my children did not do)

  4. Thanks for the great tips. I have found some great deals on sporting equipment at the flea market.

  5. Extracurricular activities can cost a pretty penny and can put a strain on your finances. Thank you for sharing your tips.

  6. These are all great tips. I think it’s so important to save money when you can. My oldest is in Girl Scouts, and that can get costly at times. My youngest isn’t in anything yet, but hopefully she’ll want to join something as well.

  7. While we haven’t gotten to the point where my son is sick of playing soccer (it’s his fav and the only extracurricular activity we’ve paid for so far), I’ve seen first hand how it is to have a child start something and then soon decide it’s not for them and the money put into it is a total waste. Luckily, I can learn from others in this regard and have my son simply try something out first before investing tons of money. We try to budget as much as possible and there’s no room for wasted money anywhere.

  8. Your girls sure are busy. It is nice that they enjoy participating in all these activities. The girls are adorable not to mention such beauties.

  9. When the kids were younger we always set a budget for extracurricular activities. My Daughter was a Cheerleader as well and loved it.

  10. Taking our youngest to a private school, it’s made us not be able to afford extras. This would help alot!

  11. You gave some really great tips for saving money. I know parents save a lot by volunteering to help at my children’s dance school. Every bit that is saved on these activities makes them more enjoyable because the parents are not stressing about paying for the activity.

  12. We haven’t had to deal with this too much yet, but I know it’s coming. That’s for these helpful tips!

  13. We took some time off from all extracurricular activities. The kids started treating it all like work, and I knew it was time to make it fun again.

  14. We spend a ridiculous amount on sports and activities every year. It’s where a large chunk of our budget goes. Thanks for these tips to help us save some money!

  15. When I was paying for my two daughters to do dance the cost was way too much for me to handle. I did pull them out due to this and feel bad. I was not at a strong point with spare money, but now I could afford it much easier.

  16. These activities can be expensive. My son played several sports and it felt like we were always paying for something new.

  17. Lots of these groups, such as my daughter’s dance school offer early registration discounts if you pay for full season/year at beginning. Thankfully, the fees at my daughter’s school are low so it’s not a big deal to pay the few hundred up front knowing saved some money in the process.

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