The Real Cost of Kids Activities: How to Make them Affordable

Have you noticed the trend of kids starting sports programs at a younger and younger age?  In the suburbs, it definitely is a status symbol to have your children in many different sports programs starting as early as 4 or 5 years old.  And do all of these parents really think their children are going to be professional athletes?  Could be, but do these parents realize the price tag of all these sports and what they could afford if they chose to invest the high costs of registration and equipment into a simple investment account?


My first slap in the face came when I went to sign my son up for baseball when he was 7 years old.  How was I supposed to know that I had already missed all of the T-ball seasons that were supposed to build his skills so that he could compete at this experienced level.  It was extremely intimidating, and since my son was not a natural athlete, we did make the decision not to sign him up.  I think it was one of the best decisions I made, because he would have been miserable.  It turns out that group sports are very difficult for him, and he really needs to be in individual activities.


Before I found this path to Financial Independence, I did sign my son up for Tae Kwon Do and he is currently working on his black belt.  Although it has been great for him to be a part of this, I wish that I would have weighed the hefty price tag for this program into the benefits for my son.  Overall, we have spent close to $6000 for him to get his Black Belt.  We are proud of him, and he is proud of himself, but there probably is many other things that we could have done to encourage the same feelings.


Why do parents pay such high costs for these sports programs for children?  Are we lazy parents and we just want to have someone else teach our kids and spend time with them.  We as parents can sit on the sidelines and drink our coffee and chat with our neighbors to find all the good town gossip.


I also made the mistake of signing my daughter up for swim team at the age of 9.  She stuck with it for 1 year and would have continued on, except I realized that she really didn’t have the heart to continue.  When I asked her if she wanted to continue with swim team her response was, “Well, if you want me to, I will.”  So many parents sign their children up for activities when really it is the parent that wants this for their child and not what the child really wants.


As a society we don’t let our children just play.  It made me sad last night when my son rode his bike around the neighborhood looking for friends to play with and at every house he stopped at he got the answer, “Sorry, he is at Hockey (soccer, baseball, any other sport) tonight.”


Kids need to just play outside, without structured sports.  Free play.  And guess what, it really is free!  It teaches our children some of the same lessons of responsibility, conflict resolution, working with others, and creativity.  Sounds like real world skills they will need to succeed.


Let’s look at the numbers…

Here is a quick break down of costs for children in activities from age 5-15.

Registration – $300

Equipment – $100

Other costs (gas to and from, parent time, etc) – $100

Total – $500

A sports season typically lasts 3 months, so with 4 different seasons, parents are typically spending a total of $2000 a year.


***These costs are just an average, as some sports are quite more and others are much more reasonably priced.


Now, what would happen if you would take this money and invest $2000 starting at the age of 5 and contributing $2000 a year until age 15.


In 10 years with 8% rate of return, your total would be over $35,000.  And that is just for ONE child!!!!!!!!


Now ask your child if they would rather be baseball or have $35,000 when they are 16 to buy that sweet car? (Just kidding, also not a good choice…but to each their own.)


Here is an even scarier thought…as students get older, the equipment and costs seem to go up, even if they are part of the school sponsored athletics.  I feel my estimate here is extremely low compared to what some are actually spending.


How can you involve your kids and not feel irresponsible with your money?


  1. First of all, get over the status of being a parent of a soccer player.  Your social life will prevail even if you are not at every practice and game when your child is not a part of this world.
  2. Find out truly what your child wants. Do they want to be part of the baseball team, or do they just want to go outside with you at night and hit a few balls and play catch in the yard.  Once your child loses interest in the activity, don’t continue to go.
  3. Invest in the passion. I did sign my son up for a reasonably priced chess club after school and he talks about this club non-stop and all the great things he is learning.  This was definitely an investment that was worth the money.
  4. Leave time for your child to just play. Sure, maybe they do love being part of the swim team.   But do they need to do it year round?  The coach may say they need to continue without a break, but take a season off.  Your 10 year old will appreciate the free time.


You often hear that we are over scheduling our children and that they are becoming more anxious because of all the stress upon them.  Children need time to just play and be themselves.  They will discover who they are and once they have the passion, they will put their all into what they love and that is when we as parents can lovingly support them.


  1. I don’t have kids, but I have so many thoughts on this subject that I could write my own post about it. I know when I was a kid I tried a lot of different sports/activities until we found the ones I really loved, and I don’t think of that as a waste of time or money. I do hate how sports have become so competitive that if you don’t start very young and join expensive club sports, you’ll fall behind your peers. Sometimes there’s a less competitive rec league but the kids still probably won’t make the school team. I also hate the over-scheduling and pressure to be involved in as many extra-curriculars as possible to get into and get scholarships for college. Kids gotta have time to enjoy their life too!

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