This is a guest post from Janis Meredith at Jbmthinks.
Kids are expensive. First, there’s diapers, baby equipment, clothes, food, doctor visits, and eventually college. When they got in school, we face another expense: the cost of keeping them busy.
I’m not advocating that we should keep our kids busy every moment. But as they get older, their attention span gets more and more sophisticated.
At that point, you can generate your own activities to keep them busy, or get outside help: sports, music, clubs, drama, dance, karate, art—the list is endless.
Unfortunately, outside help gets expensive, especially when you have more than one child. From soccer and ballet to piano and band, extracurricular activities cost a bundle, putting them out of reach for many families.
Is there a way to grow and challenge our kids without going broke?
Also See: Free Online Summer Camp (Or Inexpensive)
Obviously, if your child is an outstanding athlete with D-1 potential or a musical prodigy, these ideas won’t work. But if your kids are starting an activity or are only in it for the fun and exercise, there are ways to keep them involved without blowing your budget.
1. Find experts. Keep on the lookout for talented piano players, swimmers, dancers, athletes—even high school or college kids—who would be willing to give free or cheap lessons.
2. Trade Services. Does your friend give piano lessons? Is there something you could give her in return for free lessons? Babysitting or housecleaning or
3. Choose cheaper options. Club sports teams and elite musical or dancing programs are costly and should be avoided until you feel your child is getting serious about his interest. When I say serious, I mean I-plan-to-participate-in-high-school-and-I-want-to-continue-in-college serious. Until they are that serious, there are other options: city leagues; school sports teams, musical lessons, theater classes, and language classes; YMCA; and church choirs.
4. Enroll in local camps. The cost of summer camps can be ridiculous, but if you look hard enough, you can find less expensive options. Call area schools, junior colleges, city parks, and see if they are putting on summer camps.
You can also grab an ABC Mouse subscription for only $5 a month .
5. Ask for scholarships/financial aid. Some dance schools, art schools, sports teams, and music schools offer scholarships and financial aid for students. Some of it is need based and some is based on talent, but if you’re strapped for cash it can’t hurt to apply for anything your child qualifies for.
6. Opt for group lessons. Kids like to do things with their friends anyway.
7. Cut back on lessons. From 2-3 times a week to one. Encourage your child to do more individual practice.
8. Find computer lessons. If your child is into language, music or even art, there are tons of software and online options available. Check out Agnitus.com for free.
9. Try CDs, books and DVDs. This is no substitute for long-term instruction from a pro, but your child can learn basic chords, musical techniques, art techniques, languages, and even sports drills or workouts.
10.Volunteer. Many times, parents can volunteer to cut down on costs. Ask your child’s coach if you can trade time for costs. Some teams will give a break to parents who sell products or work at games. Ask local camps if you can work at the camp for a week so you child can go free.
11.Save on equipment. Whether it’s buying second hand, online, at garage sales, or trading, you can find inexpensive sports equipment or musical equipment. Also, check out freecycle.org for free stuff in your area.
12.Say no. I hate this option. But sometimes it’s the only one. My older brother gave me some very wise counsel when my kids were little and my husband and I were trying to decide when and where to spend money on
“Invest in what you want them to become,” he said. “Spend your money on things that will put them on the path to becoming the type of person you want them to be.”
Following that advice won’t make the choices cheaper, but it will give direction to the money you spend on keeping them busy. Look for ways to invest in their character as well as in their skills!
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