The new school year is already here and it’s time for parents to start thinking about after school activities for their kids. Between sports, music, art, tutoring and more, the costs can really add up. As a parent myself, I know how hard it can be to find engaging activities that don’t break the bank.
That’s why I’ve put together this list of my top tips and money-saving strategies when it comes to after school activities. With a little planning and creativity, you can keep your kids busy and happy without going over budget.
Tip 1: Take Advantage of Free Community Offerings
Start by looking at what your local community centers, parks and recreation departments have to offer. Many provide quality, low-cost or even free programs and classes for kids. From youth sports leagues to coding camps to art classes, you’re likely to find some great options that fit your child’s interests.
For example, our local rec center offers a free “Kids Club” every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. For just the cost of membership, my daughter gets to try different activities like gymnastics, science experiments and cooking projects. It keeps her active and engaged without much expense on my part.
Tip 2: Seek Out School-Based Extracurriculars
Does your child’s school offer any after-hours programs or clubs? These can be a convenient and affordable choice. Sports, drama, music, robotics, chess – many schools provide a variety of activities at minimal or no cost since they’re built into the budget.
For instance, my son’s elementary school has basketball, soccer and flag football teams that students can join for a small fee. It’s not as intensive or competitive as a travel league, but it allows him to play, get exercise and learn teamwork skills.
Tip 3: Split Costs with Other Families
Whether you connect with other parents at school, in your neighborhood or through community message boards, sharing the expenses of lessons or activities can make them more manageable.
One example is teaming up with other families to hire a private coach. The coach gets a reasonable fee but can take on a group of kids at once, so each family saves significantly. You may also find someone willing to trade watching each other’s kids, allowing you to alternate “on” weeks for driving to practices and games.
Tip 4: See If Older Siblings Can Help
Do you have a high school student who excels in music, art, computers or athletics? Consider asking if they’d be willing to teach or coach younger siblings or kids in the neighborhood. Most teens would enjoy the chance to share their expertise and earn a little extra cash.
This is a win-win – your teen builds their skills and you provide constructive activities for younger kids at a fraction of the cost. Just be sure to talk with your teen about setting expectations, rates and schedules ahead of time.
Tip 5: Organize DIY Activity Groups
If there’s a niche interest your child has that isn’t offered locally, you may be able to organize something yourself for very little cost. Reach out to other parents to see if they’d like to contribute and take turns leading meetings.
For example, maybe your kid loves reptiles. Work with a few parents to start a weekly or monthly reptile club where the kids discuss and learn about different species. Each time, a different parent provides space at their home along with a short lesson or activity focused on one type of reptile.
This allows the kids to explore their passion affordably under the supervision of engaged parents. The same model could work for book clubs, geology enthusiasts, aspiring chefs and more.
Tip 6: Make Use of Free Trial Periods
Want to test out a paid activity at low or no cost? Take advantage of free trial periods many studios and programs offer. This gives your child a chance to try out the classes and see if it’s the right fit before you commit.
For example, a local dance studio by us offers the first month of classes for free for new students. This was enough time for my daughter to experience the different styles and teachers. When the trial ended, we signed up for the ballet classes she enjoyed most at a 25% discount.
Tip 7: Prioritize Quality over Quantity
It can be tempting to pack your kids’ schedule full of activities. But with restraint, you can get quality experiences and still save. Focus on one or two activities per child that align with their biggest interests.
Between schoolwork and those select extracurriculars, their free time will stay limited, protecting your wallet. And they’ll have more focused, meaningful experiences diving deeper into fewer activities rather than skimming the surface of many.
Tip 8: Look for Volunteer Opportunities
Some organizations offer free or discounted activities in exchange for volunteer service. This can be a great way for kids to explore interests while giving back.
For instance, your local animal shelter may allow students to volunteer walking dogs or playing with cats in return for free pet care classes. Or a community theater may waive production fees for student volunteers who help with sets, costumes or promotion.
Giving some time to these organizations can earn big savings!
The bottom line? With a little creativity and planning, you can keep your kids engaged and active after school without breaking the bank. Turn to free community resources, share costs with other parents, and empower teens and kids alike to teach and learn from each other.