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Are Your Kids' Sports Hobbies Killing Your Finances?

By Maurie Backman – May 11, 2019 at 9:18AM

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Parents are spending a fortune on children's activities -- and it's costing them in more ways than one.

It's not unusual for children of all ages to pursue hobbies they enjoy, and often, that means playing sports. And while there's certainly nothing wrong with encouraging kids to get some exercise and build useful skills, a significant number of parents are spending a small fortune in an effort to expose their children to the sports activities they're interested in.

In fact, 27% of "sports parents" spend $500 or more per month on youth sports, according to TD Ameritrade. This especially holds true for fathers -- 20% spend between $500 and $999 per child on sports activities, equipment, and tournaments.

Three boys in uniform playing soccer on a field.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

The problem? Many people can't afford it.

Americans on a whole aren't doing great on savings, with 58% having less than $1,000 in the bank. Not only that, but 20% of fathers in particular worry about how their spending on their children's sports will impact their retirement savings -- something else Americans can't afford to skimp on.

If your kids' sports activities have been causing you to neglect your savings, emergency or otherwise, it's time to rethink all of that spending -- or else you might damage your family's finances and regret it after the fact.

Setting priorities

It's great to want to give your children the opportunity to participate in sports, but if it comes at too high a cost, you may need to reconsider. Before you make that call, however, create a budget and see how much you can actually afford to spend on sports and other extracurricular activities. You might manage to swing those costs by cutting back on less important things. For example, you might dine out less frequently, or take a cheaper vacation if it enables you to pay those activity fees and still put money away for emergency savings and retirement.

If there's really not much wiggle room in your budget, consider getting a side job. You can use that extra money to cover the cost of kids' activities and pad your savings so that neither gets neglected.

At the same time, it pays to look into low-cost activities that may be available to your children. Some towns, for example, run low-cost or even free recreational leagues that give kids a chance to learn new sports skills, only without the frills of fancy uniforms and paid coaching. If one is available locally, it pays to see what sort of savings you might reap.

Another option? See if you can snag a discount by volunteering to coach or help your children's teams in another way. Some programs offer this option to not only help parents save money, but encourage them to get more involved.

You need emergency savings to protect yourself from debt in the face of unplanned expenses, and you need retirement savings to cover the bills during your golden years. Both are absolute necessities, and if your kids' sports hobbies are preventing you from funding such accounts, it's time to rethink your spending. It's wonderful to offer your children the option to participate in fun activities and experiences, but you're better off giving them -- and yourself -- the gift of financial security, both now and in the future.

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