It’s back to school time and BOY is it expensive. School fees, supplies, clothes and activity fees can leave you (and your bank account) reeling. We know that you don’t want to cut back on your kids’ fun, so here are some great tips for affording extracurricular activities to make it a little less painful.
But first, a few statistics:
TD Bank Group commissioned Environics Research Group to conduct a custom survey of 6,337 Canadians aged 18 and older, and 242 parents of children under the age of 18 living in Alberta are included in the below research results. Responses were collected between February 25 and March 17, 2016.
- Four in 10 (41 per cent) of Canadian parents with children under 18 years old living in Alberta spend $1,000 or more on extracurricular activities per child during the school year.
- Half (52 per cent) of Canadian parents living in Alberta find budgeting for extracurricular activity costs for their children to be stressful.
- Half (51 per cent) of Canadian parents living in Alberta say they limit the number of, or don’t sign their kids up for, extracurricular activities due to cost.
So you are NOT ALONE.
Tips for Affording Back to School Activities:
- Avoid costly surprises: Before signing up your child for an extracurricular activity, think beyond the cost of the class or activity itself. Sometimes it’s the incidental fees related to that class or league that puts us over budget – such as the purchase of equipment or an instrument, or accommodations for weekend tournaments. Ask instructors or coaches 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 you can think of related to that extracurricular activity. Then add 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 help you stay on track. Saving a little each month and putting it into your savings account or TFSA can also help offset extracurricular expenses. Have your child sit with you as you plan for these costs. It’s a great way to teach them about the importance of budgeting and saving. It’s also a great idea to have your child contribute to the cost of their activity as a lesson in money management.
- 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. They can be less costly than going the private route. Also ask if you can try out activities before you commit or negotiate a trial. Since 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.
It’s also a great time to make sure that both you and your child WANT to do all the activities you are signing them up for. Sometimes kids change their minds but don’t know what other options exist or how to tell their parents. Work together to come up with an activity plan that works for your kids, your schedule AND your budget!
Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by TD Canada Trust. As always, all opinions are my own.