Budgeting for Pay-to-Play Sports Expenses

Plan ahead for fees, equipment, transportation and other pay-to-play costs for your kids

If your school district has had financial difficulties recently, it may have chosen to institute pay-to-play policies. This takes the responsibility of funding sports teams from the taxpayers and school district and places it on the families of children who want to play. Pay to play can help schools in the case of tight budgets, and is an alternative to cutting a sports team or an extracurricular activity altogether. However, it's not always an affordable option for parents. Pay-to-play sports or activity fees can range from $50 to $1,000 depending on the sport and the district. As a result, if your child will still participate, it's wise to start budgeting as soon as you can for these increased expenses. Use some of the smart budgeting strategies below to lower the cost of participation, and compare savings accounts so you can save up before the season begins.

Review pay-to-play sports costs before you commit

When it comes to pay-to-play sports, what you're paying for may vary by the school district. Some districts charge a fee to cover uniforms, others charge transportation to games, while some charge an all-inclusive fee. However, in most cases, equipment costs (like pads, a lacrosse stick or tennis racket, and shoes) will remain the responsibility of the child and his or her family. If your child is interested in joining a team, talk to the district to find out what is covered. If pay to play has been around for a while, talk to parents whose children already participate and ask for tips to save money on equipment and more. This can help give you a more realistic idea of how much you'll need to save before the season kicks off.

Once you know what you can expect to pay for each sport, sit down with your child and talk about budgeting for activities. You should explain what you can afford to pay and try to come to an agreement on how those funds can best be used. Some families limit their children to one or two pay-to-play activities; others ask their kids to pay for a portion of the expenses. If your child wants to participate in more than one sport, you may want to consider a recreational league if the fees are lower. Additionally, if you're looking at paying to play anyway, it may be a better investment to choose a private recreational league with more advanced coaching and opportunities rather than playing for the school.

Find ways to save on pay-to-play fees and equipment

If you decide to go forward with pay to play, here are some tips to save:

  • Taking advantage of discounts for more than one child: If you have more than one child, it can be difficult to cover the fees for each of their pay-to-play activities. In light of this, some districts give family discounts to children whose siblings are involved in other extracurricular activities at the same school. It may be worth asking about such discounts to see if you can save money while allowing each child to participate. Buying gear in bulk that both young athletes will need can also help save money.
  • Scholarships, fundraisers and sponsorships: Recognizing that not all families will be able to afford pay-to-play sports, many sports booster clubs have scholarships available that your child may qualify for. You may also be able to reach out to community businesses and alumni to sponsor the team or cover the individual's pay-to-play fees. Get involved with the booster club for your child's sport or activity to help fundraise.
  • Buying secondhand: Children often want to explore different interests, but the cost of pay-to-play fees and equipment for multiple sports can add up quickly. If your child is trying out a pay-to-play activity for the first time, consider trimming costs by renting equipment or buying it secondhand from consignment shops, auction sites or from parents of older players. You can invest in new gear later if your son or daughter decides to stick with it.
  • Pooling resources with other parents: While your kids are making friends with their teammates, you'll probably be sitting in the stands with other parents during practices, games and tournaments. This is a great opportunity to discuss cost-cutting strategies that can help everyone. For example, coordinate a carpool schedule or pool money together to purchase food and drinks instead of eating at restaurants when you travel with the team.

Open a savings account online to prepare for pay-to-play expenses

If your school has a pay-to-play policy for any extracurricular activities, it's wise to start saving up as soon as the announcement is made. Take some time to compare savings accounts so you can see which one is best for you. Citizens Bank has competitive rates and savings programs to help you plan for the expense of pay-to-play sports and other activities. Open a savings account online today and set up GoalTrack Savings® to be rewarded when you've saved what you need to cover fees and more.

If you already have an account at Citizens Bank, you may wish to explore a savings account package like our Circle Gold Banking® option. Circle Gold Banking includes a checking, savings and optional money market account, which allows you save in advance and transfer money quickly and easily when it's time to pay for fees or equipment. Open a savings account online today or contact a Citizens Bank customer service representative for more information about Circle Gold Banking.


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