The federal children’s fitness and arts tax credits may have been tossed in the trash bin in favour of the Canada child benefit (CCB), but there are still ways to stay financially fit while keeping your kids off the couch. Surveys find 60% of Canadian youth are involved in organized sports, while 51% of parents spend more money on extracurricular activities than on education savings plans. Here’s how to keep your budget from outgrowing your children.
1. Go your own way
“Just because your friends on Facebook are talking about all the activities that their kids are involved in, that doesn’t mean you have to,” says Tenille Lafontaine, founder of ‘mom blog’ feistyfrugalandfabulous.com. Bowing to social pressure to enroll your kids in those activities can come at a great cost, especially if your kid decides it isn’t for them. “If we stick to one child per activity, per season, we find that really keeps costs down,” says Lafontaine.
2. Sample first
In order to keep the cost of commitment low, Lafontaine recommends trying what she calls ‘sports sampling’. That’s where you take advantage of short-term programs, such as ones held during Christmas break or the summer, where you have the opportunity to try a sport without diving in head first. That way, if your kids don’t like it, you can back away without too much cost.
3. Reuse, reduce, recycle
“Buy used if you can, and of course sell it after your child has outgrown it—that’s a good way to recoup your costs,” says Lafontaine. Leotards for gymnastics, skates, sticks—they’re all fair game. Introduce yourself to two budget-friendly pals: Kijiji and Craigslist. Have kids of varying ages, but who love the same sports? Well, there’s nothing like a hand-me-down to make your kid frown—but save you money.
4. Pitch in
Getting off the sidelines and onto the field yourself is a great way to reduce the costs of keeping your kids on it. Lafontaine points out that many programs havea structure where youcan reduce your fees by volunteering or coaching.
5. Run free
Hollie Pollard, founder of commoncentsmom.com, suggests looking for free or charity programs like Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program. These programs provide financial assistance to those who can demonstrate a need for them. Also take a peek at your local community centre’s website; often municipalities offer free programs for kids.