We spent a year hemorrhaging $350 per month for my daughter to be in a private gymnastics school.
This monthly expense didn’t even include the cost of boosters, leotards, warm-ups, meets, meals and hotel rooms. Combined, these expenses totaled more than $6,000 a year!
My bank account was dwindling before my eyes. And we were just beginning our journey down the road of competitive gymnastics.
As a single mom with three other children in addition to my gymnast, I realized this was just plain crazy.
Saving on Gymnastics With One Simple Change
It turns out a YMCA two towns over has a top-notch gymnastics team at a fraction of the cost we were paying at the private gym. And that’s for the same amount of gym time.
Granted, we do have to pay for the monthly family membership. But this provides a place for our entire family to go for fun and exercise. And the meets are all within a two-hour drive, which means no hotel costs.
All in all, we save more than $4,000 a year by switching my daughter to the YMCA team.
Check out the side-by-side comparison:
My daughter is having a marvelous time on her new team, being challenged and learning new skills.
Creating a Teachable Moment
As we maneuvered through this process, I was able to explain to her how switching teams could provide a similar experience while saving a significant amount of money.
Because I choose to involve my children in our plan to live debt-free, we discussed how the money we saved could be used to pay down our remaining debt. Our kids are smart and understand more about money than we may think.
My daughter was especially excited about her not-so-little contribution to this — she knows our reward for becoming debt-free is a long-awaited, paid-for vacation. She was happy to oblige!
During the transition to the YMCA team, something else clicked: My daughter didn’t understand the mental comparisons I was making between the two gyms. She doesn’t notice the fancy zip code or bells and whistles of the private gym — she is 10 years old and just loves to do gymnastics!
Our new family policy is to keep the kids’ activities focused around the Y and school. We can afford these experiences without causing ourselves financial hardship or adding debt.
Could You Make a Similar Switch?
Thinking of switching your child from a private team or gym? Check out the YMCAs and community centers in your area.
Be prepared with the following questions to give you the biggest bang for your buck. These are gymnastics-specific, but could easily be adapted to another sport:
- Is there a monthly or yearly member fee in addition to the team cost?
- How much gym time does your child receive for the cost?
- How far is the facility from your home? Are the commute and gas costs reasonable?
- How far will you be expected to travel to games or competitions? Are hotel stays involved?
- Is there a booster fee?
- Is there a parent volunteer requirement?
- What is the uniform cost?
- What is the competitive philosophy and does it align with your family values?
- What are the safety expectations of the equipment and the coaches?
- Is there high turnover among the coaching staff? What are the credentials of the staff, and are background checks performed?
Your Turn: How do you save money on your children’s activities? Do you involve your kids in financial decisions?
Kristen Erickson is single mama to four way-cool kiddos, works full time at a structural design firm, and writes and blogs on the side. She is almost debt-free and an expert on raising content and healthy suburban children as sustainably as possible on a shoestring budget! Join her on her journey at www.aspirehomestead.com.