Why Dropping Over $1K/Year on Kids Activities Might Not Really Be Worth It

little girl playing the piano at home
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If you think tickets to the Olympics are expensive, you don’t even want to know how much parents spend to get their child trained to compete.

Even when the Olympics aren’t the goal, parents are spending thousands each year for their kids to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities.

SunTrust Bank recently surveyed nearly 1,000 adults to find out how much they were spending — and exactly what they were sacrificing — in order for their kids to be involved in various after-school activities.

About 20% surveyed said they spent more than $2,500 each year on extracurriculars. Almost 40% spent over $1,000 annually.

Let’s break that down. Spending $1,000 a year equals $83.33 a month… which is fine if you can afford it or if you’re making reasonable financial sacrifices.

Forty-two percent of the respondents in SunTrust’s survey said they cut back on dining out in order to fund their children’s extracurricular activities. Thirty-five percent reduced their spending on shopping, 29% sacrificed vacations and 23% put off upgrading to a new car.

Many of those surveyed said the sacrifices were worth it. In return for the investment, parents said their children were building character, staying physically active, engaging in an activity they loved and making new friends.

It’s hard to put a price on that.

But when the cost of participating in extracurriculars is putting a crucial strain on the household budget, that may be the time to reconsider things.

Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed said they sacrificed paying off debt so their kids could be involved in activities like baseball or band. Twenty-one percent said they put off saving for retirement and 25% cut back on other savings.

Unlike forgoing restaurant meals or summer vacations, those sacrifices can negatively affect a family’s financial security. And let’s be real — not all of our children will wind up being the next  Ryan Lochte or Gabby Douglas.

It’s been reported that 70% of child athletes will quit organized sports by age 13. Is ignoring major financial obligations worth it?

South African doctor Alastair McAlpine recently took to Twitter to share what the terminally ill children under his care said they really enjoyed in their lives. His Tweets went viral as he shared what gave the kids joy wasn’t competing in sports or taking piano lessons, but rather simple things like spending time with pets, reading books and eating ice cream.

So if paying for dance or karate lessons is keeping you from having an adequate amount of money in an emergency fund, don’t feel guilty about saying no or reducing the amount of participation in after-school activities.

Follow a couple of Penny Hoarder tips on earning, saving and managing money, and you could be in a better financial situation to bring back the extracurriculars in a year or two.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She enjoys writing about parenting and money.

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