At the start of every term, most kids get excited about signing up for new extracurricular activities. From football to martial arts, music lessons, and dance - the list of what your child can do is endless and, let's face it, expensive. As the cost of living rises kick-in, here's how to handle the rising price of extracurricular activities, and save some money in the process.
As any parent will tell you, extracurricular activities boost confidence, build self-esteem, and allow kids to have fun. They can also be a useful source of after-school childcare. This is why UK parents pay on average £28,000 for childhood extracurricular activities until their kids leave school.
The study from Oxford Home Schooling also found 77% of parents admitted they feel immense pressure to find extra weekly cash for activities, sports, tuition and clubs. According to the data, six in ten (58%) parents feel they have to find the money because their children love their chosen activities, while 35% said they want to give their offspring every possible chance in life.
Which is why it pays to remember, extra curricular activities are just that - extras, not necessities, so here's how to cope as costs go up.
Be open with your children
No one wants to restrict their child's activities, but with the rising cost of living, we often have to make practical decisions. If cutting back on extracurricular activities is one of them, it helps to keep your kids in the loop.
Firstly talk to your child in an age-appropriate way about what's happening this year with their activities. It's always better to be honest and open about what's happening, rather than leaving it until the last minute to tell kids they can't take part.
"Kids are resilient as long as you explain what's happening. Having to cut back, prioritise, and budget is something all families have to do and talking about it teaches kids some good financial lessons about managing money. As ever, keep your discussions simple and age-appropriate – and be sure to ask if your child has any questions, so you can manage any anxieties they may have."
Louise Hill, co-founder and COO at GoHenry
Talk to them about:
- How you have to prioritise your budget Instead of saying, "We can't afford it" – which could lead to some kids imagining you have no money – say, "We have to use the money for other things such as X and Y."
- Discuss needs versus wants and how money has to be managed in a household. Be sure to emphasise how you're all in this together and though you understand they want to do X, you have to pay for other things right now.
- Talk to them about how they can help by saving, earning, budgeting and making decisions about their spending. Perhaps they want to set up a savings goal for a particular class, or use their pocket money to pay towards sports equipment or a musical instrument.
Give them a choice
It can also help to give kids a choice of which activities to do. If you're limited by price, availability or location, opt for an either / or option. For example: swimming or football, ballet or drama.
Look for clubs that do early bird or sibling discounts or deals when you pay in advance, and prioritise those that don't tie you into long-term contracts in case your circumstances change. All of these options can save you between 5 and 15%.
If you can only afford one activity, then take time to explain which is the better option. For example, swimming is a must for the holidays, a life skill, and one activity that opens up other activities such as water parks and various water sports.
Find cheaper alternatives
Not all extracurriculars cost the same when it comes to kids' activities and clubs. So if you want to cut back, why not try to find a cheaper option. Ask on local Facebook groups, look in your local library and enlist the help of other parents in your area to find classes that fit your budget.
For example the following are lower in cost:
- Swimming lessons in local leisure centres over lessons in gym pools.
- Group lessons over private one-to-one lessons.This is particularly true for tuition, which can drop the price from £30 an hour to £10 an hour.
- Your local council may offer music lessons through your child's school.
- If your child is learning to play a musical instrument, rent the instrument, rather than buy, especially if you think your child may lose interest.
- Look at what's on offer in your local leisure centre for kids - if you're a member you can get discounts on kids' classes like martial arts and dance.
Be smart about extracurricular equipment
From Brownies/Scouts and martial arts uniforms, to ballet shoes, tennis racquets and guitars, there is always a parent who has barely used accessories and equipment that they will quite happily pass on.
Don't be afraid to ask on your parent WhatsApp groups, and look on local Facebook groups. Also, check out Olio, the free sharing app, as you will often find football boots, sports equipment and even musical instruments that are being given away.
To buy cheaper accessories, try eBay, where you can find football boots, musical instruments and a range of sports equipment.
Encourage your kids to help
If your kids are eager to try something new, why not encourage them to save and earn towards it. Our latest Youth Economy Report gives us a unique insight into the UK's earning habits of over 450,000 GoHenry kids.
More than seven out of ten kids (71%) now say that it's important to earn their own money – and even children who are too young to get a job are giving their pocket money a boost by helping out around the house. In 2021, GoHenry kids earned £2.9million from completing tasks set in their GoHenry app.
Another good way to budget for activities and the equipment is to ask grandparents and relatives if they would like to gift lessons for birthdays and Christmas.
This beats vouchers as you can tell your kids that, 'Granny bought you ballet lessons' or, ‘Uncle Mark has gifted you swimming lessons.'
GoHenry's Giftlinks make this even easier. Once you've created a Giftlink, family and friends can use it to send money straight to your child's GoHenry account. It's perfect for birthdays, extra pocket money and celebrations – and your child will get a personalised greetings card delivered straight to their GoHenry app.
Sign up to GoHenry
If your kids and teens decide they want to save and earn towards their activities, the GoHenry prepaid debit card for kids & app makes it easy for you and them to keep track of their savings. It's also a great way to keep them organised and motivated towards a goal that really means something to them.