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Ask an Expert - Activities with Rising Gas Prices

With the rising costs of gas and food, my family has limited financial resources. How can my children participate in activities?
Ask an Expert - Activities with Rising Gas Prices

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By Debra Pankow, Ph.D., Extension Family Economics Specialist and Associate Professor,
Department of Human Development and Family Science, NDSU

Consider the type of activities in which you want children to participate. This may sound simple, but many times, parents steer their children toward individual sports and private instruction, which usually are significantly higher than the cost of team sports. Generally, the costs of private clubs are five times higher than municipal or nonprofit programs, and they demand top-notch equipment, even for young players.

If your child shows a budding interest in figure skating, for example, don't go out and immediately hire a private coach, which can cost hundreds of dollars. Instead, enroll her or him in an introductory figure skating class and try to gauge her or his interest. The introductory class will be less expensive, and it will allow you to see if your child remains interested and if she or he has remarkable talent. Your child eventually may lose interest in a sport after a time, so proceeding cautiously before you invest a lot of money is wise.

Generally, team sports and activities at recreational centers such as the YMCA, local park departments, churches and nonprofit youth leagues are almost always less expensive.

Equipment is often the second-highest cost for extracurricular activities. You can cut this expense significantly by buying professional-quality equipment at stores such as Play It Again Sports and even resale stores. These stores typically carry gently used sporting equipment at a fraction of the cost of new equipment. As long as the used equipment is safe, it always will be cheaper than buying it new. Some stores will let you trade in used equipment to fund additional purchases, and they typically have a wide selection from which to choose.

Another option is to trade or buy used equipment from other parents in your neighborhood, school or church. Most children have equipment they no longer use, but it can be perfectly suited for your child. Buying equipment at yard sales is another way to save. Also, you can save on equipment costs by renting equipment instead of owning it. Equipment such as football shoulder pads and softball bats often are much less expensive if you rent instead of buying.

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