Parents want to make sure that their children stay healthy and active, and one of the most popular ways to do so is by getting them to play a sport. Sports help your kids develop leadership skills, a sense of self-confidence, lasting friendships and fitness. But the cost of equipment, travel and a host of other expenses can take a major toll on your wallet. The good news is that there's a sport for every budget. (Learn how budgeting allows you to plan for your future, pay off your debts and still enjoy life today; see Special Feature: Budgeting 101.)

When trying to figure out just how much a sport will cost, take into account these factors:

Some sports require your child to wear protective gear, special shoes or a helmet. In addition, make sure to consider the cost of balls, rackets, bats, clubs or other items that your child will need to practice or play. The cost of equipment can vary greatly from sport to sport, so make sure to get a list ahead of time. Also, find out if you can borrow or rent equipment from the league before purchasing a new set.

Registration Fees And Dues
If your child will play in a league outside of school, there's a good chance you will have to pay a fee. League fees cover the cost of the facility or field, referees and equipment shared by the different teams. Registration fees can vary from sport to sport. The rule of thumb is that the registration fee will be higher if the sport requires specialized facilities or involves an activity that can damage the field it's played on. Fees frequently include the cost of the uniform.

Note that the cost of equipment can go up as your child gets older or wants more advanced gear.

When determining travel expenses, consider how involved you (and your car) will be with the sport. (Getting to and around your travel destination doesn't need to break the bank; see our article Save On Planes, Trains And Automobiles.)

  • If you are helping coach, you will have to be there more often than other parents and thus will be driving a lot more. In addition, competitive teams often travel to other cities during tournaments.
  • Consider the cost of fuel used to shuttle your child to and from practices and games. If you live in a rural area, you might find yourself traveling a lot farther. Driving can also conflict with your personal or work schedule.
  • Seasons for some sports may only last a few weeks, while others could last months. The more games that your child will be playing, the more times you potentially will be shuttling him or her around.

Level Of Play
There can be a big difference between the cost of public leagues and elite clubs. Some sports will have your child frequently playing in tournaments, which may be out of town, out of state or even out of the country.

Clinics And Camps
If your child is a natural, chances are you might be looking at sending him or her to a camp to learn the ins and outs of the game.

Extras And Add-Ons
Don't forget about meals on the road, trophies and end-of-season parties. They can really add up.

So, What's The Bottom Line?
Following are estimates of how much a sport may cost you each season:

Equipment: $20+
Registration fees and dues: $100 (recreational league); $1,000+ (competitive league)
Clinics and camps: $300-$400

Equipment: $50 to $300+
Registration fees and dues: $40+ (recreational league); $600+ (competitive league)
Clinics and camps: $165

Equipment: $300+
Registration fees and dues: $250 (recreational league)
Clinics and camps: $150+

Equipment: $150+
Registration fees and dues: $40 - $65 (recreational league)
Clinics and camps: $200+

Equipment: $35+
Registration fees and dues: $75-$100 (recreational league); $185+ (competitive league)
Clinics and camps: $100+

Equipment: $200-$300+
Registration fees and dues: $150+ (recreational league)
Clinics and camps: $35-$500+

Track And Cross-Country
Equipment: $80+
Registration fees and dues: $90-$150+
Clinics and camps: $350-$500+

Prices Can Vary
Check with your local leagues to see how much registration fees are in your area.

These prices can vary quite a bit, depending on the size of the sports community and the type of equipment purchased.

Plenty of other sports are out there, so make sure to ask about the different expenses associated with the sport that your child wants to play. Whether it's in the pool or on the rink, court or field, you're making a good choice by getting your child involved.

Keep the kids out of your hair and wallet by saving on youth camps, sports leagues, day trips and more; check out Budget-Friendly Summer Fun.