Many kids go from sport to sport, looking for one that fits his or her likes and abilities. You know the drill: soccer one season, baseball the next. Between registration and sport-specific equipment, all this dabbling gets expensive.
The costs definitely add up once your child decides to pursue a particular sport to a higher level. You can expect to add higher coaching fees, travel costs for competitions (including gas, hotel and food), event entry fees, membership fees and more specialized equipment. While we want to encourage our children to be physically and mentally active, we don't want to go broke in the process. Here are seven ways to help you pay for your child's athletic pursuits.
- Individual Sponsors
Soliciting the financial help of your friends and relatives can be uncomfortable, yet most people you ask would be willing to donate a few dollars to go towards a specific goal. Cite specific reasons why you child needs X amount of dollars before a certain date. For example, "Josh needs $100 to attend a two-day camp that will really help develop his skills as a goalie."
Depending on your child's age, he or she can be the one to approach friends and relatives. Ongoing support from any sponsor is ideal because it's money you can count on.
- Business or Corporate Sponsors
Chances are slim that you can get signed on with Nike when your kid is eight years old, but you can secure financial assistance from local businesses. Again, it is best to approach the business with a particular goal in mind, or at least a set of statistics. Provide them with the average yearly costs associated with participating in the sport, and the positive individual and community aspects of the sport. Cite possible advertising opportunities, and offer to write a thank-you editorial in your local newspaper.
Think of creative ways to incentivize the business. Most businesses like to be associated with helping kids be fit and active - it's good PR.
- Product Donations
Rather than donating cold hard cash, some businesses might consider giving products such as equipment, or unrelated goods that can be raffled off to raise money. Make sure the donor approves of the raffle; chances are they will since it can provide great publicity. This can be a good opportunity for a team fundraiser.
- Work a Deal with the Organizer
Some sports, such as gymnastics or tennis, require expensive monthly tuition in order for your child to participate. If you have a special skill that the organizer can benefit from, or you don't mind "volunteering" at the front desk, you might be able to strike a deal for reduced registration. Depending on your skills, you could offer to design their website, repair a piece of equipment or sew costumes. Think of ways you can save the organizer money, and offer it in exchange for payment.
- Make a Website
Many young athletes have websites to let the world know about their dreams (see http://www.michalsmolen.com/ for an example). Be sure the website includes detailed directions for making a donation, such as a PayPal "Donate" button. Donors enjoy seeing what the athlete is up to, so be sure to update competition results and other achievements. Let everyone know about the website, and ask them to share it with people who might be interested.
Many kids are tech savvy enough to create and maintain their own websites; just monitor it for safety reasons and to ensure that it remains professional and relevant to their sports training.
People who are reluctant to fork out cash just for the warm fuzzy feeling they get supporting your kid might be encouraged to donate if they get something tangible in exchange. You and/or your child can make something to sell - anything from cookies and cakes (include an ingredient list in case people have allergies), to necklaces or even plants (start the seeds at home and sell when they are ready to plant in the garden). Ask a local business if you can set up shop in front of the store, and if so, advertise in the local newspaper, including the place, date, time, sale items and what the sale benefits.
- Put the Kids to Work
If your child is pursuing an upper level sport, the reality is that he or she will not have much time leftover to devote to making money. That being said, your child can still help out by earning an allowance (even though this is your money anyhow, it teaches the child to work towards a goal and you get some chores done in exchange), or by doing odd jobs as his or her schedule permits. Older kids can mow lawns or babysit; younger kids can offer to feed a neighbor's cat while they are away or pull some weeds in a neighbor's garden. (Review these tips to help make summer camp affordable.)
The Bottom Line
Sports are pricey, especially once your child gets to a competitive level. All of the travel expenses, equipment, coaching, memberships, doctor visits (gulp) and fees add up, and you as the parent or guardian have to come up with the money somehow. Rather than mortgage the house, you can hunt and gather bits of money from several different avenues.
Catch up on the latest financial news in Water Cooler Finance: Buffett Speaks Up, AIG Deal Collapses.