16 ways to save money on kids’ activities

(Kim Salt for The Washington Post)

I often hear people complain about the mistake of over-scheduling children. It can be obnoxious, but, let’s face it, that’s a “rich people problem.” More worrisome are kids who are under-scheduled, participating in no extracurricular activities at all because their parents feel they can’t afford them. Studies show art, athletics and other activities help children find their passion and purpose and even help them stay in school and go to college.

Common sense is the first step to saving money on activities. We don’t have to say yes to every request. After all, kids lose interest quickly, and it can be money wasted. We enrolled our daughter in piano lessons when she was 6 years old. Not only did she lose interest, the early lessons seem to have permanently killed her interest! Waiting until your kids are older is one strategy to consider. Limiting them to one activity per season is another. That leaves room for the imagination play experts say is so important. You can also start them in casual “rec” programs, often available inexpensively, and only pay for pricier classes if they develop a genuine interest.

Those are the “squishy” tips. Now here are 16 concrete ways to save money on kids’ activities.

[Tech has taken the work out of couponing. Here’s how to save big with little effort.]

Activity scholarships: No matter what your child wants to try, don’t be afraid to ask whether there are scholarships available. For example, Stoddert Soccer in the District will let any child play in its rec league free and offers scholarships for its travel league via application. And Dynamite Gymnastics in Rockville has given students free tuition on a case-by-case basis.

Barter services: If your child wants to attend an exclusive music school, do you have a skill you could offer in return? From washing the school’s windows to working on its website, bartering can and does work.

City/county programs: Local governments sometimes offer surprisingly rich programming, often through their parks and rec departments. For example, in addition to sports, the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation has offered foreign languages, engineering and ballet to kids. Fees are as low as $55 per series, and reduced rates are available by application.

Coach the…

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