The $1,859 cost parents face each year - but there are ways to save

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

Parents are spending $1859 per child on extra-curricular activities, but experts say there are ways to cut costs and save. 

According to Mozo research, piano and language lessons are among the most expensive out of school activities and tennis and soccer are among the sports that hit parents' hip pockets hardest. Scouts is the cheapest activity, costing only $270 per year, compared to equestrian which is by far the most expensive pursuit at $3,280 per year. 

"After school activities are a great way to expand your child's education and allow them to foster friendships with kids in the local neighbourhood," Mozo Director Kirsty Lamont says.  

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

"However, the cost can quickly add up."

 The research found some sports and activities start out cheaply, but become more expensive as children as children pick up additional skills and compete in more competitions or join higher grade teams requiring multiple training sessions per week. 

But while the figures might shock parents, experts say there are ways to save while still giving children the health and development benefits that come with taking part in organised sport, music, art or drama classes.  ​

Kids' health and fitness expert Jane Kilkenny said while sport is essential for a child's health and development - it doesn't have to be expensive.

"Sporting equipment for kids is about the ability to practice their skills and a $10 basketball will allow them to practice just as effectively as a $50 basketball," Ms Kilkenny, director at Fitness Energy, said.

"The most important item is good footwear, but the support and cushioning of the shoe are more important than the brand."

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"The brand is not the most important thing. The most important aspect when buying sport shoes for kids is looking for adequate support and stability." 

Podiatrist and president of the Australian Podiatry Association Katrina Richards said the most important aspect of buying shoes for your child is fit and comfort. 

"Paying more for a shoe won't necessarily mean that you are getting a better shoe," Ms Richards said.

"Look for features in a shoe, like a good supportive heel counter and the right type of grip for the surfaces of the sports your child will be playing. 

"However, you may find that the durability of the shoe due to the quality of the materials used may increase as the price rises. These are things that you need to weigh up when choosing your shoes."

And there's nothing wrong with getting second-hand shoes and footy boots, as long as they're a good fit for your child.

"Second-hand shoes that are still in good condition may be perfectly fine for your child," she said. 

"You will just need to look closely to ensure that the integrity of the sole, inner and upper parts of the shoe are still in good order."

And if you can't stretch your cash to cover sport fees, equipment and uniforms, Ms Kilkenny said there are ways to keep your kids active that don't cost a lot of money.

"Walking, running, swimming, bike riding and hiking are all low-cost options for kids' fitness," she said.

"Bikes are great for fitness and fun and second-hand bikes are a great option to keep costs down.

"A great option for younger kids is finding your local adventure playground which provides an amazing array of challenges for growing kids."

Ms Lamont says it is important to shop around when deciding which sports club and art or music school to sign your child up to.  

"Extracurricular activities can be expensive so it pays to shop around, ask questions and compare prices, as you're committing to a long term, ongoing cost," she said. 

Independent financial adviser from Periapt Advisory Jacie Taylor said for some families' sport fees can put a strain on finances.

"Single-parent families or households with only one parent working can find it hard, but as with everything, it's about sorting out your priorities," Ms Taylor said.

"But if there just isn't the wiggle room in the budget, kids don't have to miss out: parents can kick a footy with their child at the park, or take a ball to shoot some hoops so that they learn some skills, and children who want to play sport will do so with their mates at recess and lunch at school." 

Here are her top tips for saving money on kid's sporting costs:

  • Instead of club sport, play sport at school as it's a lot cheaper, uniforms are often supplied, and practices and games are generally held before or after school.
  • Gumtree is a fantastic place to source equipment, often barely used. Some kids start a sport and drop out or grow out of their items and their equipment is often available for a reduced price.
  • Volunteer to help out, either with coaching, managing or assisting in some way. Depending on the organisation, fees may be waived or reduced.
  • Find out what government sports vouchers are available in your state (such as the two $100 Active Kids program vouchers in NSW or the $100 Sports Vouchers program in SA). Eligibility and the amounts on offer vary between states.
  • Carpooling can certainly help with parking and fuel costs, especially when matches are a long way away. 
  • Some clubs offer discounts if you refer a friend. Talk to club leadership to see what incentives may be available.
  • Try borrowing or hiring equipment (especially music equipment) rather than purchasing it outright, especially if you're not sure if your child will do the activity in the long-term.