Moms and dads tell Moneyish what they really spend on their kids extracurriculars
A lot of extra money goes towards extracurricular activities.
Forty percent of American families spend more than $1,000 per year on their children’s extracurricular activities, and as many as 20% spend over $2,500, according to a newly-released survey conducted by Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank.
To afford these broad-ranging expenses for their youngsters, which could include anything from basketball to arts and crafts to coding classes, 42% of parents admit to sacrificing indulgences like dining out; 29% say they forego taking vacations; 27% defer paying off debt; and 21% even confess to skimping on their retirement savings.
“The values in lessons that these kids learn in sports is incredible. As parents, you have to figure out how to support them in their dreams,” said Jennifer Freezer, mom to 11-year-old Elise, a figure skater featured in a new commercial airing Friday on NBC, during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in South Korea.
The Freezer family of Colorado Springs shells out a staggering $60,000 to $100,000 each year to fund their daughter’s passion for figure skating — even though Elise is determined to go to medical school after college, and is unsure if she will continue skating through adulthood. The costs mount rapidly — for coaches, travel, music and dance lessons, and alternative forms of education to accommodate Elise’s schedule — and are expected to max out at $120,000 within the next few years.
“When we started out, obviously my husband and I were really at the start of our careers. [The cost] came as quite a blow. My husband took a second job while he was studying,” Freezer said. “We ended up downsizing [to] one small car for the family… and finally we ended up selling our home and going into a small apartment.”
And, she added: “We very seldom took vacations.”
The Freezers are on the higher end of the spectrum of extracurricular spending, with other families telling Moneyish that, while they too are forking over large costs for their children’s activities, the numbers are more reasonable.
For instance, Mark Aselstine of Berkeley, Calif., owner of online wine club Uncorked Ventures, said that his 7-year-old son Jake plays little league baseball ($340 per year), after-school tennis for 14 weeks in a row ($280), and basketball during the summer ($200–$300), amounting to an annual cost of about $1,200.
And Chantelle Elliot, a mother of four and owner of events planning company AC Event Productions who lives in New Brunswick, Canada, said she spends between approximately $2,400 to $2,800 per year (between $3,000 and $3,500 CAD) on her children’s activities, which include competitive hockey and dancing.
Her son, 9, plays multiple hockey games each weekend, which require about $160 in transportation and food expenses, plus equipment. Elliot described the gear as “very expensive — everything from chest protector, knee pads, skates, stick, everything like that.” Meanwhile, her three other kids dance and all four play basketball, each of which comes with additional costs, too.
“Hockey goes up [in price] every year,” as her son advances in the league and plays more games each season, she said. “We know it’s coming. My business is still growing so we kind of anticipate that that’s going to cover some of the cost.”
But still, the Elliot family has made sacrifices: “As a family of six, there’s a lot of us. We don’t eat out a lot anyway… It’s just something we’ve worked into the budget, something we’ve got accustomed to.”
If her kids weren’t doing these activities, “[the money] would probably go to other things — it’s not really money that’s needed to pay bills. It would go toward entertainment, movies, bowling.”
Despite the enormous financial burdens some families face to facilitate their children’s extracurricular activities, these parents agree that it’s all worth it.
Freezer said the decision to spend nearly $100,000 per year on figure skating was made easy when considering her daughter’s commitment to the sport.
“[Elise] was born with a defect in her right knee and ended up having pretty extensive reconstruction surgery when she was eight years old [and] was wheelchair bound for eight months,” she said. “She did go back to the ice… but she fought so hard that she medaled within four months at the big qualifying competition.”
“That’s when my husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘We need to give her whatever we can to help her become what she wants to become.'”
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