It’s no secret that kids can be expensive, so here are some simple ways to save a little extra.
It’s no secret that raising kids is one of life’s most expensive undertakings. According to CNNMoney, it can cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars on average to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18—not including college tuition. The good news is there are ways to ease the strain on your bank account by reducing both daily expenses, such as food, and also larger ones, like housing.
These tips can help you save money while raising your family.
1. Cook at home
For the first time last year, Americans spent more money dining out than buying groceries. Takeout and restaurants are convenient for tired families, but the costs of prepared food can pile up quickly. Eating more home-cooked meals is one surefire way to limit food costs. Cook in bulk so you can lean on leftovers on busy nights.
2. Shop secondhand
Kids outgrow clothing and toys quickly, but you can stop the cycle of constantly buying new items. Arrange a clothing and toy swap with other parents, accept hand-me-downs from friends with older kids, buy clothing from consignment shops, and keep an eye out for local, online yard sales on social media. You may be surprised at how easy it is to find a pre-owned version of what you need—at a fraction of the price.
3. Set limits on extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activities like sports leagues and art and music lessons can do wonders to enhance a child’s skill set and social circle. However, out-of-school activities tend to be costly. While it’s typical for parents to cover these expenses, it’s not unreasonable to set limits. For example, offer to enroll your child in piano or guitar lessons, but not both.
4. Keep housing costs within your means
Housing is likely the biggest expense in your family’s budget. The trick is making sure your housing costs are not consuming an outsized portion of your income. Many financial experts recommend spending no more than 30% of your after-tax income on housing. As your family grows, it may seem like you need more square footage, but that may not be the most practical resolution. Rearranging furniture and clearing out clutter can do wonders to unlock new space in your existing setup.
5. Look for alternatives to your existing childcare
If housing isn’t your biggest budget item, childcare likely is. The Economic Policy Institute reports that most families live in areas where childcare is unaffordable, or the cost exceeds 10% of the average family’s budget. To find the best option for your family, compare the cost of a few choices—daycare, nanny or nanny share, or even having one parent stay at home full time—to see what makes the most sense. Find out if your employer offers a Dependent Care FSA PDF Opens in new window., which allows you to contribute pre-tax dollars toward daycare costs, and ask your accountant whether you qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit.
There are a number of ways to cut the cost of raising a family, but even so, you will likely find that those costs only rise as your kids get older. One way to get ahead of future expenses may be to make regular deposits into a savings account. When a large expense rolls around, you’ll thank yourself for having extra money on hand.
A joint account is a shared responsibility, so be sure you’re both on the same page.
The deeper into a relationship you get, the more important talking about money and combining finances with your significant other become. So romantic, right? But if you and your significant other decide to move in together, or get married, then a conversation about combining your finances is natural. A joint account is a shared responsibility, and—if something doesn’t work out—possibly one with lasting repercussions. Exhibit A: Nearly one-third of adults with partners say money is a major source of conflict in their relationship, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association.
Even though you’ll be sharing with the person you love, there’s no need to rush into a joint bank account without getting on the same page. Make sure you and your partner have a deep conversation about your finances first so you know it’s the right choice. For both of you.
Not sure how to break the ice and talk money? Try these four topics to get the conversation going before combining finances with your significant other:
1. What’s the financial situation?
Most people don’t talk openly about the state of their finances, except perhaps with a financial professional. As relationships develop, however, it’s important to be realistic about both partners’ finances in order to establish equal footing. This is one time when you don’t want personal finances to be too personal.
Consider sharing your credit scores, and understand if either of you has debt that would be taken on by the other upon combining your finances. Discuss each other’s attitudes and willpower when it comes to spending—and saving. All of this can help give you a clearer view into how you may function together to manage your money. You may even learn a thing or two about your own financial approach in the process.
“Combining finances can even improve money management because it opens up the lines of communication between partners,” says Lauren Greutman, author of The Recovering Spender and founder of LaurenGreutman.com.
Nearly one-third of adults with partners say money is a major source of conflict in their relationship, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association.
2. Will you have joint and separate accounts?
Many couples choose to have shared accounts while maintaining individual ones. If you decide to open a joint account, think about whether you want to open just a checking account, or if a shared savings account meets your goals, too.
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With multiple accounts of any combination, it’s good to break down how each will be used. Know which accounts receive paycheck deposits, for example, and how the shared account will be funded. If a joint account is for shared bills (rent, utilities, food), decide how bills will be paid. Do both parties transfer money into the account to cover bills as needed, or is there an amount deposited automatically with each paycheck?
What about other joint expenses, like vacations? Will you fund your retirement with a joint account, or will you go solo on that venture? It’s best to get these questions answered before you combine finances with your significant other to avoid confusion or disagreement down the road.
3. Who manages the joint account and what are the “rules?”
If you choose to combine your finances and open a joint account, it’s important to discuss how it’s managed and by whom. Nobody loves rules, but establishing each person’s responsibilities with your joint account can go a long way toward avoiding future conflict.
Let’s say you open a joint checking account for shared bills. While you may both deposit money into the account, you could consider putting one person in charge of making sure those bills get paid. Maybe the other person is responsible for ensuring the balance statement is correct each month.
Additional rules can also help avoid unnecessary arguments and impulse purchases. Maybe you commit to discussing purchases when they are over a certain dollar amount.
“My wife and I set a limit each week on how much ‘spending’ money we each have for things we like to get ourselves,” says John Rampton, Founder and CEO of the online digital wallet, Due.com. “Giving each other an allowance means we cut out arguments on what we spend that money on.”
4. How will you deal with problems along the way?
Having a clear view into your joint finances doesn’t mean there won’t be hiccups here and there. It just means you may know about them sooner rather than later, and you’ll know how to address them with your partner. If, for example, you don’t have enough money in your account to cover bills, having a plan as a team can help.
“If your money is combined, you have to talk about it because of the risk of overdrafting the account, not having enough money and about future plans with where to spend the money,” Greutman says.
If you notice your joint account is trending low on funds, sit down and go over your joint budget. See if there are areas that can be adjusted. It might mean economizing where possible or increasing the amount going into the shared account. Either way, talking through the situation will help you come out ahead each month.
Communication is key
Combining finances with your significant other is a big step in any relationship. Even if you decide to keep your finances separate for now, you will have an easier time talking with your significant other about your financial needs. If you do decide to open a joint account, being able to communicate will allow you to pick an account that will help meet your shared goals.
Start with the savings basics—then look for teaching opportunities and lead by example.
Children are eager to learn as they grow, so it’s important for parents to teach their children positive lessons about money from a young age. When saving money becomes part of a child’s normal development, saving for the future is likely to become a habit. Early financial education can be the first step on the road to financial freedom.
Start with the savings basics
Experts say that you can begin teaching money-related lessons to children as young as five. Pre-schoolers may be too young to add or subtract, but these youngsters will understand value, and the idea of trading items — which are the building blocks for understanding money. Then, as they acquire basic math skills, your children can be taught more complex financial concepts.
Help your children avoid falling into the instant gratification pit by setting savings goals for an important date. According to Prosperity Now, this may be “an effective way of delivering financial education that takes into account children’s concept of time.” Open a savings account — then, when your child receives birthday money, or cash from chores, have them put some into the bank to save for bigger ticket items.
If your child is old enough for an allowance, encourage them to direct a percentage into savings. Check the balances often: your children will enjoy watching their money grow as deposits and interest accumulate.
Look for teaching opportunities
Learning about money shouldn’t feel like going to school, so turn it into fun by finding teachable moments in everyday life. When you go to the bank, explain that it’s like a garden that helps make money grow. You could buy a piggy bank, and encourage your child to fatten it up with spare change. When saving money becomes fun, kids look forward to repeating the behavior.
Lead by example
Children are observant, so they often emulate their parents’ behavior. Be conscious of what you say and do around them; your money attitudes will become theirs.
The power of acknowledgement cannot be overstated. Children love to please, so praising them for positive behavior, like depositing money into a savings account or doing simple chores for pay, helps them feel good about themselves. Encouragement motivates them to repeat similar behavior, which ultimately becomes a habit.
Saving for the future
Try teaching your children money lessons that are fun as well as informative. By helping them develop better money and savings habits now, they’ll have the basic tools necessary for financial freedom as they grow.
Caring for an aging parent can be hard. These resources can help, financially and emotionally.
No parent wants to be a burden to their children—emotionally, physically or financially. As time passes, each generation faces the same caregiving issues. By using new technology and services available today, the caregiver and the person/people receiving the care can efficiently manage senior care costs.
The daily cost of caregiving
According to Forbes.com, taking care of aging parents can take a toll on the caregiver’s quality of life and future:
“Many caregivers are so stressed that they do not realize how these out-of-pocket costs of caregiving add up,” says Cindy Hounsell, President of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER). Common out-of-pocket senior care costs include:
Transportation: Doctor visits, errands and other activities to remain socially connected.
Food and household goods: Meal preparation, grocery shopping, as well as a wide range of household goods, clothing and personal items.
Medical: Pharmaceuticals, doctors’ consultations, medical procedures and rehabilitation.
Lost time: Most doctor appointments and trips to the bank must take place during working hours, which could mean taking time off from work. While some jobs are flexible, many aren’t.
Balancing senior care costs
According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the average time spent caring for elderly parents is more than 77 hours a month. This is like having a second job, which is why balancing your own financial and emotional needs can be challenging.
If you are caring for an elderly parent, consider these seven resources to help manage senior care costs:
1. Available benefits
Depending on where you live, government programs like Medicaid can help in taking care of aging parents. Some states have waiver programs to help manage everyday senior care costs. “Make sure the older person you’re assisting is getting every benefit to which they are entitled,” says Catherine Roper of Caring.com. She recommends the National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp®, a free service to help determine which programs are available to both you and your loved ones.
2. Caregiving services
When taking care of aging parents, in-home care can be expensive and involve a mountain of forms. Today, there are many independent, qualified caregivers available. For example, you may be able to find websites where retired nurses offer their paid services. Also, most seniors living alone at home have empty bedrooms and, “often a young person is looking for ways to save on housing costs,” Roper says. “Swapping some caregiving tasks for low-cost (or even free) housing can be a great option, in addition to being an enjoyable experience for both the older and younger person.”
The elderly may also have vehicles at their home that are rarely utilized, Roper says. “They’d be happy to offer it to a young person in exchange for driving them where they need to go. This can be a great way for a young person to save on car payments,” she says.
to get an hourly wage for the caregiving tasks a young person would be doing anyway,” Roper says.
4. Home monitoring
If full-time assistance isn’t required, installing a home monitoring system can aid in making sure your loved one is still supervised in case of an accident. There are also self-monitoring devices that can be worn and will automatically detect if an elderly parent takes a fall.
5. Meal services
Local outreach programs provide hot meals to homebound individuals and can help keep senior care costs down. Such services can also help in caring for elderly parents with regulated, controlled diets.
6. Support groups
Always remember you are not alone. So many caregivers run into similar emotional and financial struggles when taking care of aging parents. Reach out locally and through online forums. Someone may have solutions you haven’t considered.
Everyone can help out when caring for elderly parents. Split up care duties with other family members when possible. Even long-distance family can help with managing bills, visits (which means a break for the primary caregiver) and companionship via the phone or video calling. Just knowing people care can ease anxiety or brighten a day.
Recognizing the heavy burdens of caring for elderly parents is the first step to maintaining balance during a tough time. A bit of research and planning ahead could help guide new caregivers toward making better decisions. But most importantly, cherish the quality time with your loved ones—these moments make it possible to embrace the good days and look forward to the future.
The right location and a finely-tuned budget are key to making a destination wedding work.
Does your dream wedding involve a beachfront ceremony at sunset even though you live in the city, or exchanging vows surrounded by the lush beauty of a tropical rainforest miles and miles away from home? If so, a destination wedding somewhere outside of your hometown might be right up your alley.
Sound pricey? It certainly can be. According to The Knot, a wedding website, the average price tag of a domestic destination wedding, including the couple’s travel costs, is $28,372. While international destination weddings tend to cost more per guest, they do often include a smaller guest list, with the average wedding spend at $27,227.
Before breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of destination wedding bliss, know that The Knot has reported the total spend for local weddings as high as $32,641 in recent years.
While it’s possible to save money on a wedding hosted locally, it’s also feasible to plan a destination wedding on a budget. These cost-saving tips for destination weddings can get you started:
1. Know what you’re willing to spend
One of the key budget-saving tips for planning a destination wedding is knowing where to draw the line on cost. Without a firm dollar amount in mind, it can be easy to overspend.
Tiffany Zorotrian, an agent with Chantel Ray Real Estate in Virginia Beach, Virginia, found herself planning a destination wedding on short notice. She and her fiancé originally planned on an outdoor wedding in April but had to move up the date because of a military deployment. Virginia’s winter weather wasn’t accommodating to an outdoor event, so they opted for a destination wedding in Key West, Florida, instead. Their budget was $10,000.
When trying to plan a destination wedding on a budget, they had to decide which costs they were willing to assume.
“One thing you need to consider is whether or not you’re going to support travel costs for close family members who want to be there, but may not have the financial means to make the trip themselves,” Zorotrian says. “We did that, but to accommodate those costs, we needed to save money in other areas.” They negotiated deals for their hotel stay for themselves and five family members and brought in their own food and beverages for the wedding festivities.
The average spend on a domestic destination wedding, including the couple’s travel costs, is $28,372.
Jo Ann Woodward, co-owner of Schwartz & Woodward, a Houston-based wedding planning firm, says couples must consider the extra costs associated with a destination wedding that you may not encounter with a wedding in your hometown. That includes the couple’s airfare and accommodations for all guests, local transportation since most guests won’t have their own cars and excursions (some couples will host their guests on special outings like fishing trips, scuba diving, hiking or guided walking tours). Woodward says if guests are covering their own travel costs, couples should consider if they’re willing pay for other activities.
2. Keep it small
If you’re trying to plan a destination wedding on a budget, a shorter guest list may be the answer.
“Couples need to decide who they really want to attend,” Woodward says. She suggests inviting only those people without whom you couldn’t imagine sharing one of the most important moments of your life.
Zorotrian took a different approach. Instead of skimping on the guest list, she invited all of their friends and family so there’d be no hurt feelings. But, she planned her wedding budget on the assumption that only the people who were really committed to being there would come.
When you’re trying to follow cost-saving tips for destination weddings, including everyone on the guest list is a gamble. Should everyone you’ve invited decide to attend, that can inflate your spending. If you’re concerned that the wedding may end up being oversized, it’s better to err on the side of caution and plan for a smaller wedding from the beginning.
“If you invite someone, anticipate and budget that they will attend so there are no financial surprises,” says Candice Coppola, owner and creative director of Jubilee Events, a Cheshire, Connecticut-based wedding planning firm.
The bet did, however, work out for Zorotrian and her husband. They were able to come in just under their $10,000 budget. In the end, their wedding was a tiny, intimate affair, unlike the larger outdoor event they’d originally anticipated in their hometown. But, they were happy with the final result and the money they were able to save.
3. Choose your destination carefully
Where—and when—you plan to have the big day can impact costs in a big way. Coppola says timing matters if you want to plan a destination wedding on a budget.
“Every year, prices increase,” she says, which is why one of her cost-saving tips for destination weddings is to book one to two years in advance to get the current year’s rates.
Scheduling outside the location’s peak season and going low-key on accommodations are other budget-saving tips for planning a destination wedding.
Coppola says that during a destination’s tourist or high season, hotel rates can increase by 25 to 50 percent. She says you can create more room in your budget and save money by scheduling a wedding for the destination’s shoulder or off-peak season instead. Shoulder season is the period between peak and off-peak season.
In general, this time of year offers fewer crowds, but weather could be problematic. In the Caribbean, for example, the off-peak season is typically mid-April to mid-December, which coincides with the North American hurricane season. Sites like Expedia and Lonely Planet can be resources for finding information and recommendations on which off-peak season destinations offer the most favorable weather conditions for a wedding.
If you’ve got a smaller guest list, some cost-saving tips for destination weddings include renting a large vacation home instead of booking hotel rooms for each of your guests. Woodward suggests reading the fine print before choosing a vacation rental, as some vacation homes may come with extra fees for each guest over a certain limit.
Something else to consider when seeking out budget-saving tips for planning a destination wedding: how far your money will stretch if you’re outside the U.S.
“In some regions, like the Caribbean, U.S. dollars are preferred and can get you farther than local currency,” Coppola says. Depending on where you travel, items may simply be less expensive than in America, so you’ll have more purchasing power. In Costa Rica, for example, consumer prices were about 23 percent lower than in the U.S. as of March 2018, according to Numbeo, a website that compares cost of living data.
It’s also worth considering the exchange rate if you’re not using U.S. currency and looking for budget-saving tips for planning a destination wedding. A preferable rate allows you to spend less for the same things abroad than you would at home. Remember also to factor currency exchange fees into your budget.
“Each destination has its own feel and flavor. You have to decide what’s most important for you and your guests to experience, since creating memories for a lifetime is the goal.”
4. Choose the best way to pay
As you research cost-saving tips for destination weddings, don’t overlook your payment method. One potential way to save is by opening a rewards credit card in advance of the wedding that allows you to earn points or miles on purchases. When it’s time to book travel, you could use those miles to cover some or all of the cost of your flights or hotel stays. Some travel cards may offer additional money-saving perks, such as complimentary companion tickets or checked luggage, which can reduce costs. Alternately, cashback rewards could be applied as a statement credit against wedding purchases you’ve already made.
Why should credit cards have all the fun?
Now you can earn cash back with your debit card.
If you want to avoid racking up debt when spending on your destination wedding, consider the benefits of a rewards checking account, which can help you earn cash back on everyday expenses, including those for your wedding. With Discover Cashback Debit you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1
Preparing in advance and saving up for the big day can also make it easier to plan a destination wedding on a budget. Consider depositing funds for your wedding into an online savings account with a competitive interest rate. This way, you can be earning money on your savings until you’re ready to pay for wedding expenses.
Check your mindset to plan a destination wedding on a budget
These cost-saving tips for destination weddings address the financial side of planning a getaway, but you also need to consider the emotional side.
“Each destination has its own feel and flavor,” Woodward says. “You have to decide what’s most important for you and your guests to experience, since creating memories for a lifetime is the goal.”
As you plan your dream destination wedding, set your expectations early and remember to be flexible. Working on a budget may mean having to cut back on certain expenses, such as flowers or wedding favors, but it’s essential to stay focused on the bigger picture, which is making your special day as enjoyable as possible.
1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal™, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
Preparing for the big day? Here are some areas where you can cut costs.
The moment you get engaged, everyone wants to know: When is the wedding? Engagements can be simple when compared to weddings—unless you are eloping or having a courthouse ceremony. If you are wedding planning on a budget and your plans don’t include hiring a wedding planner, here are some money-saving tips for your wedding:
2018 national average: $1,6311
Not wearing your grandmother’s gown? Buying used or renting can be a cost-effective way to save money on your wedding. Because wedding dresses tend to be worn once and then preserved, they are usually in “like new” condition when sold secondhand. Many websites offer pre-owned wedding dresses from major designers for when you are wedding planning on a budget.
“We find it very rare that a bride finds sentimental value in her veil or headpiece unless it is an heirloom,” says Brittany Haas, CEO of Happily Ever Borrowed, an accessory rental store. “Accessories are generally an expensive afterthought,” she adds. “For example, the veil is something that you generally only wear for 15 minutes for your wedding day. Brides have so many more romantic things to spend on than an object only worn for 15 minutes.”
Local consignment stores also frequently carry wedding dresses, and sometimes a formal evening gown can double for your big day, which can help you save money on your wedding.
One Last Frog, suggests brides, “Shop at wholesale stores for a high quantity of decor and flowers. Typically, wholesale stores are more open to negotiation and will give you a better price for the quantity of items or flowers a bride will order.”
And once you have your flowers, if you have bridesmaids willing to help out, you can easily put together bouquets to help cut back on wedding costs.
The reception venue
2018 national average: $15,4391
Most wedding guides will tell you reception venues charge less if you get married “off-season” in January, February or March, or during the week instead of on the weekend. The main way to really save on your venue and cut back on wedding costs is to keep your guest list low (100 or less). A smaller guest list can help you save money on your wedding by lowering the cost for food, tables, chairs and drinks.
When comparing the prices of different venues, consider that going with an all-inclusive venue can be a good money-saving tip for your wedding, says Joyce Scardina Becker, designer-in-chief of Events of Distinction. “The reception site and the vendors may have prearranged financial agreements, making it easy and more cost-effective,” Becker says.
2018 national average: $70 per person1
Sit-down or buffet? “Many couples think that buffets are less expensive than a sit-down plated meal, but this is often not the case,” Becker says. “Many times buffets are more expensive because you have to offer more choices and you cannot control the quantity of food a guest takes. So you should check with your caterer before deciding on a buffet versus a sit-down dinner.”
If you’re wedding planning on a budget, food trucks can be an alternative to cut back on wedding costs, while providing a memorable guest experience.
When it comes to alcohol, Becker suggests:
Having a short cocktail hour—make it 45 minutes
Avoiding salty hors d’oeuvres (they make guests thirstier)
Uncorking bottles only as needed (a wedding planner or event organizer can control this)
Additionally, if your venue allows you to bring your own alcohol, wholesalers tend to offer lower prices and typically allow you to return any unopened bottles for credit. Bringing your own alcohol could help you save quite a bit of money on your wedding.
2018 national average: $2,6791
One of the easiest ways to cut back on wedding costs is to limit how long your photographer stays. If you’re getting married in the off-season, you’ll likely find better deals than those getting hitched in the summer and fall.
An often overlooked money-saving tip for your wedding: Contact local college students studying photography who are interested in expanding their portfolio. Some experienced photographers may also have assistants who charge less, while still providing good service.
Happily (and financially) ever after
While looking for ways to save money on your wedding may not sound romantic, it may be the best gift couples can give themselves in the long run. Utilizing these money-saving tips to cut back on wedding costs can mean more savings to put toward other financial goals as a couple—goals like buying a home, starting a family, saving for a child’s education or building an emergency fund.
Keeping your kids active in sports doesn’t have to derail your household budget.
Your child says she wants to learn to play soccer. You see it as a great opportunity for her to be physically active and build confidence. (And okay, maybe a small part of you is harboring dreams that she’ll become the sport’s next superstar.) You decide to sign her up for a local soccer league but there’s just one hitch: the cost.
According to the 2017 State of Play report published by the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit think tank, nearly 72 percent of children aged 6 to 12 played at least one team or individual sport in 2016. A survey conducted by the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade found that in 2016, the typical sports parent spent between $100 and $499 per month, per child, on elite youth athletics. Dishing out more than $1,000 per month, per child, is not unheard of, according to the study.
With costs that high, you may be wondering how to afford youth sports on a budget, or if it’s even possible. It is, if you are prepared. Having a game plan for spending can keep kids’ sports from draining your budget.
Consider these five tips if you’re wondering how to afford youth sports without going broke:
1. Take new sports for a test run
Playing a sport involves a commitment of both time and money, which can end up being wasted if it turns out to be the wrong fit for your child. Amy Boyington, a mother of two and founder of The Work at Home Mom, a blog focused on helping moms balance career and family, imposes a simple rule when her children express interest in something new.
“I let each of my children try whatever sport they want, but with one condition: They’ll try a budget-friendly version first,” Boyington says.
For example, her son recently wanted to give basketball a go. After researching local options, including the YMCA league, Boyington signed him up for a low-cost program sponsored and run by a local family. For a $25 fee, her son received a t-shirt, basketball, jump rope for training and eight weeks of instruction in basketball basics.
Compared to the $50 YMCA fee Boyington would be charged as a non-member, she felt the family-run league offered more for the cost and was better suited to testing out the court. And it’s well below the $1,143 per year a 2017 TIME magazine story reported parents spend on average to keep their kids active in basketball. The article bases that figure on survey data collected by researchers at Utah State University, including a 2016 study, which found that families spend an average of $2,292 per year on their children’s sports participation.
If you have beginning athletes, finding cost-effective leagues and practices is a great solution for how to afford kids sports without going broke, while still giving them the freedom to explore new things.
2. Do one thing at a time
Ground rules about how many sports children can play are necessary to keep kids’ sports from draining your budget. That’s especially true if their interests or abilities tend to veer toward pricier activities. The TIME report’s analysis of the Utah State data points to lacrosse, hockey and baseball as being among the most expensive youth sports. Mark Aselstine, an El Cerrito, California-based father of two, limits his children to one sport per season, which has been crucial for saving money.
In the Bay Area, where his family lives, baseball registration fees for their local Little League can range from $125 to $225, based on the child’s age. That doesn’t include a $100 required deposit, or an additional $25 fee for late registration. You can see how the costs for just one sport can add up, especially considering that uniforms, practice equipment and travel expenses are extras that Aselstine has to account for. Since he’s focused on how to afford youth sports on a budget, he says he’d only consider making an exception for a second sport if it’s something his kids can do without paying a fee, such as tennis lessons included in their after-school program.
Boyington has adopted a similar policy for how to afford youth sports on a budget. As a result, she reaps more than just a money-saving benefit. Limiting her children to one sport at a time eliminates the stress of trying to make it to every practice and game. More importantly, “it gives my kids a chance to really involve themselves in that sport, giving it their full dedication for the season,” she says.
If you’re trying to keep kids’ sports from draining your budget and your child excels at more than one activity, you’ll have to decide how to accommodate that in your budget. If they’re enjoying sports played during different seasons, you can still keep the focus (and budget) on just one at a time. When sports run concurrently, you may choose to prioritize the one they’re most interested in or that’s least expensive. If they’re going to be involved in more than one sport at a time, choosing the lowest-cost leagues or programs could be a good option.
3. Know the numbers upfront
If how to afford youth sports on a budget is top-of-mind, get a complete breakdown of the costs before signing up so you can plan your budget in advance. That includes what you’ll pay for registration fees, uniforms and equipment, as well as extras like team photos. Boyington suggests looking for cost-cutting opportunities once you get a complete list of expenses.
“I’m not afraid to ask about things I can go the cheap route on,” she says, “like parts of the uniform that I might be able to purchase a budget brand for instead of the name brand.”
Taking advantage of early registration discounts is another way to keep kids’ sports from draining your budget. It may seem like small savings, but it’s money that can be set aside to use for other sports-related costs.
4. Choose used if possible
How to afford youth sports without going broke could come down to the items that are needed to participate. In the TD Ameritrade survey, 44 percent of parents said equipment was the major expense associated with their child’s sports. Twenty-six percent cited the cost of uniforms.
Consider baseball, which ranks as one of the most popular youth sports, according to the Aspen Institute. A complete youth catcher’s kit—including helmet, chest protector and shin guards—can run as much as $350, according to the retailer BaseballMonkey.com. Bats can easily land in a similar price range, and cleats can add another $10 to $60 to the total. It may seem difficult to keep kids’ sports from draining your budget when you still have to consider the cost of the standard game uniform, gloves, hats, practice gear and a bag to hold everything.
When the question is how to afford youth sports without going broke, the answer may be buying used as often as possible. But, Boyington cautions, some leagues won’t allow you to substitute used uniforms or equipment for new ones. In that scenario, she recommends seeking out leagues such as those run by the parks and rec department, a local church or families—like the one her son participated in—that have more flexible rules about used equipment.
“These leagues understand people like me who want to get their kids involved in activities in the community,” she says, “but can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars every year to do so.”
These types of programs can also yield additional savings if you’re able to get a fee waiver or a discount on equipment and uniforms by volunteering as a coach or team parent. Other alternatives to buying new if you’re trying to figure out how to afford youth sports on a budget include renting equipment or participating in fundraisers to help pay for uniform costs.
Aselstine offers another tip: Look for leagues that offer equipment swaps.
“Our soccer league has an awesome barter system the first day of sign-ups,” he says. “Bring a set of cleats, take a set of cleats. The same goes for uniforms.”
Aselstine estimates that the swap saves his family $100 per season on equipment and uniforms.
5. Consider the long-term benefits of elite sports
Investing big bucks in an elite or travel team requires some serious thought, especially if how to afford youth sports without going broke is a concern. Boyington says she would only allow her children to play if they’ve been involved steadily in the sport for several years, and they’re old enough to contribute in some way to the cost with a part-time job.
Before allocating a large part of your sports budget to an elite sport, consider what the benefit is to your child and whether the costs are justified. In the TD Ameritrade survey, for instance, 54 percent of parents said they were hopeful that elite play could lead to an athletic scholarship, and 42 percent hoped their child would eventually go on to play at the Olympic or professional level. The percentage of parents of former players whose children actually got a scholarship, turned pro or became an Olympian was much lower, however.
Weighing the probability of future play, alongside the cost and your child’s long-term interests, can help you decide what’s reasonable to invest to keep kids’ sports from draining your budget.
This infographic breaks down some of the expected—and not-so-expected—costs for your budget.
Babies are one of the miracles of life. Also miraculous is the growing cost of raising a child, which is why financial planning for a baby can be so important. From birth, through childhood, to adolescence (oh, the fun times) and into young adulthood, having children means a range of expenses. New expenses. This is where financial planning for new parents comes in.
If you’re planning for a child or about to welcome a new addition to the family (congrats!) and you want to prepare for a baby financially, here’s a breakdown of the expected—and some of the not-so-expected—costs to consider for your budget:
Although the numbers associated with raising a child can be eye-opening, and perhaps intimidating, it’s not that difficult to prepare for a baby financially. It just takes some organization, forward thinking and careful financial planning for a baby. That means spending less while raising a family and saving wisely with your online savings account. By planning ahead and being prepared, you’ll make financial planning for new parents look like a breeze and enjoy the ride of parenting.
Raising financially responsible kids? Start with a savings account and these simple skills.
When it comes to money management, practice really does make perfect. Start teaching your kids about money by taking an active role in their financial education and demonstrating the importance of saving. You can create activities based on their limited “income,” and exemplify the practices yourself, to help ensure your kids will have a solid foundation for financial success.
Start from a young age and make the lessons interactive
While talking about money can feel uncomfortable, children who don’t receive financial education from their parents can be left trying to figure things out on their own.
Yulin Lee, who runs a financial coaching service that helps women achieve financial independence, decided to be, “intentional about educating my children with positive mindsets and habits around money.” She worked as a mortgage consultant and financial advisor for years and often dealt with clients who struggled with money. She believes this can be the result of inadequate financial education as children.
Lee started talking to her daughter, Maddie, and her son, Cameron, about money when they were aged 8 and 5, respectively, and received money for birthdays and holidays. “I instilled in them the idea of planning,” she says. “We split the money into five envelopes for: savings, projects, education, charity and fun.” In the beginning, the money got split evenly to simplify the math, but over time the children—with parental guidance—decided how to divide their income. Lee deposited their savings-category funds into the savings accounts she opened for them.
Be Net Worthy, used a similar approach to teach his kids about money. Starting when they were in elementary school, he gave them each a dollar, in 10 dimes, every week. They decorated four containers with spending, saving, investing and donating labels, and each week would put seven dimes into spending, and one each into the other categories. At the end of the year, the children would pick a charity and Sharpe would match their donation—a practice that continues today.
“I have had savings accounts set up for each of them since shortly after their allowances started,” Sharpe says, “I started sharing the interest they were getting every month once it started to accrue.”
Keep lessons interesting
As you teach your kids about money, try to keep your lessons relevant to your child’s age. Focusing on how to divide gift or allowance money is a good start at an age of 5 or 6, and the lessons can build from there. When Lee’s daughter turned 16 and started a part-time job, for example, it prompted a conversation about taxes. Lee also helped Maddie open an online bank account where she can deposit paychecks and is discussing using multiple accounts to emulate their envelope system.
As children start to get into a savings groove, some parents encourage the behavior by offering to contribute the equivalent of a high interest rate to their kids’ savings funds. Increasing your children’s savings by 5 percent a month could help them understand how interest works and the power of compounding interest over time. It also satisfies a child’s desire to “see the results.” Once they saw how interest could increase their savings, Sharpe’s kids didn’t need the extra incentive. “They loved seeing that every month, even when it was just a penny,” he says.
You can continue to teach your kids about money when they head off to high school or college by using new situations and challenges to prompt discussions of more complex topics. This is the time to talk about saving and paying for college, as well as building credit, all of which can impact a child’s finances when he or she leaves the nest. Starting a first job in the real world might call for a deeper dive into taxes, including a discussion of employer benefits and tax-advantaged retirement accounts.
Children may respond differently, but the principles stick
As you might expect, not every child will have the same reaction to your lessons. Both of Sharpe’s children continue to divide everything they earn into the same categories, although their savings rates vary. Anna, who’s now 16, increased her savings rate to 50 percent of everything she makes while Eric, who’s 14, stays closer to the original 70/10/10/10 split.
Lee also observed differences as her children grew older. Cameron, her son, started looking for ways to shift money toward “fun spending,” and he argued that gift money from holidays or birthdays should be able to go exclusively into his discretionary fund. Lee stood firm and showed him how sticking to the plan (putting some cash into savings and other budget categories) could impact his future finances. “He was impressed with the numbers, which helped him to stay with the system,” she says.
Teach your kids about money and exemplify good money habits
Creating interactive money lessons for children can help instill good financial habits, and starting that education from a young age is key. As you continue to tailor your lessons to your children’s needs and circumstances as they grow older, try to exemplify good habits in your own money management. Setting a good example as you teach your kids about money can go a long way as financial skills are learned and practiced over time.
Learn how to get your finances in order and chart a new course after divorce.
Like so many single parents, Emma Johnson, 40, founder of WealthySingleMommy.com, worried about rebuilding financially after divorce and what the financial future would look like for her and her children, who were 2 and under 1 at the time.
“I was terrified that my kids and I would be living out of our car,” she says, “or that I would have to sell my home and move far from our community.”
Rather than continuing to see the prospect of managing finances after divorce as frightening, Johnson decided to use the life-changing 2010 event as an opportunity to re-evaluate her plans and create an exciting new future. She resumed working as a journalist and started her blog. This ultimately led to brand partnerships, speaking engagements and a book deal with Penguin Random House, not to mention new financial goals, including saving enough to retire by the time her children go to college.
“It is very scary to start out on life anew and without a partner,” she says. “Harness this fear to forge a new, exciting path that is free from an unhappy marriage. Your Plan B or C or Q can be far, far more fulfilling than you imagined.”
From separating joint bank accounts after divorce to revamping your financial plans, here are four things you can do to get your finances in order and chart a new course after divorce:
1. Update your budget
Getting divorced can come with financial costs and changes. From attorney’s fees to the tax consequences of selling assets, you may face some short-term financial expenses that could put a strain on your budget. For many people, managing finances after a divorce means spending less because you’ll only have your own income to draw on, and you might have to pay child support.
Jackie Pilossoph, 51, founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, got divorced in 2008 and found that getting a detailed understanding of what she was spending and what she was bringing in was critical. It helped her find places in her budget where she could cut back.
“I called all my utility companies and had the bills lowered, either through cutting plans or getting a better deal. I put a cap on Starbucks and allotted myself a weekly amount,” she says. “I also stopped buying bottled water, refinanced my home, stopped getting my nails done and basically didn’t buy myself a stitch of clothing for about two years.”
Other ways to trim costs and manage finances after divorce might include finding opportunities to save on attorney’s fees or making budgetary changes like downsizing your home, eating at home more often or even scaling back your children’s extracurricular activities.
While these changes can be difficult to make, Johnson, of WealthySingleMommy, believes that you need to be open to a new lifestyle after a divorce in order to create a future on firm financial footing.
“Let go of trying to maintain the lifestyle you had while married,” she says. “You don’t need the stress associated with being over-leveraged on a home, living in debt, penny pinching or living paycheck to paycheck.”
“The good thing about divorce is that you are solely responsible for your financial future from this point forward. When you start seeing financial success from your own plan and your own job, there is no better feeling.”
2. Evaluate your accounts
Just because you had certain kinds of banking and investment accounts as a couple doesn’t mean they’re necessarily right for you now as you rebuild financially after divorce.
“For both practical and emotional reasons, you need to evaluate every part of your financial picture during and after divorce,” Johnson says. “You now have to plan for a life without a spouse and invest appropriately based on your new lifestyle, goals and dreams.”
She suggests asking your accountant about your new tax situation, your financial planner about college, emergency savings and retirement planning and your attorney about estate planning. You could even explore finding an investment adviser who specializes in managing finances after a divorce.
Take the time to understand the details of your various accounts, such as how much you’re paying per month in fees, how many no-fee transactions you get and how much you’re earning (or paying) in interest. Perhaps you don’t need the pricier checking account that includes so many transactions. Or maybe your bank requires a high minimum balance to waive the monthly fee on your savings account, and now you’re looking for an account that has no monthly fee for maintenance. Maybe you do need a new credit card since your old one was a joint account shared with your ex.
If you’re taking stock of your joint bank accounts after divorce and close any credit accounts, pull your credit report to make sure all joint accounts are closed. If you want to ensure that new credit accounts aren’t opened in your name, you could consider putting a credit freeze on your report by contacting the three national credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.
When thinking about joint bank accounts after divorce, you may also consider removing your ex-spouse as a beneficiary on retirement accounts, life insurance policies and from your will.
3. Define your goals and priorities
Just because you and your former spouse wanted to retire to Hawaii doesn’t mean that’s still your dream now.
“One of the saddest things about divorce that I hear from men and women is that the dream they always had is gone,” Pilossoph says, explaining that feeling is often only temporary. “What happens over time is that the dream just changes, and honestly, most of the time, it changes for the better.”
For Pilossoph, that’s meant that she’s developed dreams of retiring and moving to a warm Southern state, which she hopes to achieve alone or with a different partner.
She believes that rebuilding financially after divorce is a great time to rethink what you want to do professionally as well. Maybe you would rather stay home with your children, switch careers, find a better work-life balance or go back to school.
“Divorce is a great time for soul searching,” she says. “Divorce often makes people re-evaluate life and explore what is really going to make them happy.”
4. Sit down with a financial planner
Rebuilding financially after divorce and setting up a new financial plan can help you feel better prepared for life after your marriage ends. Although Pilossoph wanted to continue to stay at home with her children, who were 3 and 5 at the time, her financial planner helped her realize that wasn’t a good financial decision over the long term.
“It took a really good financial planner to get me to sit down and face reality. They forced me to look at what I was spending every month and what I was bringing in,” she says. “They made me see the deficit I was dealing with, and seeing the numbers on paper made me realize I had to make some changes.”
In addition to cutting back on expenses, she decided to return to work. She wrote a book, launched her blog and took a job with a newspaper.
A financial planner can be a critical resource when managing finances after a divorce, helping you turn your new short- and long-term financial goals into realities. They can clarify what you need to earn, how you need to save for retirement or your children’s futures and how your newly single status affects your taxes.
Stay focused on the positives
While divorce is undoubtedly an end to something important in your life, it is also a new beginning. If you look at it from that perspective, you may find it easier to focus your attention on rebuilding financially after divorce, rather than mourning the changes in your financial situation.
“The good thing about divorce is that you are solely responsible for your financial future from this point forward,” Pilossoph says. “When you start seeing financial success from your own plan and your own job, there is no better feeling. Looking in the mirror and being proud of your accomplishments and the way you live your life is very powerful.”