5 Steps to Claim Your Ex’s Social Security After Divorce

Love and marriage don’t always last forever. But if your matrimony lasted 10 years or more, the financial benefits can last a lifetime. That’s because you may be able to take Social Security based on your ex-spouse’s benefits instead of your own, even if you divorced decades ago.

The philosophy is that both spouses often contribute economically during the marriage, even if only one person was employed. The Social Security rules protect those who spent most of their working years raising a family or playing a supportive role to their spouse and may have no retirement savings of their own.

The Rules for Social Security After Divorce

The maximum benefit you can get based on the record of a spouse — whether you’re currently married or divorced — is 50% of their full retirement age benefit. Full retirement age is the age at which you qualify for 100% of your benefit. It’s 66 or 67, depending on when you were born.

If your ex-spouse dies before you, you’ll typically be eligible to receive survivors benefits of 100% of the monthly payment they were receiving, just as you could if your current spouse died.

People with a long employment record will typically qualify for a bigger benefit based on their own earnings instead of a spouse’s. Social Security will give you the bigger benefit, but not both.

If you do qualify for more money thanks to your ex-spouse, they’ll technically give you whatever benefit you earned based on your record. Then, they’ll use your ex’s record to make up the difference.

Seeking to get revenge on an ex-spouse by claiming their Social Security? Move on. Your decision won’t affect their benefits in any way, nor will it impact their current spouse if they’ve remarried. If they’ve been married multiple times, all their exes are allowed to claim on their record.

Occasionally, a divorce settlement will state that one spouse can’t collect Social Security based on the other person’s record. Such stipulations are utter nonsense. The Social Security Administration says they’re “worthless and never enforced.”

How to Get Your Ex’s Social Security in 5 Easy Steps

Since your Social Security checks won’t affect your ex in any way, the only reason to try to claim their benefits is if you think you can get more money. If you suspect their record will maximize your Social Security, follow these five steps.

1. Make Sure You Can Answer ‘Yes’ to These Questions

To qualify for an ex’s Social Security benefits, you need to be able to answer “yes” to these four questions.

  • Were you married for 10 years or more? If your marriage lasted less than 10 years, you won’t qualify for an ex’s benefits. Common-law marriages don’t count. You also need to have been divorced at least two years before you can start getting checks based on your former spouse’s history, unless they’ve already started receiving benefits.
  • Are you at least 62? This is the minimum age for starting Social Security retirement benefits, no matter whose record you’re using. However, you can qualify regardless of your age if you’re caring for your ex’s child who is under 16 or disabled. If your ex-spouse is deceased, you can qualify for survivors benefits at age 60, or age 50 if you’re disabled.
  • Are you still unmarried? If you’re currently married, you can only claim on your record or your current spouse’s record. You’ll only be eligible 50% of their full benefit as well. And if you’ve been married and divorced multiple times? Social Security will use whichever ex-spouse’s record gives you the biggest benefit. Remember, though: Only marriages that lasted 10 years or more will count.
  • Is your ex eligible for benefits? In addition to the minimum age of 62, Social Security requires at least 40 work credits, which amounts to 10 years of full-time work, to start benefits. If your ex doesn’t meet these criteria, there’s no benefit for you to claim. Note that they don’t need to be receiving benefits. They just need to be eligible.

2. Gather Your Ex’s Information

You’re going to need some information to prove to Social Security that you’re eligible for your ex’s benefits. Be prepared to provide your marriage license and your divorce decree.

Social Security will also need to locate their record. This will be easiest if you still have their Social Security number. If you no longer have it, Social Security may be able to find their record if you can provide their date of birth, where they were born and the names of their parents.

3. Resist the Urge to Tell Them

Remember: Your decision to seek more Social Security on your ex’s record does not affect them in any way. So there’s absolutely no reason to contact them about it. You don’t need their consent to get benefits based on their record. Social Security will not contact them about your application.

4. Ask Social Security Whose Record Gets You the Best Benefit

Now take that information you gathered about your ex to Social Security so you can figure out whose record will give you the biggest benefit. You can call them at 800-772-1213 or visit your local office. An appointment isn’t required, but scheduling one can cut down on your waiting time.

5. Delay as Long as Possible (but Not Too Long)

The earlier you take benefits, the lower your monthly checks will be, no matter whose record you claim on. The 50% you can qualify for from their history is the maximum you’ll get if you wait until your full retirement age of 66 or 67. For every year you claim before then, you’ll permanently reduce your benefits by 6.66%. If you claim at 62, you’d only qualify for 32.5% of their benefit.

Don’t wait too long, though. When you take benefits on your own record, you get an extra 8% for every year you delay past your full retirement age until your benefits max out at 70. But when you’re getting spousal benefits, you don’t earn delayed retirement credits. You won’t get extra money for waiting past your full retirement age, so there’s no point in delaying any further.

A final note: In the past, a common Social Security strategy was to claim based on a current or former spouse’s record as early as possible, then switch over to your own bigger benefit later on. But the rules changed under a 2015 law called the Bipartisan Budget Act. Now this is only an option if you were born Jan. 2, 1954, or earlier.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

The Best Places to Live in North Carolina in 2021

Wherever you choose to live in North Carolina, you will be within hours of both soaring mountaintops and sandy beaches.

The state of North Carolina offers examples of everything from aviation history and world-renowned universities to exceptional examples of traditional comfort foods found along the state’s barbeque trail. Both homey and contemporary, the state of North Carolina offers a little something for everyone.

Whether you are a first-time renter or an old hand at finding and securing a new place to live, you will want to consider making North Carolina your new home.

To help you find your own special spot, here are the best cities in North Carolina:

Aerial view of Asheville, NC.

  • Population: 88,933
  • Average age: 44.0
  • Median household income: $49,930
  • Average commute time: 21.6 minutes
  • Walk score: 39
  • Studio average rent: $957
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,080
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,332

Asheville is one of the best places to live in North Carolina. Populated by trendy bars, various farm to fork restaurants and coffee shops that range from quirky to classy, young professionals will find the variety within this unique mountain town refreshing and appealing.

Located in Buncombe County, Asheville offers residents easy access to breathtaking views and myriad recreational opportunities. Those who enjoy outdoor adventure will find great hiking and lovely waterfalls in the surrounding area.

Individuals looking to relocate a family will like the highly-rated public schools and extended suburban feel of Asheville. The city offers a cozy and comfortable place to raise kids as well as ample recreation opportunities.

For those interested in adventure, the lovely Biltmore Estate and nearby Blue Ridge Parkway will provide hours of exploration.

Downtown view of Charlotte, NC.

  • Population: 827,630
  • Average age: 38.9
  • Median household income: $62,817
  • Average commute time: 30.4 minutes
  • Walk score: 31
  • Studio average rent: $1,335
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,314
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,653

With its population of 827,630, Charlotte, located in growing Mecklenburg County, is one of the best places to live in North Carolina. Charlotte couples old-world southern charm with the excitement and energy of new cosmopolitan cities with much denser populations.

You will find a plethora of exceptional restaurants, an active nightlife and a thriving job market here.

Charlotte offers a collection of small neighborhoods for those seeking a community feel and provides an above-average public school system. The city’s mix of urban-suburban appeal will resonate with young professionals, growing families and retirees looking for a comfortable way of life.

Durham, NC at night.

  • Population: 255,801
  • Average age: 39.6
  • Median household income: $58,905
  • Average commute time: 27.4 minutes
  • Walk score: 35
  • Studio average rent: $1,320
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,263
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,524

This once-booming tobacco town has undergone revitalization and reinvented itself as one of the country’s fastest-growing cities. Durham lures young professionals with a combination of award-winning restaurants, high-tech job opportunities and cultural options often limited to much larger cities.

The city also offers various recreational opportunities and access to exceptional educational centers making it one of the best places to live in North Carolina.

Durham offers 22 miles of trails and is home to the 55-acre Sarah P. Duke Gardens, making it an exceptional choice for those looking to enjoy greenspaces while living in a dynamic city.

Durham allows young families to enjoy a mild climate, excellent educational opportunities and a big city vibe with a community feel. These attractive opportunities are all wrapped up in a below-average cost of living.

Fayetteville, NC town square.

  • Population: 208,539
  • Average age: 37.9
  • Median household income: $45,024
  • Average commute time: 23.2 minutes
  • Walk score: 26
  • Studio average rent: $688
  • One-bedroom average rent: $781
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $920

Like many of the best places to live in North Carolina, those attracted to Fayetteville will appreciate that there are aspects of city convenience and country living sprinkled throughout this vibrant space.

The city offers its population of 208,539 easy access to beaches, mountains, a number of lakes and over 20 golf courses.

Located within an hour of the state capitol and home to one of the most active military installations in the country, Fort Bragg, Fayetteville offers a variety of employment opportunities for those starting out. Families and retirees will find the recreation offerings a bonus.

Those with a penchant for the outdoors will revel in the fact that the county surrounding the city of Fayetteville, Cumberland County, offers more than 540 acres of parkland for exploration and recreation.

Downtown Greensboro, NC.

  • Population: 285,444
  • Average age: 41.0
  • Median household income: $48,964
  • Average commute time: 25.3 minutes
  • Walk score: 34
  • Studio average rent: $683
  • One-bedroom average rent: $825
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $961

Despite its population of 285,444, Greensboro gives residents the feel of a tight suburban community, making it an exceptional place for young professionals and growing families. Known as one of the best places to live in North Carolina, Greensboro is home to various parks, entertainment and recreational opportunities.

Nicknamed “Gate City,” Greensboro offers above-average public schools and an active yet easy-going energy. Downtown houses a variety of art galleries, breweries, antique shops and bars.

Home to the Minor League’s Greensboro Grasshoppers and a frequent host to the Atlantic Coast Conference and National Collegiate Athletic Association tournaments, there is always something on the horizon.

Populated with five colleges, the city offers a distinctly youthful feel without the party atmosphere of many smaller university towns.

Aerial view of High Point, NC.

  • Population: 109,846
  • Average age: 41.3
  • Median household income: $47,234
  • Average commute time: 24.8 minutes
  • Walk score: 25
  • Studio average rent: $950
  • One-bedroom average rent: $808
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $940

Less dense than many of its neighboring cities, High Point offers young professionals and families the opportunity to live in a suburban paradise. Historically known as the “Home Furnishing Capital of the World,” High Point is one of the best places to live in North Carolina, with above-average public schools and a mix of city and comfortable community feel.

High Point provides residents a superb basecamp with access to the larger surrounding cities and diverse day trips. It also boasts a diversified economy and highly affordable cost of living.

Centrally located between Greensboro and Winston-Salem, High Point offers several colleges and universities and recreational and entertainment options without the hustle and traffic that accompanies big city life.

Lake view in Mooresville, NC.

  • Population: 35,310
  • Average age: 39.7
  • Median household income: $69,188
  • Average commute time: 31.9 minutes
  • Walk score: 20
  • Studio average rent: $866
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,010
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,233

If you are looking for country living with convenience to some of the most dynamic cities in the state, Mooresville is your ideal space. Considered one of the best places to live in North Carolina, Mooresville offers a community feel with large town amenities.

Located in lovely Iredell County, Mooresville offers exceptional public schools and low crime rates. Mooresville allows families and young professionals to enjoy a slower pace of life than many of its larger neighbors.

Within easy reach of Raleigh, Durham and the Research Triangle Park, Mooresville gives residents easy access to some of the state’s most progressive job markets.

Downtown night view of Raleigh, NC.

  • Population: 446,152
  • Average age: 39.1
  • Median household income: $67,266
  • Average commute time: 28.2 minutes
  • Walk score: 33
  • Studio average rent: $1,264
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,201
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,440

Raleigh is not only the capital of North Carolina, a place known for its deep roots in education, technology and research, but it is also one of the best places to live in North Carolina. With a population of 446,152, Raleigh encompasses some of the best aspects of the state.

This area offers some of the finest educational and research institutions in the nation, a growing music and art scene and a wide variety of restaurants, cafes, breweries and bars. It’s also family-friendly with easy access to over 100 miles of greenway trails, museums and sports venues.

With the cost of living slightly below the national average and easy access to three major universities, Raleigh has seen exceptional growth in the past few years.

Wilmington, NC by the water.

  • Population: 115,441
  • Average age: 42.4
  • Median household income: $47,580
  • Average commute time: 22.9 minutes
  • Walk score: 37
  • Studio average rent: $822
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,072
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,253

The historic port city of Wilmington exudes an old-world charm that attracts both young professionals and growing families. With well above-average public schools and layers of local history, Wilmington is one of the best places to live in North Carolina.

Wilmington offers families an opportunity to revel in local history and recreational opportunities without giving up on character or community. You will find a 1.75-mile riverwalk located in Wilmington’s Historic District, which offers residents unique galleries, restaurants and shops. There are also excellent antiquing opportunities for those looking to add a little history into their personal space.

Young professionals find the city engaging due to its above-average nightlife and easy access to local beaches.

Aerial view of Winston-Salem, NC.

  • Population: 247,945
  • Average age: N/A
  • Median household income: $45,750
  • Average commute time: 20.9 minutes
  • Walk score: 28
  • Studio average rent: $673
  • One-bedroom average rent: $919
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,000

Located in Forsyth County, Winston-Salem is the second-largest city in the Piedmont Triad region of the state. Known as the “Twin City,” Winston-Salem is home to Wake Forest University and the Old Salem historic district.

With easy access to several larger cities, Winston-Salem offers residents the opportunity to live in a gracious suburban environment without missing out on career opportunities.

With an above-average public school system, Winston-Salem is ideal for raising a family and one of the best places to live in North Carolina. Winston-Salem’s dedication to history and fine arts makes for engaging family outings.

Young professionals will find the cultural opportunities and food culture add richness to life in this friendly, community-oriented city.

Find your own best place to live in North Carolina

Whether you are looking to relocate out of a sense of adventure or are looking for the perfect place to search for that new employment opportunity, you’re bound to find an ideal home among the best cities in North Carolina.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments in March 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
Other demographic data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.

Source: rent.com

Marriage and Mortgage May Not Mix

Marriage or Mortgage?

The premise of the new Netflix show “Marriage or Mortgage” is simple. It pits a wedding planner against a real estate agent.

The prize, if you want to call it that, is getting the spouses-to-be to go in one direction over the other.

In this case, an over-the-top wedding versus a dream house. Because they can’t possibly have both, at least not on their budget.

While this might make for great reality television, it is a serious issue many young couples face, especially with home prices a lot higher than they’ve been.

At the same time, the pressure to throw an incredible wedding has never been greater, perhaps thanks to Instagram and social media. It’s like a weird competition no one really wins.

It’s Okay to Rent and Be Married, Honest

  • There’s nothing wrong with renting at any time in your life
  • You don’t need to own a home just because you’re married or engaged
  • But if you do plan on starting a family in the near future it might be smart to put down roots somewhere
  • This will provide added stability and perhaps more space for additional occupants

So you’re planning on getting married this summer, and you just have to find a perfect house to call your own before that magical day. Or very soon thereafter.

There’s no possible way you could continue to live in an apartment and rent once you’re married! That just won’t do. Married people are supposed to be homeowners, right?

Not so fast. It’s a big financial decision that shouldn’t necessarily take place while you’ve got a lot of other major life changing events in the works.

Why do newlyweds and newlyweds-to-be have this must-own mentality? Is it the seriousness of marriage, or the need for a solid foundation to begin raising a family?

While I get the latter part to some extent, one shouldn’t buy a home simply because of a recent or upcoming wedding.

You should buy a home when you have given it a lot of thought, done your due diligence, and are financially secure to go through with the purchase.

Generally, this means having enough money for a down payment, closing costs, and reserves, factoring in any wedding day costs.

Married or not, one must take the time to determine if homeownership is for them. Guess what? It’s not for everyone.

We don’t all want the responsibility of owning a home or condo. It can be a lot of work, hard on the finances, and super stressful.

There’s also the question of home prices, which are pretty sky-high at the moment. One should always take the time to consider the current state of the real estate market too.

Obviously, there will be people marrying at the height of the market and at market lows. So the results will always vary.

That latter group might have a great reason to buy a home, whereas the former group could make an ill-timed decision and add a lot of uncertainty and stress to a new marriage.

[What’s the Best Mortgage for First Time Buyers?]

There Shouldn’t Ever Be a Rush to Buy a Home

  • Plenty of married couples rent until finding their forever home
  • A wedding can be hard on a couple’s finances and their collective psyche
  • As can the marriage itself as two individuals learn to commingle assets for the very first time
  • So waiting to get all your ducks in a row can actually pay off and reduce stress

All I see these days are new couples rushing into home purchases because they’re engaged or newly married.

It appears to be the next logical step in life, but forcing the issue just because everyone else is doing it isn’t necessarily the right decision.

Sure, kids are often not too far out once you tie the knot, assuming you want them, but that doesn’t mean you just take another plunge.

Give it some serious thought, just as you did your wedding (hopefully). Like marriage, it’s a major commitment, not a hasty decision.

For me, this seems like a huge layer of stress to pile on top of an already stressful period.

Buying a home is no trivial matter, and could lead to arguing and fighting, which is no way to start a marriage, especially during a pandemic!

Additionally, you’ll probably have lots of expenses related to the wedding and subsequent honeymoon, so it might be tough to come up with the minimum down payment on the home purchase.

This could put you in a bad position, or force you to attempt to buy a home with nothing down.

Sure, it could be an option to buy with little set aside in the bank, but at what price?

Expect a higher mortgage rate, higher monthly payment, and perhaps a less competitive offer relative to others willing to put more down in the case of a bidding war.

Start the Home Buying Discussion Early

  • Once you’re married (and long before that) the home buying discussion should take place
  • You should include a hard look at your finances and your spouse’s
  • Take the time to determine your housing goals, wants, and needs
  • That way you’re adequately prepared to buy when your dream home comes along

A wise couple should take the time to organize their finances, check and fix their credit if necessary, and do a lot of debt-to-income and valuation homework before even thinking about buying a home.

It doesn’t make sense to rush into the purchase of a home simply because your relationship status changed. They’re two entirely different things.

But it is perfectly sensible (and smart) to begin the conversation as early as possible, just as you would other important decisions like having kids.

This is especially true as you get to know your significant other’s saving and spending habits, and perhaps their not-so-good credit history.

It’s not uncommon for one individual to weigh down the other in that department, which could jeopardize the entire mortgage approval.

Speaking of, start with a mortgage pre-approval before you begin scouring listings and picking out furniture.

You certainly shouldn’t start your marriage off with a rash decision just because it’s the “normal” way of doing things, or because other couples or family members pressure you to buy a home.

Take your time and do it right, whether you’re planning to get married, newly married, or even if marriage isn’t even on the radar.

[What Is a Good Price for a First-Time Home Buyer?]

What About Buying a Home Before Marriage?

  • A common trend these days is buying a home before getting married
  • For some reason it’s easier to commit to a home purchase than another person
  • But the situation can get pretty sticky if the couple decides to go their separate ways
  • Again, you’re making a big commitment either way so give it a lot of thought!

A trend that has emerged in recent years, especially among the Millennial cohort, has been buying a home before marriage.

You can call it progressive or unconventional, or perhaps smart if two people see a good buying opportunity they don’t want to miss.

Some of the advantages to purchasing a home before marriage include having more money for a down payment (since it hasn’t been wasted on a big wedding ceremony).

Or simply buying a home solely because you want to, not because you’re married and feel pressure to do so.

On the other side of the coin, owning a home together before marriage could pressure you to actually get married, even if cracks start to develop in the relationship.

You may feel that you have no choice since you already own a major asset together, and separating it won’t be financially advantageous.

Some may also have personal beliefs that dictate the order of things, which don’t allow a home purchase before marriage.

There are also legal and title issues to consider when two unmarried individuals jointly own real estate or any other asset.

Ultimately, real estate and marriage are very separate things that don’t necessarily need to go hand-in-hand.

Try to look at the big picture. How will the home purchase fit into the larger plan? Is it better to buy now or later and why?

One plus to a post-wedding home purchase is the chance you might get some money as a gift, which could be helpful to cover the down payment and closing costs.

You may just want to let the dust settle before you hire the moving van.

Should Married Couples Live with a Roommate?

married homeowners

Another emerging trend lately has been taking on roommates or boarders to help pay the mortgage bill each month.

It makes a lot of sense if you’ve got spare bedrooms and don’t mind having friends or family members live with you.

Amazingly, this even happens with married couples (I know of at least two firsthand), though I’ve also heard of the arrangement ending fairly quickly, especially once kids enter the picture.

Data parsed by Trulia found that the share of married couples with roommates hit its high in 2012, around the time the housing market was bottoming. It wasn’t far off in 2007 either, when home prices were peaking.

They also found that more expensive housing markets (many on the West Coast) tend to have a higher share of married couples with roommates.

This could be attributed to affordability issues all around, whether it’s an existing homeowner hanging onto their home by supplementing income from another individual.

Or a former homeowner or renter being forced to become a boarder during tough times.

As of 2018, just 3.28% of all U.S. households had a roommate/boarder. It doesn’t sound like much, but it still accounts for some 4.2 million households nationwide.

Among married couples, the rate was a much smaller 0.46%, representing about 280,000 households.

While perhaps not for the faint of heart, it could make housing payments more affordable, especially as home prices hit new all-time highs in the more expensive markets nationwide.

In the end, a smart couple that does their homework might not need to make the very hard decision between a marriage and a mortgage, and can actually have the best of both worlds.

Those who do may also set themselves up for greater success in their marriage, which could be the recipe to long, happy life together.

Remember, a wedding typically lasts for a few hours, while homeownership can go on for decades.

Read more: When should you start looking for a home?

(photo: Kim Marius Flakstad)

Source: thetruthaboutmortgage.com

How to Afford Youth Sports on a Budget

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.

How to afford youth sports without going broke? Test out a sport before committing to a full season

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.

Wondering how to afford youth sports on a budget? Focus on one sport at a time to keep costs down.

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.

Source: discover.com

Financial Planning for a Baby: The Costs of Raising a Child

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:

Financial Planning for a Baby Infographic

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.

Source: discover.com