Nearly 60% of families say youth sports are a ‘financial strain’—3 ways to budget for them

A vast majority of children play at least one sport as they are growing up. As of 2020, 76.1% of kids ages 6 through 12 and 73.4% of kids ages 13 through 17 played a team or individual sport, according to Project Play from the Aspen Institute.

But youth sports typically aren’t free. In fact, 59% of families experience financial strain from their children’s sports, according to a recent survey from financial services company LendingTree.

LendingTree conducted an online survey reaching 1,578 U.S. citizens ages 18 to 76. The survey used a non-profitability sample, with quotas making sure responses represented the overall population.

While 48% of families with kids participating in sports say they will find a way to make it work, 11% plan to take on debt.

As far as costs go, 50% of parents plan to spend anywhere from $100 to $499 on fall sport expenses, including equipment, travel and attire. Nearly 20% of parents expect to spend over $1,000. 

How to budget for youth sports

For any parents who anticipate taking on debt in order to afford youth sports, Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst, has advice for how to maximize your budget.

1. Utilize credit card rewards 

Credit cards can offer a number of valuable benefits, such as cash back, which can be used to offset costs, Schulz says in the report.

However, using credit will only help if you’re able to pay off your balance completely every month. 

2. Get creative

As far as attire and equipment go, hand-me-downs from older children can be one way to save. Parents can also look for used items online or at a consignment store.

Offering to volunteer at the organization in exchange for a lower cost is another avenue worth exploring, Schulz says. Plus, “as a dad who has done a whole lot of volunteering in youth sports over the years, I can tell you it’s a great way to create memories,” he adds.

3. Prioritize as a family

“Youth sports can be crazy-expensive, and that sometimes means sacrifices have to be made,” Schulz says. “Sometimes they’re small, such as canceling a streaming service for a while. Sometimes they’re bigger, such as starting a side hustle or selling something of value.”

If this is the case for your family, be honest with your kids about it. Communicate to them that sacrifices may need to be made and help them understand the importance of prioritizing your expenses, Schulz says.

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