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Kids' Extracurricular Activities Are Burying Parents Under A Mountain Of Debt

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Replies to: Kids' Extracurricular Activities Are Burying Parents Under A Mountain Of Debt

  • iaparentiaparent 305 replies2 threads Member
    I think part of the issue, as was mentioned above, is in large, suburban, highly competitive high schools the "athlete" has to have a solid club foundation to even be considered for a high school team. We went through this with my oldest, he had played club soccer for years and made the freshman team. When his sophomore year rolled around the freshman class had an entire club team that had been together since age 6. The coaches told everyone not already on varsity that there would not be room for them any longer because the freshmen would fill any open spots on the varsity and JV teams and would continue to fill open spots over their 4 years. No one from my son's class ever made varsity, although it worked out for the coach and school as they won 3 state championships in that class' 4 years.

    Last night was the high school jamboree, where all of the activities set up and engage with the soon to be freshmen. My wife coaches at the school (not soccer) and was set up with her sport. A neighbor of ours came up to her lamenting the club soccer fees they have paid for her son over the last 8 years were for naught. When they went to talk to the soccer program they were told "we have a good group coming in and we are full". Her son has played at a relatively good club, paying close to $3,000 a year but it is not the "right club" for the high school and as a result will not even be able to try out. His problem will now become trying to find a sport that he can make a team when he has no experience because he has been dedicated to soccer since he was 7 years old.

    This holds true for most sports in our area. Club swimmers, club wrestlers, club baseball/softball, club basketball, club volleyball (girls), club gymnastics (girls), club water polo all take all of the open spots each year. For those that played at a rec level or simply have an interest in the sport they are shut out. You have to have either spent the $25,000+ growing up (in some cases spent it at the right club) to make a team or find a sport with no large club presence in the area which has gotten harder and harder to find. Right now those sports are gymnastics and volleyball for boys, cross country (because they take hundreds but less than 20 actually compete), and diving.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13454 replies31 threads Senior Member
    ^ Track and field also have a ton of spots.

    Or find a small private school (costs money as well, true).
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  • natty1988natty1988 822 replies12 threads Member
    @SuperSenior19 very true. People shouldn't spend money they don't have. And I don't think it's necessary for kids to do a million things. I get that some people may feel differently, but different strokes for different folks.

    We only had our kids do what we could afford. We don't believe in going into debt for extracurricular activities or not saving for retirement to pay for activities for our kids. I also don't believe it's good to overschedule kids by putting them in a ton of activities. I know so many kids who were stressed and exhausted from always being on the go and they would constantly complain. I don't think that's healthy.


    I do agree with some posters here that the families quoted in the article maybe weren't the best examples of people going into debt to play sports, etc...they were all pretty affluent...
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24564 replies19 threads Senior Member
    How do babies who are only a few months old participate in anything besides just sitting there?

    Gymboree. And you can buy cute close to wear to class.

    My daughter had to participate in some classes as a baby because she was a preemie and it was part of her therapy. She was older than 1, but not much, and it was off to music therapy and when she could walk to gymnastics at the local rec program - I think it was $5/week. Others were doing physical therapy with nurses or trained therapist, but we just did stuff at the rec programs and played in our driveway. She also took 4 swim lessons per week because I thought she was going to drown (never saw a pool, puddle, or river she didn't think she should launch herself into) so I signed her up for every lesson I could find. She was expelled from the baby and mom group because she was splashing too much and sent to the 3+ year old class when she was only 2 -clearly very advanced and should have gone to the Olympics!

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  • natty1988natty1988 822 replies12 threads Member
    @jonri I think those classes are a good way for mom to get out of the house, it's not just for the baby. I took my kids to mommy and me. It was a affordable and a nice way to kill an hour or two. We didn't do it turn our kids into geniuses. Also, if we couldn't have afforded it we wouldn't have done it...
    I also did baby and parent swim lessons...it was an easy way for me to go the pool and not have to get a babysitter..again, it wasn't too expensive and the goal was not for my kids to become the next Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin
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  • gwnorthgwnorth 572 replies8 threads Member
    edited April 2019
    @TheGreyKing we'll be in a similar situation this fall when DS19 starts university. We currently pay about the cost of regular tuition (at an Ontario university) each year for his extra-curriculars. About the only additional cost will be for residence and books/supplies. He's not a big eater so I don't expect our food budget to change much though.
    edited April 2019
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 9842 replies110 threads Senior Member
    I agree with @natty1968 that the early classes are more for the stay at home parents than the babies. I did a bunch of "mommy me" classes when my DD was young. We moved states when she was 18 months and I didn't know a soul. Thankfully most of the classes were free or very inexpensive - "story time" at the local coffee house, music/rhythm classes at the community center, "swimming" lessons, etc....

    It wasn't until dance and music classes around age 5 that actual costs came into play. Dance then dropped off for sports for a bit.

    We did put a limit on how many ECs we would fund - 2 at a time was the max.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13454 replies31 threads Senior Member
    My EC was reading a ton of books form the public library growing up.

    Oh, and some chorus/choir, track, and starting political and cultural organizations at school (all free, obviously).

    Now we have money to waste so my kids are going to language schools and essentially cool-looking calisthenics (people call it something else).
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  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom 1669 replies2 threads Senior Member
    We had a family in town that paid big bucks for softball. Lessons, club teams, traveling all over the place. Kid had surgery while still in middle school. Whenever the kids were rough-housing, clean instructions to avoid the right arm because "it was paying for college". Two younger daughters also in the softball business early on. Easily $10k/year between the 3 kids, not counting trips up and down the east coast for tournaments.

    Fast forward to the older girl being a high schooler - dad lost his job, she was told if she wanted to go to college, she needed to quit sports and save money. She did. About 2 years later, house was foreclosed and the family moved to an apartment about 20 minutes away, but didn't tell the school so the younger kids could finish high school.

    I still see the posts of the younger ones going to their tournaments down South.
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  • bjscheelbjscheel 717 replies5 threads Member
    @iaparent, that is unfortunate. I'm really happy my kids went to a small town school where everyone is needed and can hop onto any team/activity any time. It allowed my girls to shine in certain ECs in which they wouldn't have had a chance at in a big school. It also allowed them to have a fairly unscheduled childhood. They spent a lot of time entertaining themselves. We did rec soccer with DD'19, it was like 4 weeks in September and no travel. Similar for basketball and softball for DD'17 a couple years. Then they just started doing school activities for 7-12.

    The downfall is when there are not enough kids. Soccer doesn't even have a JV at this point because there's barely enough girls to fill out Varsity even when we team up with another school.

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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13454 replies31 threads Senior Member
    Something to consider for college as well. At gigantic publics, many of the most popular EC's will be competitive to get in to while at a tiny LAC like Earlham (half the size of Williams, 1/3rd the size of Wesleyan), they really need kids to volunteer for almost all clubs.
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  • gpo613gpo613 361 replies23 threads Member
    When D19 stopped club swimming 2 years ago and then no HS sports senior year it was a blessing. First, I got some time back in my life. I still have a D23 doing stuff. But D19 moved to lifeguarding and swim lesson classes and then private swim lessons. She has more private swim lessons than she knows what to do with. I can't believe that people pay so much for private swim lessons. We will take it because D19's pay rate equates to $24 per hour for private swim lessons.

    It has been nice on the pocketbook.
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  • MWolfMWolf 2396 replies14 threads Senior Member
    At every single one of my D's extracurriculars, including summer programs with NU's CTD, and dance, there were many arrangements for low income parents, from generous scholarships, to working for the organization. May D's dance schools both had full tuition for any low income kid who demonstrated dance talents. In fact part of my D's activities when she was in the youth ensemble in her second school was to visit different schools that served low income families, and provide dance lessons, which also served as a way to recruit talented young elementary school kids with scholarship offers.

    There are multiple sources of support for low and mid income families for music lessons. dance lessons, education, hobbies like chess, most major sports, etc. The problem for low income families is not lack of affordable ECs. The problems are things like information on where and how to participate and funding, safety in travelling to and from ECs, and the requirement to work.

    @iaparent, Families who are sending their kids to "large, suburban, highly competitive high schools" which require a "solid club foundation" to participate will rarely be "buried under a mountain of debt" because of a total of $25,000+ spent on a kid over 12-15 years. My brother's kids go to such a school in LA area, and the median household income is close to $120,000 annually. Spending $1,500-$2,500 of this on kid's extracurricular is not going to make a dent in that. Even with three kids and $4,500-$7,500 is not enough to "bury them under a mountain of debt".

    In a school district like ours, which is less affluent, but more progressive, the school districts provide support for low income kids (Music lessons as part of the school curriculum, and low or no cost rental of good instruments for any kid who wanted to participate, support of all sports, etc).

    BTW, expensive ECs do not help students any more than cheap ones do, with the exception of Rich Kid Sports at "elite" colleges, and those are specifically there to help rich kids in acceptance, and are not related to the actual EC category.
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  • iaparentiaparent 305 replies2 threads Member
    ^^ I don't disagree however I can say that for the family my wife talked to last night the $25,000+ is over closer to 8 years and is a significant amount for them. The ironic thing is when they first moved in they were very much against the high cost club sports and looked down upon those that paid the high fees. That changed within about 2 years as they saw the only way their son was going to have any shot in high school sports was to "join the crowd". Her realization that it was "wasted money" (her word, not mine) I think has made her step back and look at what changed her initial parenting plan to not go the expensive club sports route.

    This is the rub. I am sure, in her mind, the money they were regrettably spending over those years would "pay off" in the end and I would bet they would have used debt to fund it in pursuit of not just the high school team but looking further down the road to college scholarship. This is the trap many fall into, chasing the almighty athletic scholarship and finding out too late, there just are not many athletic scholarships out there. I am sure she is now wishing they would have put that $25,000+ into a 529 account.

    The even more ironic part is my older son tried to get her son involved in a much less competitive sport, at a rec level, that would have given him all the experience he needed to make the high school team. They turned down his offer as the sport was not high enough on the perception scale (and I'm sure because it wouldn't pay for college). He is now on the outside looking in for the next 4 years.
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  • Trixy34Trixy34 1183 replies6 threads Senior Member
    edited April 2019
    I grew up in a very small town in upstate NY. When I took up an instrument, it was the flute, because that's what my mom had already. Sports were all through the school or municipality as were lots of other activities. Sure, my parents paid for some fees and sneakers/cleats, swimming lessons, etc. I have found that here in the PA suburbs, my kids can't do anything without it costing a small fortune. My daughter danced for many years, but it got to the point where here level of commitment did not match the expense, and so that went by the wayside. The clubs offered at school are sparse and/or don't meet very often. It would cost a LOT of money to get my kids into the type and level of activity that even I had as a kid, much less what seems to now be "required" It's a bit of a rat race. Kids can't even really do sports for fun anymore. Seems like they have to be prodigies at 6 years old. I'm done with it all...... And get off my lawn!
    edited April 2019
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  • Trixy34Trixy34 1183 replies6 threads Senior Member
    @MWolf - Offerings for low-income families are highly dependent on location. Some states/municipalities/organizations offer a lot. Some offer nothing.
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  • blossomblossom 10339 replies9 threads Senior Member
    Offerings for low income families aren't much help in areas with no public transportation and no way for a 12 year old to get around by himself- or a 16 year old whose family can't afford an extra car to get to and fro. And pretty useless when a 6 year old needs a parent or some other adult to supervise.

    It takes a lot of advocating by the folks who AREN'T low income to get the people who organize these programs to understand what the access issues are. Swim lessons for low income 4 year olds- fantastic. Is dad supposed to take the afternoon off from work every week to help get the kid into a bathing suit and supervise by the pool before the teachers and lifequards show up? Chess club for 6 year olds- held in a location with no public transportation. The 6 year old is supposed to call an Uber????
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24564 replies19 threads Senior Member
    Offerings for low-income families are highly dependent on location. Some states/municipalities/organizations offer a lot. Some offer nothing.

    In California the public school we went to charged for sports, and it wasn't cheap. It was over $850 - each- for my kids o play lacrosse. We moved to Florida and the coach very apologetically asked me for $60, and then another $100 for something (Uniform?) that the other girls had done a service project and earned their costs (we moved in the spring). I felt like I'd saved hundreds of dollars.
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  • HImomHImom 35853 replies396 threads Senior Member
    We spent a significant sum and lots of time & resources taking our kids to medical specialists (including long flights several summers) to help them get diagnosed and treated for their chronic health conditions. I guess that was one of their major activities. :-( Fortunately, we didn’t go into debt for it but it did affect many aspects of our lives over those many years.

    We didn’t spend much money on soccer, basketball, scouts, band and orchestra, canoe paddling, and judo in comparison.

    Our kids were told they had to be willing to do headers to advance to the traveling team in soccer (in grade school)—our kids said nope, they wanted to keep their brain cells, thanks.
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