The cost of little kids’ activity classes can quickly add up.
My daughter isn’t even two yet and I’ve already spent more than $1,000 on her extracurricular activities. Just one semester of her music class can run upwards of $200, and one month of swimming lessons is close to $100. If I added in Gymboree, dance, sports and art classes, I could be renting a small apartment with what I’d be spending monthly on enriching my child.
But despite their high cost, classes can provide great benefits to both parents and children, including the opportunity for socializing, intellectual stimulation and ideas for playtime back at home. The good news is that there are ways to get quality classes for less. Once I realized how much I was spending on my daughter’s organized activities, I set out trying to find ways to save on tuition, as I recently wrote about on the site Living on the Cheap.
Here’s a roundup of the seven best tricks I came across for cutting kid class expenses.
1. Try out classes for free. Generally, before signing up for a whole session, you’re able to try out a class for free. One strategy for saving on class costs, especially if you don’t know which classes you want to commit to, is to sign up for a host of these trial classes or open houses over the course of a few months. Not only will you be figuring out which activities seem to interest your child most, but you’ll also have created your own free class semester of sorts. Plus, at the trial classes, you may learn about other available discounts. With my daughter already enrolled in two weekly music classes, I’m currently using this strategy as a way of offering her a third class of sorts.
2. Do just one or two classes at a time. In other words, save money by not over scheduling your kids. Kelly Kinkaid over at The Centsible Life blog recommends this strategy, among 34 others, noting that limiting her kids to one sport and one arts program at a time “has really made a difference” in her budget. And as the MoneyNing blog points out, it can be stressful for small children to have too many activities.
3. Give the class as a gift. I love this idea that Anna Newell Jones of the AndThenWeSaved.com blog shared on Babble.com and plan to employ it this holiday season. The basic gist: ask family to buy the classes as a birthday or holiday gift, or buy your child the activity yourself as a present.
4. Check out local moms groups and daily deal sites for discounts. Moms groups (like the Golden Gate Mothers Group where I live) often offer members discounted rates for various classes. And as the Bargaineering blog points out, daily deal sites (think Groupon and LivingSocial) also can be a great source for kid activity discounts.
5. Register early. Often, as may be obvious to some, you can get an early bird discount if you register for a class semester early. For instance, at the local Little Folkies music class studio by our house, I received a $25 discount for registering early. Similarly, I received $10 off a Music Together series of classes when I registered early.
6. Consider drop-in classes. With drop-in classes, you just pay to go when your schedule permits rather than paying for, and committing to, an entire session. As Red Tricycle notes, “drop-ins often don’t require registration and never make you commit long term.” This option tends to be cheaper than signing up for a series of classes if you find yourself missing many of your regularly scheduled classes.
7. Opt for free (or branded “affordable”) classes. As Laura Rowley, a personal finance columnist for Yahoo!Finance, writes on DisneyFamily.com, simply “don’t pay to play.” For example, I often bring my daughter to the local library for a free hour-long story time and playtime. And most libraries offer similar free story times filled with book reading and singing, and some museums offer free classes as well. Finally, I also love the idea of NYC Brainy Activities, which I came across while researching this post and which seems like a great business opportunity for entrepreneurs (or parents) in other cities. These group-based toddler classes aim to be affordable and the classes offered are based on parent polls.
What are your strategies for saving money on your kids’ extracurricular activities?