Nearly 60% of families say youth sports are a “financial strain”

The vast majority of children play at least one sport as they grow older. As of 2020, 76.1% of kids ages 6 to 12 and 73.4% of kids ages 13 to 17 played a team or individual sport, according to the Aspen Institute’s Project Play.

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

LendingTree conducted an online survey that reached 1,578 US citizens ages 18-76. The survey used a nonprofit sample, with quotas to ensure responses represented the general population.

While 48% of families with children who play sports say they will find a way to make it work, 11% plan to go into debt.

As for costs, 50% of parents plan to spend between $100 and $499 on fall sports expenses, including equipment, travel and clothing. Nearly 20% of parents expect to spend more than $1,000.

How to Budget for Youth Sports

For any parent who anticipates going into debt to pay for youth sports, Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree, has tips on how to maximize your budget.

1. Use 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 can pay off your balance in full each month.

2. Be creative

When it comes to clothing and equipment, heirlooms from older kids can be a way to save. Parents can also look for used items online or at a thrift store.

Offering to volunteer with the organization for a lower cost is another avenue worth exploring, says Schulz. Plus, “as a parent who has volunteered a lot in youth sports over the years, I can tell you it’s a great way to make memories,” he adds.

3. Prioritize as a family

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

If this is the case in your family, be honest with your children about it. Let them know that sacrifices may have to be made and help them understand the importance of prioritizing their spending, says Schulz.

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