As my children grow older, I’m beginning to explore the need to keep them busy while 1) allowing unstructured time for them to play and 2) providing them with moderate access to technology. It’s an art, and I’m often wondering if I’ve found the best recipe. What are the optimal measurements of each?
Part of this exploration also involves determining how much my budget allows for extracurricular activities.
Because – like kids, extracurricular activities ain’t cheap. And it continues to rise.
Choosing The Right Extracurricular Activity
My daughter takes to things reasonably easy. She’s a quick learner, prone to beginner luck with almost every activity I’ve signed her up for – ballet, soccer, gymnastics, cheerleading, karate, art, piano – to name a few. But once it gets hard and she has to make an effort, she doesn’t enjoy it, and it becomes a power tug of war between the two of us. It’s a juxtaposition of forcing her to stick to her commitments vs. allowing her to explore her real interests.
However, to my delight, riding horses has proven to be something special. It wasn’t love-at-first-sight, but I watcher her desire to learn blossom a little each day.
The Cost of Extracurricular Activities
What was not to my delight, equestrian hobbies come at high expense. Between weekly riding lessons, show clothes, and show fees – I spend approximately $300 a month, on average. And we don’t even own (or lease) a horse. (yet)
I could buy a car for that. Not a Testa, but a reasonable car – something like a Honda Civic.
Once I realized that riding horses was something she was going to stick with, I realized I needed to adjust my budget. But truth-be-told, I wasn’t sure how – our budget is pretty tight, and I would prefer to pour all my money into paying off our mortgage.
Is the Cost Worth It? A Cost / Benefit Approach
At this point, I wrestled with whether the cost of riding horses was something I was willing to bear. What value was this adding to her life? The merits can be debated, but where I landed was that riding a horse requires caring for a horse.
She has to groom her horse before she can ride. Horse camp involves mucking out stalls. Caring for an animal like a horse develops responsibility, as well as respect for an animal. She’s also building her confidence as she showcases her skills in front of her peers and judges.
I hope that her relationship with horses continues to grow and as she enters junior high and high school, she chooses to spend her time at the barn, rather than out partying (as I did at that age).
Making Adjustments To My Budget – Now and in the Future
Ultimately, I decided the cost was worth it. I took on some additional writing assignments to offset the cost, and I cut back on the amount I was allocating to my mortgage-free fund.
My son, on the other hand – he’s a different beast. He has little to no interest in extracurricular activities, and he’s an introvert. This combination is something I’m aware needs special attention in the current society we live in. I need to make sure he develops his social skills, but balance this need with respect for his personality.
He’s also extremely bright. Over the next few years, I believe I will find myself becoming a chess or Mathlete parent. I’m okay with that. Time will tell. And when it does, I’ll need to adjust my budget again.
How do you approach the cost of extracurricular activities for your children? Have you found them to be more expensive than you initially expected?
Kate Fox is a former CPA, with twenty years of experience in public accounting and corporate finance. Born and raised in Alaska, Kate is currently based out of southeastern North Carolina. She loves coaching others on personal finance and spends her free time traveling with her family or relaxing by the pool with a good book, probably about money.