The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai
I was listening to NPR a few months ago, and they were featuring a family with 4 kids. Each kid was involved in multiple extracurricular activities. In fact, the family never sat down together to eat because each parent was always shuffling one or more kids to activities in the evening. Dad worked two jobs to pay for their many activities. The parents didn’t have retirement accounts except what their employer provided.
Why were they living like this? They thought doing so would increase their kids’ chances of getting scholarships to college, which was essential because they had not saved any money for college.
So far, their strategy has worked. Their first child has a full-ride scholarship to college; the other three are still in high school and middle school.
Still, we can all likely agree that this isn’t a feasible plan for most families.
How much should you pay for kids’ extracurricular activities?
This is such a personal question and really depends on your financial situation.
Some financial experts argue (and I tend to agree) that if you don’t have money to set aside for your retirement, you shouldn’t pay for extracurricular activities at all.
However, if you are able to do that, there’s no hard and fast rule for how much you should or shouldn’t pay.
In our family, we let each child do one activity that costs money, and one that is free. My son plays AYSO soccer which cost us $125 at the beginning of the season, and he also sings in the church choir, which is free (except for the week I have to bring snacks for all 40 kids–ouch!).
However, I have relatives who paid serious money for their daughter to be in a traveling soccer team for many, many years. If their goal was to get her a scholarship, it didn’t pay off. She graduated last year and is now attending the local community college.
Should You Pay for Activities with the Expectation of a Scholarship?
The question, for many, is a matter of motivation. Are you enrolling your child in extracurricular activities because you want them to develop good characteristics that kids learn in sports and because you want to enhance their personal development, or are you enrolling them with the expectation that they will eventually qualify for a scholarship?
If it’s the latter, is it right to put that type of pressure on kids?
Being devil’s advocate here, wouldn’t it be better to take some of the thousands of dollars you’re investing in your child to participate in many different activities and instead invest in a college fund so you don’t have to rely so heavily on your child trying for, and hopefully getting, a scholarship?