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Dad holding son with soccer ball by goal

You’ve color-coded each child’s activities on the family calendar. Arranged to get your kids to piano lessons every Tuesday. And coordinated the soccer snack schedule with notes on every kids’ food allergies. But there might be one thing you haven’t tackled yet: Figuring out how to pay for all those great activities without a second mortgage.

Don’t worry! You can own those potential budget-breakers in just three steps.

Step 1: Take an inventory.

Grab a piece of paper, a pen and your calendar. Write down each child’s name and their activities. Then, estimate the costs - refresh your memory on what you really spent last year. Is your child in a new activity? Reach out to a parent who’s been involved in the past. Some things will be easy to nail down, like fees. Others are a little tougher: Does your child need equipment or a uniform? Individual training (hey, maybe your child is a future Olympian!)? A duffel bag or safety equipment? And don’t forget the extras. Do you need to travel for games and tournaments? That can mean hotel rooms, tolls, gas, lots of coffee and meals on the road. Will weekday games and practices mean takeout meals?  Maybe “everyone but me” is getting the expensive practice jersey.

Step 2: Brainstorm ways to save.

Sure, your kids might like to have shiny new equipment, Picasso-quality art supplies and every available logoed item, but that doesn’t mean they have to get it. You’re building character (and they’ll thank you later—really, it could happen!). Talk to other parents: Do they have a uniform, cleats or practice jacket they’d love to get out of their closet? Look for used equipment at consignment stores, or re-sell websites. Many teams have websites and social media pages that can help you track down good resources or families with equipment to sell. Does your child want to try an expensive instrument? Look into a rental or start with a cheaper option: e.g., buy a keyboard instead of a piano.  Do you have friends with skills and interests your kids are interested in developing? Maybe they’re willing to trade a homemade dinner or some babysitting for a half-hour of teaching Jonah to draw a still life. And many communities have very affordable programs through their recreation departments.  Not sure your child is really interested in an activity? See if the instructor is willing to offer a free trial.

Step 3: Save a little every paycheck.

Paying for activities can be a lot all at once, but much more manageable when you break it down. So, add up all the costs you came up with in Steps 1 and 2 and divide by 26 (assuming you get paid every other week; adjust accordingly otherwise); that’s how much you’ll need to set aside each paycheck. Doesn’t that number look a lot more manageable than the first one?

Help your kids enjoy the fun and challenge of trying new things, getting exercise and meeting new people, without going into debt. Get ready to own the experience with a little help from Summ