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If the high cost of youth sports sometimes feels like it's straining your family's budget, you're not alone. A recent Utah State University study found that the average American family spends $2,292 per year — or up to an average of 10 percent of their gross income — on kids' extracurricular sports each year.

So what's the best way to plan for those costs without interfering with other financial goals?

Clarify Your Goals: Fun or Competitive?

Are you signing up your elementary and middle school-aged child for soccer so that he or she will get some physical activity and a chance to learn about being on a team? Or are you hoping they'll eventually qualify for a full-ride college scholarship? If exercise and social skills are the goals, consider a recreational team — as opposed to competitive, elite one that may include traveling. Find teams through organizations like the Portland Youth Soccer Association or the Tualatin Hills Parks & Recreational District. Recreational soccer tends to be the less expensive and less competitive of the two main team types.

On the other hand, if you're raising the next David Beckham, it might be worth paying more for your kid to try out for a second, more elite, type of team. In Oregon, these teams are called classic, elite, club, travel or development academy (DA) teams. These more competitive teams are year-long commitments for players.

Costs for classic teams add up. For example, the Portland City United Soccer Club costs $1,450 per year plus $226 for a uniform. Classic teams also travel to at least one tournament per year. According to Crossfire Oregon, families pay an estimated $500–1,000 for those trips.

Pick a Less Expensive Activity

If your child is still young and open to several options, consider a cheaper activity. For instance, just based on equipment costs, it may be significantly less expensive for your child to take guitar instead of piano lessons. When it comes to sports, here's how five popular youth sports rank according to costs:

  1. Lacrosse : Average: $7,956; Maximum: $17,500
  2. Hockey : Average: $7,013; Maximum: $19,000
  3. Baseball/Softball: Average: $4,044; Maximum: $9,900
  4. Football : Average: $2,739; Maximum: $9,500
  5. Soccer: Average: $1,472; Maximum: $5,500

Check into Scholarships and Financial Aid

Financial help may be available if your child is playing a recreational sport. You may also get a cost cut if you agree to serve as a volunteer coach.

More competitive teams, on the other hand, hire professional coaches and volunteer options aren't usually available. However, some teams offer merit scholarships to top players and/or need-based financial aid.

Connect with Other Parents

Save money by carpooling to practices and games, and trading or buying resale gear like shoes, baseball/softball bats and mitts, lacrosse sticks, and more. Also, be sure your child really wants to participate in their team. If your kid sticks with the sport, you may be able to save money by using the same equipment over multiple seasons.

Set a Budget for Kids' Activities

Even if you only spend money on kids' activities during a single sports season, or for camp during the summer, set aside money each month in a special budget category or savings account.

When the time comes to pay registration fees or buy new jerseys, you'll already have money saved and earmarked for your kid's activities. This kind of planning can make the high cost of youth sports a lot easier to handle.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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