1. Save 50% on lessons by using your YMCA membership.
Check with your YMCA for classes before looking at a studio. Our local YMCA offered a children’s ballet program for $58, which is way cheaper than the local studio that offers an identical 8-week program for $125. Yes, you have to have the YMCA membership to get the $58 rate, but that will really pay off if you have more than one child and they participate in sports/dance classes as well. Plus, you get access to the full facility and its services, which is a far better deal than just a lesson alone at a studio.
2. Save thousands by not joining a competitive travel team and staying local.
Fran Dicari, who runs the site StatsDad, began tracking his kids’ sporting expenditures and reported that in 2011, he spent over $11,000 in fees, equipment, and travel expenses for two children. Local community leagues are financially friendlier with a simple registration fee that runs under $200 in our area with discounts for additional children.
3. Check your local college for music tutors to save up to 50% on professional rates.
A local professional music studio offers an hour-long guitar lesson for $50 at their location, but a student at our college who is working on his teaching degree offers an hour lesson for $25 in your home. Check with a nearby university music department to see about available student teachers.
4. Save 40-60% on sporting equipment at used sporting goods stores.
Take a peek at a used sporting goods store like Play It Again Sports where they retail gently used sporting equipment for 40-60% off the retail price of new equipment.
5. Save hundreds by purchasing lesser-known name-brand equipment.
Why worry about a fancy name brand on items that are just going to get kicked, dented, dirty, and beat-up anyways? Look at cheaper, lesser-known brands for better deals. A great example from a big sporting goods store is how high-end aluminum baseball bats run nearly $300 while the lesser known brands sell for as low as $25.00.
6. Score BOGO music lessons with Groupon deals.
Check Groupon for music lessons in your area for substantial savings. The music academy in our neighborhood offers 30-minute lessons for $27 each, but their Groupon deal offers two of those same sessions for only $25! That’s a great Buy One Get One steal!
7. Rent an instrument for low monthly payments instead of risking a large purchase.
Renting is an affordable way for your child to try an instrument without investing a large chunk of money when you’re unsure of your child’s commitment level. Choose a reputable company like Music Arts where 100% of rental payments apply towards purchase of the instrument. You can return anytime, and there is no obligation to buy.
8. Ditch pricey private lessons for community rec center camp bargains.
A private tennis lesson for 30 minutes at a nearby sports facility runs $43 per child, compared to the community center around the corner which offers a 6-week tennis camp for just $50 per child.
9. Volunteer your time to cover registration costs.
My local baseball Little League offers a “work refund” to help pay for the costs of registration. By volunteering time working at the concessions stands or performing other needed duties, the Little League will return $40 to volunteers once someone in the family has completed 4 hours of volunteer time.
10. Find sheet music and piano booklets for under $1.
Amazon is one of the best places to find used sheet music and music booklets for your children. A new booklet of piano music called “The Best Music Ever” retails for $19.95 new through a sheet music dealer, but on Amazon, that same booklet is currently less than $1—about $4 with shipping.
11. Offer your skills or unused stuff as bartering chips for lessons on Craigslist.
If you have a particular skill set, like you’re a beautician or a graphic designer, offer your services in exchange for music or sport lessons for your children. My local Craigslist is packed with these kinds of offers—”5 guitar lessons for a haircut” or “swapping an iPad for 10 weeks of personalized art lessons.”
12. Save on equipment and uniform costs with hand-me-downs.
Getting your younger children into the same sport as an older sibling or family member can be a real winner for your wallet. As older children outgrow knee and elbow pads, helmets, ball gloves, and non-personalized items, they can be easily passed down to younger family members. Be sure to ask your extended family if you can “inherit” any unused equipment stashes.
13. Look for free, creative art programs at museums and art institutes.
If your child is more creative than sporty, you’re in luck too! Instead of paying $20 per class for art classes or camps, many museums, like the Art Institute of Chicago, offer free, creative art workshops ranging from photography and drawing to pottery for children of all ages.
14. Watch your community Facebook group for neighborhood sale dates.
Most towns and counties have Facebook trading, barter, and sales groups where community yard sale dates are posted and where members post for items wanted or for sale. Post that you’re looking for children’s sporting equipment, and watch the replies roll in!
15. Learn practically anything for free on YouTube.
If you can’t afford lessons for your children on a regular basis, there is a bountiful bevy of free instructional videos for music, drawing, singing or even knitting/crocheting available on YouTube.