A budget-conscious mom of two children, Jessica Samuels, encourages her kids to engage and compete in youth sports. However, that participation comes with a hefty price tag. She needs to look at ways to save money on sporting equipment.
Samuels’ children are on the swim, bowling, golf, softball and baseball teams. Between uniforms, shoes and other equipment, Samuels has to spend a small fortune on gear. One sport alone can cost hundreds. “When they signed up for baseball, they had to get a new uniform,” Samuels said. “That’s easily $100 to $150, and they outgrow them within a year.” But Samuels thinks the sacrifice is worth it. “It’s all about building an active lifestyle, developing a love of sports, being active and being a part of the community,” she said.
According to TD Ameritrade’s survey on parents and sports, 37 percent of survey respondents said they spend $500 or more a month on youth sports, though many parents spend far more. In fact, some families admitted that they eliminated extras like vacations and cut their retirement savings to pay for sports. However, you don’t need to go broke to pay for your kids’ equipment. As Samuels has found out, there are lots of ways to save on the necessary gear. Let’s look at ways to save money on sporting equipment for your kids.
10 Ways to Save Money on Sporting Equipment for Your Kids
1. Talk to the coach before shopping
When your child signs up for a new sport, hold off on shopping until you talk to the coach. “In some cases, the coach or league may provide some of the gear so you don’t have to buy it,” Samuels said. “And if you do need to buy equipment, the coach can provide you with the latest rules and regulations so you get the right stuff and don’t buy the wrong thing.” Coaches often have extra goods to help you save money on sporting equipment. In most cases, it may have been given to them by parents whose children have outgrown them or have lost interest. You may even be able to score the gear for free.
2. Rent the equipment
For Samuels, renting equipment often makes more financial sense than buying new gear. “My children golf, and we rent their clubs online,” Samuels said. “Golf clubs are based on the child’s height, so they’d outgrow them and we’d have to otherwise buy a new set. With the rental, we use them until they outgrow the clubs, then ship them back and get the next size.” It can be simple.
You can often rent equipment for a fraction of their cost. For example, if you were to buy a set of girls’ clubs at a sports store, you’d pay about $300. But, you could rent that exact set for just $20 per month with a service like Junior.Club. And some Play It Again Sports franchises offer rentals, so contact your local store to find out if that’s an option.
3. Leverage coupons
Shopping online rather than at a brick-and-mortar store can be a smart way to save money. But before checking out, make sure you search online for coupons to help you save even more. You can use RetailMeNot and CouponSherpa to find coupon codes you otherwise wouldn’t have found on your own. RetailMeNot currently has codes for up to 15 percent off at retailers like Academy Sports, Nike, Champs Sports and Finish Line.
4. Use discounted gift cards
If you have to buy new, stretch your budget further by using discounted gift cards. This can be a huge way to save money on sporting equipment. People often receive gift cards as a present, but they sometimes go unused.
Rather than letting them gather dust, opt to sell them.
On the flip side, you as the consumer can purchase cards for less than their value. For example, you could purchase a $280 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card for just $250 — an 11 percent discount. Combine that deal with a retailer coupon when you make your purchase, and the savings can be significant. Use sites like Gift Card Granny, Raise and Gift Card Spread to purchase discounted gift cards.
There are consignment shops for just about every sport, including horseback riding, ice skating, baseball and golf. You can buy some gear secondhand for a fraction of its original cost to help save money on sporting equipment.
“We shop secondhand for most things,” Samuels said. “And then for safety equipment, we only buy new.”
Play It Again Sports is a nationwide consignment chain, but most cities have smaller consignment stores, too. Ask your child’s coach and other parents for tips on great shops.
6. Check out online resale sites
Although consignment shops can be treasure troves of great deals, you’re limited in terms of selection. That’s where resale sites like eBay, Poshmark and even Facebook can be great resources. You can search for the exact brand, size, color and style you need and get results nationwide.
7. Sign up for reward programs
Another way to save money on sporting equipment is by using reward programs. Sign up for stores’ rewards program if your child is dedicated to the sport. Also, if you’ll be buying equipment on an ongoing basis. You can earn store credit vouchers and get special access to sales.
For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods operates the ScoreCard program. As a ScoreCard member, you get 3% back in rewards. You can receive special discounts and giveaways and get exclusive information about product launches and special gear. Membership is free, so it’s an easy way to save money.
8. Sell or trade your child’s old gear
After investing all of that money into equipment, chances are your child will outgrow it quickly. Rather than letting that gear clutter up the garage, you can earn quick cash by selling it online. “We sell a lot of our used equipment,” said Samuels. “We might not get a ton back for it, but it helps.”
You can sell used sports equipment at Play It Again Sports, Sideline Swap or sell it on your own through sites like eBay. You can use the money you earn to offset next season’s needs, so you don’t have to dip into your savings.
9. Use rebate apps
One of the easiest ways to save money on sports equipment is to sign up for rebate apps like Ebates or Swagbucks. Just add the plugin to your browser, shop like you normally would and you’ll earn cash rewards. For example, a retailer might offer 3 percent cash back for certain purchases. On a $100 purchase, that means you’ll get $3 back. Over time, those rewards can add up. You may receive a check for earned cash back or more value by trading your rewards for gift cards.
10. Be realistic
When it comes to youth sports, a lot of parents have grand notions of college scholarships and professional sports contracts, so they see spending hundreds a month as worthwhile. However, it’s a good idea to give yourself a reality check. According to the TD Ameritrade survey, 67 percent of survey respondents hoped their child would win an athletic scholarship, but only 24 percent actually earned one. Most athletic scholarships only covered a small portion of their tuition or fees.
By keeping that in mind, you won’t feel guilty sticking to less-competitive leagues and local meets, which tend to be less expensive. “My children are involved in a lot of sports, but I’m realistic,” said Samuels. “Chances are, they won’t be college athletes. Instead, we focus on learning teamwork and how to be a graceful winner and loser — important life lessons.”
Focus on the Benefits
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the cost of youth sports. But by shopping thoughtfully and strategically, you can help reduce the overall cost. And remember, you’re helping your child build important life skills, like establishing a work ethic and good sportsmanship. That’s a priceless investment.
Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando. Specializing in personal finance, she’s focused on helping people pay down debt and boost their incomes.
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