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Fitting Extracurricular Activities into an Already Tight Budget

Here’s the truth: kids are expensive. They need clothes and food and shelter and school supplies and toys and books and an education and on and on. And, when you are a single parent, 100% of that financial responsibility falls on your shoulders. Unless you have lucked into a six figure income, you are likely living on a strict budget.

Strict budgets don’t have to be your enemy. They are useful tools that can help you keep your family on track, financially speaking. At the same time, there are some things that your kids are going to want and need that come up unexpectedly or whose costs are higher than you anticipated. For example, you might have always planned for your kids to take music lessons but when you start looking for teachers and pricing instruments, you get sticker shock. Your first instinct might be to decide that music isn’t important enough to warrant reconfiguring your budget. After all, they’ll get a basic musical education in school, right?

Do not give in to this urge. The lessons and extracurriculars your kids pursue are just as important as their STEM-based education. This is especially true in music. Here are a few ways to incorporate the cost of these activities into a budget that already feels restrictive:

Shop Around

There are a lot of different types of teachers out there. Most of us immediately picture an older woman who gives lessons full time (and charges exorbitant amounts of money for each hour). The full-time lesson giver, however, is not your only option. There are people who offer lessons part time to bring in secondary income. You might also consider hiring a college student studying music. These students are often more affordable (you might even be able to get lessons for free if they are required to teach as part of their degree) and kids often find them more relatable.

You can find these budget-friendly options by simply shopping around. There are great databases online that list piano lessons for kids (and oboe, guitar, voice, etc) based on location. Spend some looking around to make sure you find the best teacher for the best price.

Consider it an Investment

There are many studies out there that prove that studying music literally changes a person’s brain and increases brain function. This is true for people of all ages, but it is at its most beneficial when the student is young. Kids who study music tend to do better on tests, have an easier time paying attention in school, have better reading comprehension and are more likely to perform well in college and in their future careers. They are also better able to deal with emotional issues than kids who didn’t study music.

There are also experts who believe that playing sports and physically-based extracurriculars have long-term effects on a child’s development. Studies have proven, for example, that children with autism who exercise regularly (particularly if the exercise or sport is cardio-based) have fewer negative stimulating behaviors and better endurance. Even for children who do not deal with developmental issues, playing sports encourages teamwork, good sportsmanship, etc.

Plus, if your kids do well with their extracurricular passions, they’ll likely get scholarships and other aid that can make financing their educations a little easier!

Reducing Costs

We already talked about shopping around to find the best music teacher for your kids. There are other ways to reduce the expense of these activities. Here are just a few.

Rent instruments and equipment instead of buying it. Renting is cheaper and if your kids hate their instrument or sport after a few months, changing it out for something new isn’t as big of a deal.

Find community-based sports and extracurriculars. Your kids’ schools probably have some sort of after school program that provides many different activities. Often the fees that go along with them, however, are exorbitant. Look for classes, lessons, teams, etc through your local community center. Often these are cheaper and will help your kids socialize with other kids they might not ever have met.

Offer something in trade. Offer to be the team’s snack Mom, or to do the team’s laundry. Offer to help your kids’ music teacher with their marketing, or to bring them meals in exchange for lessons. You might be surprised at how open people are to trade as a form of payment.

The point is this: there are ways to afford music, sports, art, and other extracurriculars that your kids love or want to try. You just have to get a little creative.

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