Our second question of the month comes in from Allison from Missouri:
You’ve said that Nicole keeps you balanced with actually living life while still trying to reach your financial goals. How do you balance kids’ activities and optional expenses?
My kids are 4 and 1, and we have just started to branch out into formal activities like swimming lessons and gymnastics classes. I know that parents can go nuts with fun and enriching activities and kid events, easily spending hundreds of dollars a month. I’m not interested in being a tightly scheduled family or spending tons of money on activities, but I also don’t want to lean too far into “living in a cardboard box” territory. I’d love to hear your perspective on how your family balances kids’ activities and expenses.
What great timing for this question, Allison!
This is actually where my wife Nicole and I flip the “spender and saver” roles. Maybe because playing sports and being a part of teams was so important to me growing up, I way “over-sign” my kids up for activities.
Here are a few of my expensive kids' sports follies thus far:
Baby Swimming Lessons
I signed Calvin up for swimming lessons when he was a baby and kept him in it through his second birthday.
Yes, it was a great bonding experience for me and him, but he still doesn’t know to swim and he’s now 4.
Soccer too Early
There was a local soccer class that I thought Zoey would enjoy so I signed her up.
She literally would lay down in the middle of the field and cry while other kids ran around her. At one point, the coach came up to me and said, “You’re gonna have to pick her up or she’s gonna get trampled.”
Youth Soccer Fail #2
And then, I pretty much learned nothing and signed Calvin up for soccer at 2 years old as well. Through all of the practices, he was cold, crying and just wanted me to hold him the whole time.
What did I learn from this?
I guess I suppose I should have waited on all of these activities and I probably would have saved a boatload of dough and time. But hey, I got some funny stories out of it!
Nicole is the one that is my good sounding board when it comes to moderation with the kid's activities. She really wants to not overwhelm our schedule and not waste our money when we could be using it on activities and things that make us all happier.
Here are a few of my wife’s words of wisdom on this one (that I’m still learning!):
1. The Kids Can Pick One Activity at a Time
If we’ve signed Zoey up for soccer in the fall, then we shouldn't sign her up for dance as well … even if she really wants to.
If we do, then Zoey will get overwhelmed and quite honestly since I’m so busy with my day-job and my podcast I won’t be able to take her to all of these activities. Nicole will end up running around town for practices, games, meets, and recitals. It won’t bode well for our family time, downtime and, quite frankly, our marriage!
2. Pick Age-Appropriate Activities, Even if They Have a Class
Just because they have a swimming class for babies doesn’t mean that it's a good idea.
And just because they have soccer for a 2 years old, doesn’t mean they are ready to play.
Youth Sports is a 15-billion dollar industry so beware if you’re being sold into something that’s not really worth it. I’m mostly speaking to myself here, Allison!
3. Balance the School Year with Athletics, and the Summer Time with Learning
We noticed Zoey lost a bit of her Kindergarten math skills, reading skills and Spanish skills over the summer. Given that, Nicole thought instead of doing multiple athletic focused camps, we should consider some camps for learning.
For example, we would sign Zoey up for science camps, STEM camps or math camps instead of gymnastics and dance. That way, we’re keeping her sharp during the summer.
And then during the school year, when her little 6-year old brain is fried from learning all day, we can involve her in sports to help her get some exercise and have fun.
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— Andy Hill (@AndyHillMKM) September 4, 2018
Those are some of our thoughts Allison. Honestly, we’re young parents like you just trying to figure it out. Zoey is 6 and Calvin is 4 so I’m sure we’ll learn a ton more as they grow.
And I’m sure I’ll sign them up for more classes, camps, and adventures in the future. There will be some good ones and some bad ones. I hope they love one of them and it becomes a passion of theirs that makes them really happy.
Thanks for connecting, Allison! We’ll see you back in the Thriving Families Facebook Group.
If you have a question like Allison, please contact me. I love answering these questions and I hope you all dig it too.