The High Cost of Youth Sports

The High Cost of Youth Sports

The high cost of youth sports can quickly take a toll on your wallet. Recently, a reader asked me, “How would you classify kids’ sports when you’re budgeting?”

She was referring to my article about “How to Become Debt-Free.” In that article, I explain how to create a budget and how our budget enabled us to pay off $45k in 13 months on our first and only mortgage.

When we created our budget, we classified all of our monthly expenses into three categories: necessary expenses, things to cut back on, and things to cut out.

Like many others, my reader’s kids have spent years playing sports. So, I understand that it would be no small thing to just quit.

When you are creating your budget so you can get out of debt, pay off your mortgage, or save money for the future, you have to make hard decisions. Choosing whether or not you should continue to allow your children to participate in expensive sports is one of those hard decisions.

Don’t let the high cost of youth sports bury your financial independence dreams.

Let’s break this down.

Kids’ Sports Can Cost Big Money

When I think of youth sports, I think about kids forming teams, parents socializing, and the smell of hotdogs from the concession stand.

However, though it can be that way sometimes, most often it also involves parents deciding how these sports are going to affect their budget.

In the United States, parents spend $671 on average per year to cover the costs of uniforms and the hefty fees charged for registration, lessons, and coaching, and at least 1 in 5 ends up spending over $1,000 per child, every year. The result, according to TurboTax’s most recent infographic, is that youth sports are no longer an excellent opportunity for social involvement determined by passion and skill, but by the family’s financial resources, sustaining a $5 billion-a-year industry.


There are many costs to consider.

For example:
Practice Fees
Skill and Drill Training Fees
Tournament Fees
Extra expenses for specialty positions
Hotel expenses while traveling
Gas costs
Food costs while you’re on the road
Uniform and equipment costs

“I think what’s happened in the last 10 years is that everything’s become professionalized. In doing that, it’s raised the cost of participation.” -David Jervis, senior director of youth programs for the Red Bulls, a New Jersey-based professional soccer team – owned by the energy drink Red Bull – that operates youth and community programs and targets high potential talent.

The High Cost of Youth Sports and Your Budget

When my reader asked me how I would classify kids’ sports if I were her, this is what I said, “That’s a difficult decision. Especially if your kids have already invested a couple of years in this. But, at my house, I would cut it. At least for a year so I could get my finances under control and pay off debt.”

It’s true. That’s what would happen at my house.  

Becoming debt-free is something that should be very important to all of us. Financial security is something we should work for every day in every financial decision we make.

Then I started asking her a few more questions and learned something very interesting.

Yes, she pays a lot for her kids to play on traveling teams, however, she and her husband also work hard to make sure that cost doesn’t affect their finances.


Keep reading.

How to Offset the High Cost of Youth Sports

We already know that it’s not cheap for your kids to get involved playing sports, especially with traveling teams. Many parents are working toward financial goals (building their debt-free dream home, paying off their mortgage, saving for the future so they can live their dreams, retiring early, etc.) and they won’t let these high costs get in their way.

So, what do they do?

My reader told me that she and her husband work various concessions at the local concert arena. When the night is over, the parents who worked the concessions take home a cut of the profits.

They use these profits to pay for everything their kids need to play sports and they don’t have to dig into their own pockets.

This blew me away.

They see the value in their kids getting to participate in sports they love and they are willing to make it work without delaying their own financial goals.

These parents work many nights a month, selling concessions for various concerts, so their kids can keep playing.

This is highly commendable.

Other things to consider when saving on youth sports

Buy used equipment. 

For example, buy gently used cleats from a friend’s child who outgrew them. You never know who might have what you need and you can get it at a discount!

Sell your used equipment.

That’s right. Keep spreading the love right on down the line.

So, you had to buy a brand new helmet because you couldn’t find a good used one. What do you do when you realize that your child only used it for a year and now they need a different one? Sell it to another sports parent so you can get some of your money back.

Narrow your focus.

Does your child really want to play 4 different sports?

Do you want to pay for that many sports?

Do you want to spend that much of your family time sitting in gyms or sweating in the bleachers?

Is it a valuable and wise use of your time and money?

Better yet, is there a chance all of this time and money is going to mean that your child is going to play professional sports in the future or get a college scholarship?

Nearly eight million students currently participate in high school athletics in the United States.  More than 480,000 compete as NCAA athletes, and just a select few within each sport move on to compete at the professional or Olympic level.


For example, according to NCAA research, only 2.2% of boys playing high school baseball will move on to NCAA Div I. Only 1.8% of girls who play softball in high school will move on to NCAA Div I.

Those are pretty low percentages.

You can check out the full chart here.

You have to determine your purpose.

Why are your kids playing sports?

If it’s just for the socialization aspect, is there a less expensive alternative? Often, you can find church leagues to be part of or local recreational leagues that don’t travel.

If your child is a dynamo who is sure to play professionally or get a full-ride scholarship to college, maybe spending your time in the bleachers is worth it to you.

Just don’t lose focus on your finances and the financial security of your family. Keep in mind that there are things you should be saving for along the way: retirement, paying off your mortgage, your child’s college tuition (if they choose to attend), etc.

Here’s the bottom line…

If you decide that your kids must participate in sports, find creative ways to offset the cost.

Don’t let the high cost of youth sports derail your financial independence goals.

Here are the examples we discussed in this article:

  • Have fundraisers or work special events where you get a cut of the profit
  • Buy lightly used equipment
  • Sell your used equipment
  • Narrow your focus: pick only the sport(s) that are most important

Always remember that being debt-free/mortgage-free, saving for the future, and retiring early is about swimming upstream. You have to live differently than those around you. You have to make better financial decisions than everyone else.

Having your child step away from that costly traveling team and spend time playing sports with a less expensive recreational team might be a choice you need to consider.

Comments on The High Cost of Youth Sports?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave me a comment with other ways you offset the cost of your kids’ sports.

Big House in the Woods is all about how we have been debt-free since we were 25. I’m here to help you on your journey as well, so you can live your dreams in your new debt-free lifestyle.

You can start here.

All the best,