If you have kids, nothing heralds the arrival of fall like a jam-packed after-school schedule full of soccer meets, band recitals and dance competitions.
That's right -- the new school year is in full swing, and with it comes another season of hustling your kids from one extracurricular to another.
But one thing is distracting you from cheering on little Tom and Susie from the stands: the cost of all those uniforms, fees and equipment!
A recent survey from American Express found that parents expect to pay about $455 per child this year on extra-curricular activity fees alone -- up 20 percent from an average of $380 in 2014.
But before you pull your kids from practice with the hope of saving a few Benjamins, consider these tips to help cut down on some of the biggest budget-busting after-school expenses.
How to Save on Sports Equipment
1. Organize a League Swap. Band together with families in your area to exchange sports gear left over from previous seasons. Your neighbor may just have that hockey stick your son needs. A site like MeetUp can help make organizing the event easier.
2. Snag Bargains on Gently Used Gear. National chains like Play it Again Sports, or dedicated sites like SwapMeSports, sell previously owned sports equipment at a discount. And don't forget to check if your sports shop has a loyalty card--like the Scorecard Rewards program at Dick's Sporting Goods--which can help you save on future purchases.
How to Save on Musical Instruments
3. Consider the Rental Route. The cost of instruments can add up, especially if changing interests leave that pricey drum kit untouched after just a few lessons. To cut down on costs -- and clutter around the house -- look into renting through sites like Music Arts and Rent My Instrument. In some cases, they'll even deliver that tuba directly to the school.
4. Buy Used Equipment. Scope out musical marketplaces like Reverb, which has a curated Beginner/Student section, where you can buy and sell used gear at a fraction of what it would cost to purchase new.
How to Save on Uniforms
5. Get in on Group Buys. Whether you have a Little Leaguer or a cheer captain, purchasing uniforms with other parents as a group -- or from retailers that offer package deals -- can be cheaper than buying à la carte. And if you check the website of the national or regional organization associated with the activity, you may even be able to collectively buy uniforms directly from them at a discount.
6. Factor in Wear and Tear. While it can be tempting to buy a cheaper uniform option -- it's just a swimsuit, right? -- be mindful of your cost per wear. Although a Lycra swimsuit might ding your budget more than a cheaper one, it could be worth the splurge if it holds up through several seasons of swim meets.
How to Save on Art Supplies
7. Scavenge Student Discounts. Many art supply stores offer reductions when you show a student I.D., or if you sign up for a preferred customer program. So be sure to ask what's available at your favorite shops.
8. Look for Slightly Used Supplies. Adult art classes tend to attract people who are convinced they'll be the next Picasso -- and who quickly lose interest when it turns out they aren't. So reach out to local teachers and continuing ed programs to see if they have surplus items that can be bought at a discount or recycled for a young student.
How to Save on Activity Registration Fees
9. Sign Up Early. Whether it's membership dues or "pay-to-play costs that schools sometimes charge to be involved in an activity, some organizations offer discounts if you enroll during early registration or pay in full ahead of the new season. Jumping onboard during this window can also get you in on group discounts for equipment, uniforms and gear.
10. Hedge Your Bets. On the flip side, if you're not sure your kid is going to stick with an activity, see if organizers will let you pay fees in installments, with a shorter-term commitment. This way, you don't blow all your cash on an extracurricular that doesn't work out.
11. Volunteer to Be a Coach or Organizer. If you have the bandwidth to get more involved, see if you can get a discounted team membership for your child if you become a coach or leader within the organization. It's not only good for your wallet, but it'll let you spend more time with your kid too.
This post originally appeared on LearnVest .
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