By Kali Geldis
An allowance, clothes, food, toys, games, electronics, movies; you buy your kids lots of things. But one of the biggest expenses can be equipment and apparel for the after-school sports they're dying to join one day and then are totally over the next.
The kids' sports industry is estimated to be worth around $5 billion annually, according to a recent Reuters report. That means there are a lot of moms and dads out there dropping major cash (or in many cases, charging their credit cards) on all of the necessities for their kids' athletic adventures without the promise that their children will stick with the sport.
Ian Somerville, the owner of Play It Again Sports in Novi, Michigan, says the price of equipping your child in new gear for their sport of choice isn't getting any cheaper, thanks to rising fuel and manufacturing costs.
"Last spring for example, the cost of cotton and wool doubled from the year before," Somerville says. "This caused prices to increase this spring on everything from baseballs to umpire pants, anything with cotton or wool in their assembly."
We asked Somerville to give us the scoop on the sports that would take the biggest chunk out of your savings and some tips for how to get around the costs.
Somerville says the most expensive sports include hockey, lacrosse and snow sports like skiing and snowboarding. Here are the general prices you'll be looking at for brand new equipment for these sports, Somerville says.
- Helmet = $50-$80
- Pads from neck to shins = $150-$200
- Skates = $60-$100
- Stick = $20-$100
- Miscellaneous items (hockey bag, stick tape, blade guards, etc.) = $50
- Total = $330-$530
- Helmet = $100-$140
- Pads from shoulder to waist = $90-$150
- Cleats = $25-$50
- Stick = $30-$50
- Miscellaneous items (bag & mouth guard) = $50
- Total = $295-$440
- Skis = $200
- Boots = $100
- Poles = $25
- Helmet = $50
- Goggles = $30
- Ski pants = $40
- Ski jacket = $60
- Ski gloves = $30
- Total = $535
If these sports are cost-prohibitive, then look into sports like disc golf, tennis, soccer, basketball and volleyball. The start-up costs for these sports range from $16 (for disc golf, which requires only two discs to start playing) to $110 (for basketball, which requires new sneakers and a ball). Somerville says that disc golf is really growing in popularity in his area.
"New disc golf courses are opening nationwide, and participation levels are way up," he says.
If your child really has his or her heart set on playing one of the pricier sports, there are some ways to shave money off the total cost.
1. Buy used.
The easiest way to save on your equipment cost is to opt for used products instead of new. Somerville's store offers both new and used sports equipment and he says that going used can mean savings as big as 50%.
"Sometimes pre-owned items have an added benefit: for example, new hockey skates need to be worn 8 or 10 times (painfully) before they are really broken in properly," Somerville says. "When you buy used skates, somebody else did all the hard work of breaking them in, and you know if they fit or don't fit immediately when you first try them on."
The other perk of buying used is that it's a green way to help other parents like you.
"Families are bringing more of their pre-owned equipment to stores like Play It Again Sports, so more pre-owned equipment is available to other families just getting into the sport," Somerville says.
2. Use "cross-over" equipment.
Just because your kid decides to play T-ball instead of soccer doesn't mean you need to go out and buy a different type of cleats for the new sport. The same goes for lacrosse and hockey, Somerville explains.
"The helmet, gloves and pads that are used for lacrosse are definitely different than hockey equipment, but they are similar," he says. "Many of the summer lacrosse camps will allow first-time players to use hockey equipment at first, to help limit their investment before they know if they really like the sport. Then later, if the child wants to actually play in a league, they will require actual lacrosse equipment."
3. Shop in the off-season.
Timing is everything, especially when it comes to shopping for seasonal sports. Somerville says buying equipment for next year when the season ends (for example, going shopping in August for swimsuits, caps, goggles, etc.) can be a great way to save, you just have to be cautious of two things: selection and size.
"Equipment needs to fit properly for it to be safe and usable. It can be hard to predict how fast your child's feet or hands or head will grow in the next year. If you buy equipment early and it turns out to be too small, then you wasted your money. If you buy equipment early and it turns out to be too big, you are sacrificing your child's safety and their ability to enjoy playing the sport," Somerville says. "The other risk of buying at the end of the season is that stores usually run out of the most common sizes before the end of the season. So when you buy during clearance time, you might not find the sizes or styles that you really want and need."
As long as you recognize the catches to the "buying early" plan, you can be in for some big savings.
This article originally appeared on Credit.com. Kali Geldis is Credit.com's Deputy Managing Editor.