9 Ways to Save Money on Youth Sports

Is Little League draining your wallet? Here's how to save money on your kid's sports.Is Little League draining your wallet? Here's how to save money on your kid's sports.I had a horse fetish when I was a girl. A new stable set with ponies was inevitably on my Christmas list each year. I somehow convinced my single mom to pay for special riding boots and one-on-one horse riding lessons. After my first lesson, my mom asked the trainer how many additional individual sessions I would need before I could sign up for (lower-fee) group lessons.

It was not, as you can imagine, the cheapest of sports. Luckily -- for my mother's pocketbook -- I decided against riding lessons after seeing the work required to clean the horse after each lesson. I had no desire to scrub poop and sweat off "my horse," which I feared (with its enormous quivering belly) would easily squash me as it reached for the oats. A pony ride at a nearby park would suffice. My mother wised up.

When I moved onto softball, I used my older sister's glove the first season. For cross country, my current running shoes were perfectly fine. When I asked my mom to buy me a pair of track shoes well before my first practice, she suggested I run in my sneakers the first week. When my attempts to keep up with the slowest girl on the team proved laughable, I was glad my mom hadn't caved and bought me the expensive track shoes. No way did I want to run that far, that fast again.

With back-to-school season upon us, many of you are no doubt gearing up for fall sports. Here are nine ways to cut down on the costs of playing sports.

1. Not all sports are created equal. If your kids do not have a strong preference, chose cheap sports such as yoga, Ultimate Frisbee and running. Disney's Family website has five more cheap team sports for kids ages 5-10. Basic equipment is suitable for many, many sports at the beginning level.
2. To reduce money spent on travel, food and coach's gifts, read Five Cent Nickel's excellent post on surviving his eldest son's love of hockey, baseball, soccer, football, wrestling and basketball.
3. Use hand-me-down equipment from older siblings. If you've exposed your younger ones to practices and games, they will be proud to finally be old enough to play the same sport as their older sibling. Plus, you have a built-in teacher.
4. Shop at thrift stores for gently used equipment. While buying used shoes is iffy, a worn-in leather glove is more valuable than a stiff, new one.
5. Hit up REI gear sales. You've got to be a member to get in on these exclusive biannual sales, where returns and slightly damaged items are sold for 30% to 50% off. The $20 lifetime membership fee is worth it.
6. Avoid costly trips to the doctor and specialists with CNN Money's five tips to avoid sports injuries.
7. Poll friends and family for sports equipment catching dust. Perhaps you can trade them for that little-used saxophone or outgrown big wheels. It's amazing the collection of stuff that we have sitting around waiting for an opportunity to do something.
8. Instead of gifts for Christmas and birthdays, why not ask relatives to chip in toward sports gear? They'll be pleased to know their money is getting put to good use.
9. I've seen cleats, helmets, robes and other sports equipment up for grabs at consignment sales. The trick is to get in early (by volunteering or consigning items yourself) before the best and lowest-priced items are sold. You can find a consignment store near you at Consignment Mommies.

- By Julia Scott

Each week, Julia Scott offers a collection of savings tips -- including some of the week's best links from around the Internet -- to InvestingAnswers readers. Julia is the founder of the savings and coupon blog BargainBabe.com.

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