How to Reduce the Cost of Your Kids’ Extracurricular Activities

Now that school is back in, you’re probably trying to adjust to the new schedule — and the costs associated with attending school. Among the costs of attending school are those related to extracurricular activities.

If your children are involved in activities like music, sports, drama, science olympiad, or other extracurriculars, you know that things can get expensive. I participated in a number of extracurricular activities growing up, and now that my son is starting middle school, and I see the costs, I begin to understand why my parents sometimes limited me.

As you try to navigate the budget associated with extracurricular activities, here are a few things you can do to reduce the costs:

Say No

First of all, you can limit the cost by saying no to some activities. The reality is that you probably can’t afford to have your child do everything. You have to prioritize your life and your budget, and now is the time to teach your child the same lesson. Figure out how many extracurricular activities are reasonable for your schedule and budget, and then tell your child to limit what he or she does. It will bring down costs dramatically.

Rent or Buy Used

Another strategy, when it comes to equipment, is to rent it or buy it used. My parents bought a gently used clarinet for my use through junior high and high school. They also rented the tenor saxophone I played in the jazz band.

There are also programs that allow you to rent sports equipment, or buy it used, so that you don’t have to pay full price. Look around to find quality used equipment, or find out if you can rent it. It costs much less than buying.

Also consider swapping, or using hand-me-downs. You might be able to exchange your old equipment for someone else’s, or you might have a friend or relative whose child has already participated in the activity. Ask around before you pay money for equipment.

Discounts and Sales

Don’t forget to look for discounts and sales. Coupon codes and promo codes are also possibilities. You can usually find what you need at a lower price if you look online. Consider asking a local store to price-match what you find online.

Consider Lower-Cost Alternatives

It’s also possible to consider lower-cost alternatives to some activities. Be realistic about the possibilities. Go through the school or through a community organization, instead of paying top dollar through a private organization. You can also look into programs designed to help those short on cash. If you have budgetary constraints, ask around to see if there are programs through a local charity or foundation that can help you pay.

Look Online for Lessons

In some cases, you might be able to look online for less expensive lessons. There are do-it-yourself lessons that can help your child learn to play instruments, or learn the foundation principles of dance or acting. While your child will eventually have to move on from these lessons, the truth is that it can be a good start — and it can help you gauge how serious your child is about pursuing an activity before you spend even more money.

Tips to Preserve Produce for Winter

Tips to Preserve Produce for WinterOne of the things I liked about having produce in my backyard was the ability to preserve some of it for the future. I learned the value of food preservation while growing up. My parents had a huge garden, and we froze and bottled vegetables every harvest to preserve food for winter.

If you want to preserve produce for winter, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some tips for making sure that you can enjoy your garden year-round:

Get the Right Equipment

While you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, the truth is that a small, upfront investment in the right equipment now can save you a great deal of money over the long haul.

If you want to bottle your produce, the easiest method is to use a hot bath. All you need is pot large enough to hold five jars. However, you want to make sure that you purchase high-quality jars, and that you get new lids that will seal. You can re-use jars and rings, but you should buy new lids (with fresh seals) each time.

A simple cake rack at the bottom of the pot works, as does a pair of long tongs. However, if you plan to make this a regular thing, it makes sense to get a canning basket, which simplifies the process of submerging your jars (and getting them back out).

It can also make sense to spend a $150 to $200 to get a cool contraption (and attachments/accessories) from Victorio meant to help you make applesauce and salsa. Much easier and faster than doing it all by hand.

When freezing items, make sure you have sturdy freezer bags that seal properly. There are sealers that heat-seal bags, but it’s also possible, in some cases, to get heavy-duty Ziplock bags to take care of the job.

Finally, if you plan to dry fruit, get a good dehydrator. The right equipment now can make a big difference, and you will quickly recoup most of the expense.

Have a Storage Plan for when you Preserve Produce for Winter

Make sure you have adequate storage for your produce. Whether you keep your stores in the freezer or in a fruit room, you need to make sure that you have a place, out of the light, to store your produce.

Plan for the Time Investment

If you want to preserve produce can be a great way to save money, and live more sustainably. However, you also need to be prepared for the time investment. It’s a tradeoff. Even using a some of the great tools available today, it still took me half the day the last time I bottled applesauce, and another half day to make raspberry freezer jam. Realize that you might need several days to get through your produce, depending on how much you plan to preserve.

Consider Borrowing the Equipment

If you know you don’t have a lot to supply to preserve produce for winter, or you aren’t sure that this is something you want to do, consider borrowing the equipment if you can. Borrow the equipment from a friend or relative (make sure you share the results as a thank-you) so that you can get a feel for the process before you spend on your own equipment.

You can also work out an arrangement, depending on what you are likely to do more of, for sharing your equipment. If you know that you will use a dehydrator, but you aren’t sure about the hot bath, get the dehydrator and let your neighbor use it in return for letting you use his/her bottling equipment.

What are your tips to preserve produce for winter?

photo by: