The cost of little kids’ activity classes can quickly add up. Just one semester of music class can run more than $200. Add in swimming, gymnastics, Gymboree, dance, sports and art classes and you could be renting a small apartment with what you’re spending monthly on enriching your child.
But despite their high cost, classes can provide great benefits to both you and your child, including socialization, intellectual stimulation and ideas for playtime back at home. The good news is that there are ways to get quality classes for less. Here’s a roundup of the seven best tricks I’ve come across for cutting the costs of expensive little kids’ classes.
- Try out classes for free. Generally, before signing up for a whole session, you’re able to try out a class for free. One idea, especially if you don’t know which classes you want to commit to, is to sign up for a host of these trial classes or open houses over the course of a few months. Not only will you be figuring out which activities seem to interest your child the most, but you’ll also have created your own free class semester of sorts. Plus, at the trial classes, you may learn about other available discounts.
- Do just one or two classes at a time. In other words, save money by not overscheduling your kids. Kelly Kinkaid over at The Centsible Life blog recommends this strategy, among 34 others, noting that limiting her kids to one sport and one arts program at a time “has really made a difference” in her budget. And as the MoneyNing blog points out, it can be stressful for small children to have too many activities.
- Give the class as a gift. I love this idea that Anna Newell Jones of the And Then We Saved blog shared on Babble. The basic gist: Ask family to buy the classes as a birthday or holiday gift, or buy your child the activity yourself as a present.
- Check out local moms groups and daily deal sites for discounts. Moms groups (like the Golden Gate Mothers Group where I live) often offer members discounted rates for various classes. And as the Bargaineering blog points out, daily deal sites (think Groupon and LivingSocial) also can be a great source for discounts for kids’ activities.
- Register early. Often, as may be obvious to some, you can get an early bird discount if you register for a class semester early. For instance, at the local Little Folkies music class studio by our house, I received a $25 discount for registering early. Similarly, I received $10 off a Music Together series of classes when I registered early.
- Consider drop-in classes. With drop-in classes, you just pay to go when your schedule permits rather than paying for, and committing to, an entire session. As Red Tricycle notes, “drop-ins often don’t require registration and never make you commit long term.” This option tends to be cheaper than signing up for a series of classes if you find yourself missing many of your regularly scheduled classes.
- Opt for free (or branded “affordable”) classes. As Laura Rowley, a personal finance columnist for Yahoo!Finance, writes on Disney Family, simply “don’t pay to play.” For example, I often bring my daughter to the local library for a free hour-long storytime and playtime. And most libraries offer similar free storytimes filled with book reading and singing, and some museums offer free kids’ classes as well. Finally, I also love the idea of NYC Brainy Activities, which I came across while researching this post and which seems like a great business opportunity for entreprenuers (or parents) in other cities. These group-based toddler classes aim to be affordable and the classes offered are based on parent polls.
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Jennifer Saranow Schultz, a writer based in San Francisco, shares daily hints to make parenting easier, cheaper and maybe more humorous at HintMama.com. Before entering the corporate world two years ago, she was a consumer finance writer for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.