Extracurricular activities used to be the domain of the child prodigies. Little ones who were training for the Olympics or the children’s orchestra were the only kids you saw going to gymnastics or violin lessons after school. For the rest of the kid population, doing homework and riding bikes was more than enough activity.

Times have certainly changed. Younger and younger children are going from school to music lessons to sports practice to scouts. Not only do all the extra activities take up a lot of time in the car, but they can also be difficult for parents to afford. In addition to the clear registration, activity, and equipment fees, there can also be unexpected fees for things like team photos or group snacks.

Here are four ways to reduce the costs of your children’s extracurricular activities without giving up the fun:

1. Know What You’re Getting Into
One of the reasons that parents find themselves surprised by the total cost of an activity is that the numbers are rarely broken down for them from the beginning. You’ll certainly be able to determine registration fees and such ahead of time, but the incidental fees have a way of creeping up on you.

To combat this problem, talk to the coach or other parents before signing Junior up. Even if no one has ever recorded every cost associated with the activity, you should be able to get a ballpark estimate of what the activity will cost over the course of the season or year. If you budget that amount plus 10% extra to cover potential surprises, you won’t be…

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