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Wallet Watchers: Helping You Save Money

Keeping down cost of kids' extracurricular activities

Between school supplies, electronics and new clothes and shoes, families with school-aged children will likely spend an average of $634 this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Even though that number is lower than last year, it doesn't give the total picture of how much money families will shell out during the first few weeks of school. We're talking about extracurricular activities. Sport leagues, music lessons and clubs can also be costly. Here are a few tips to help you afford all the after-school fun.

Start small

Have your child pick one activity per season, especially if it's the first time he or she child is participating in extracurricular activities.

Sports physicals

The checklist is endless for those participating in sports activities and it includes sports physicals. Physicals can be done by a family physician but if your insurance doesn't cover the cost, look for drug-store clinic specials, which usually pop up in late July and August.

Sports equipment

If your kid's schools do not offer materials for free, or at all, try to gather what is needed from other family members. If you're going to have to buy, Craigslist, eBay and other online sites can be good alternatives. Make sure the used items are safe for use. Secondhand stores can also help save money. Monitor ads for sporting goods stores.

Musical instruments

Music can be an expensive hobby. Try renting or buying used instruments and seek the advice of music teachers to analyze any maintenance requirements. Buying new could leave you with an unused instrument if your children decide music is not for them.

Carpooling To save at the pump, organize carpools with other parents. Use grocery-store loyalty cards that reward you at the pump.

Household budget

If it's a struggle to afford extra-curricular activities, work it into the household budget. Shorten the family vacation by a day or eat in for a month.

Involve your kids in budgeting

Encourage your kids to save part of their allowance or other money to put toward a special purchase, bet it the trendiest basketball shoes, horseback riding lessons or private swim coaching. Involving kids in financial planning is a good way to and learn the value of money and savings.

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