Youth sports bring many benefits to your child, but costs for kids' sports equipment can be an uncomfortable strain on your household budget, especially when paired with league fees and other expenses. Try these tips to help save money on kids' sports equipment.
Borrow kids' sports equipment.
Especially if your child is just starting out in a sport, look into borrowing his gear. Some leagues have a supply of loaner equipment for beginners, or you can ask friends, relatives, and neighbors with older kids if they have anything to share. (Thanks to a lending program, my son played two years of hockey without us having to buy him any equipment, not even skates.)
Buy used sports gear.
Once you feel more certain that your child will play for a full season or beyond (or if you can't find any gear to borrow), it's time to start purchasing kids' sports equipment. But there's no reason most of it has to be brand new. Check resellers, online classifieds, even the bulletin board at your sports venue.
Personal items, such as mouthguards, are an exception, as are shoes that have molded to a user's feet (lightly used shoes should still be fine). Helmets are a gray area. If they fit well, meet the safety standards suggested by a sport's governing body, and do not have any cracks or weak areas, they will still provide protection. But for the best defense against concussions, buy a new helmet (and replace it if it sustains a fall or blow).
Buy good quality gear.Little kids grow quickly and change their minds often. Once your child gets more serious about a sport, pay attention to the quality of the sports equipment you purchase. You get what you pay for and you want the gear to work well, provide protection and not wear out too quickly--it should last at least through one season or shoe size!
Sell used kids' sports equipment.Just as you may benefit from buying used gear, you can also benefit from selling it and recouping some of your costs. Put the word out among the parents from your child's league or team, post on online classifieds, check into resellers or consignment stores, or set up your own sale (see below).
Shop end-of-season sales.
It's tricky to estimate sizes, but if you can make a good guess (or have more than one child who needs equipment), you can save money by buying sports equipment at the end of the season--new or used. Some leagues or clubs even sponsor their own sales or swaps. If yours doesn't, how about organizing one
? All you need is a time, a place, and some volunteers to help.
Look for deals on maintenance and parts.
If you're investing in sports gear that needs to be maintained (say, ice skates that must be sharpened
regularly), see if a local pro shop or sporting-goods dealer offers a frequent-customer or loyalty program.
Buy kids' sports equipment in bulk.If your child's sport requires equipment that can be purchased in bulk (tennis balls, tape for hockey sticks, swim goggles), get together with other parents to stock up and share.
Make a wish list.
At holiday time or your child's birthday, sports equipment makes for wonderful presents. When grandparents
, aunts, uncles, godparents, or other gift givers ask for ideas, be ready with a sports gear wish list. Include basics such as gloves and balls or extras like workout clothes, duffel bags, team t-shirts, and so on.