Before you had kids, spring weekends were magical. You slept in late, enjoyed afternoon brunch, and strolled through the local farmers’ market humming I’m Walking on Sunshine.
That’s how you remember it anyway.
Now, spring weekends are a hurricane of activity. They start with 8 a.m. soccer games, peak at sub-standard fast food joints, and end with some angry parent shouting at a Little League referee.
Youth sports are great in theory. But in practice, they can take over your life.
Here are seven signs your kids’ sports may be overrunning your life—and your wallet.
1. The Sales Guy at Sports World Knows You by Name
From ballet shoes to hockey helmets, every sport has its stuff. And the more sports your kids are in, the more stuff you’re constantly buying—and they’re constantly outgrowing.
For the sake of your budget (and your sanity), pick just one or two sports and then shop used, trade with other parents, or have your kids buy a portion of their own equipment. If you can’t afford the stuff, you can’t afford the sport.
2. You Haven’t Seen Your Spouse All Weekend
In order to squeeze in all those games, you and your spouse must divide and conquer. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet up again at 8 p.m. to sleep through another movie night on the couch together.
Before your kids sign up for that next sport they’re “dying” to play, check out the time commitment. If it’s too much, tell your child so, and explain that family time comes before sports time.
3. Your Diet Consists of Meat, Potatoes and Grease
We’ve all done it. You’re so busy shuttling kids from ballet to hockey to tennis that you forgot about food—again. So you end up blowing the food budget on hamburgers and chicken nuggets instead of a decent meal together.
It sounds simple, but you must train yourself to pack lunches—and have the kids help! This will give you more time together and more money. After the game, steal an hour away for a family picnic in the park.
4. Traveling Nonstop for Travel Teams
Travel teams have become increasingly popular for parents who want their kids to be the best and have the best. But these ultra-competitive teams cost more than uniforms and meals out. They cost gas money, hotel rooms and your entire weekend, not to mention a nearly year-round schedule.
If you’re on a serious budget, travel teams may have to go. There are plenty of great, local teams for your star athlete to shine.
5. Skipping Church or Family Events to Attend Games
Your kids are watching you. If you’re constantly showing them that sports trump church or family functions, they may begin to see themselves (and their sport) as the center of the universe. When skipping the occasional church service or family cookout becomes a habit, it can set the wrong example for your kids. Be a role model with your time as well as your resources.
6. Stealing from Your Necessities
A “Sports” envelope is a great way to budget for this busy season. But don’t let sports sideline your debt snowball or take over your food envelope and clothing cash as well.
Find a way to cut costs if you’re constantly borrowing from other envelopes. Be honest with your kids if you can’t afford an activity. Invite them to the next budget committee meeting so they see the family’s bigger financial goals.
7. You’re More Excited Than They Are
Have you stopped to consider your kids may not even really like some of these sports? Maybe they liked them two seasons ago, but now they’re just playing to please you.
Have a chat with your kids before registration starts and gauge their enthusiasm for the sport, team and coach.
Kids are resilient, so no matter if you have to cut an activity or skimp on sports equipment, they’ll survive. Base hits are great, but so are family bike rides in the park. Those are the priceless moments you’ll want to relive.