Kids' Extracurricular Activities Are Burying Parents Under A Mountain Of Debt

The extracurricular activities that used to just be "good old-fashioned fun" are now mandatory pieces to a college resume for kids. And the cost of these activities is pushing parents deep into debt and compromising them financially, according to MarketWatch. 8 in 10 parents in a new survey said that they’re hoping that signing kids up for extracurricular activities could help them bring in extra income someday. 66% of these parents have gone into debt to pay for things like soccer, ballet, dancing, and piano lessons.

CompareCards.com surveyed more than 700 parents with young children who participate in extracurricular activities. The more the parents spent, the more they believed that these activities would literally "pay off" in the long run. 90% of parents who dropped at least $4,000 a year believed their kid would earn money from that activity in the future, compared to 75% of parents who spent less than $1,000 who said the same.

Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards, said:

 “And what the survey showed is, it’s not just sports parents who have these big dreams and big hopes for their sons and daughters; it’s music parents, it’s cheerleading parents, it’s debate team parents.” 

The most popular activities included sports, reported by 30% of parents, music (16%), dance (15%), gymnastics (12%), cheerleading (9%), martial arts (8%), beauty pageants (3%) and debate teams (3%). 46% of parents said they spent more than $1000 annually and 27% said they’re spending more than $2000 quarterly.

This survey supports a University of Michigan poll that found 55% of parents said that school sponsored sports teams and extracurricular activities helped boost their child’s college application. Three times as many low income parents as high income said that the benefits of these activities are not worth the cost, indicating that the survey was skewed towards affluent parents.

62% of parents revealed they’ve actually gone into debt for their children’s activities and 33% of them are still paying off related debt. Almost 1 in 10 parents of those in debt owe more than $5000 and 27% owe more than $3000 in debt.

“They do hope that perhaps those efforts in terms of time and money may be rewarded with maybe a scholarship, or maybe a professional career,” Schulz continued. Families can wind up spending more than $200,000 in total on private school tuition, SAT tutors, living in a certain school district and these extracurricular activities to help groom their kids for getting into a good college.



Athletics alone can sometimes cost $100-$499 a month and sports play a big role because recruited athletes have been shown to receive the largest admissions advantages – as the recent college admission scandal just showed us. Music lessons are expensive at $40-$60 per hour, language lessons cost $30-$45 per hour and art lessons cost $30-$60 per hour.

Vered DeLeeuw says that she and her husband have spent about $20,000 on extracurricular activities for their daughters. They included dance, gymnastics, swimming and Hebrew lessons.

DeLeeuw  said: “We live in an extremely competitive world, and it’s also a world where many parents feel that their kids are their most important investment and their proudest achievement. I will do a lot to increase their chances of success. And extracurricular activities are part of that -- of enriching them, giving them more tools, helping them develop into the best people they can possibly be. Developing skills and talents outside of school is important. And in the case of the Hebrew School, for example, it’s also a way to preserve tradition, language and cultural identity.”



They recognize that spending over $20,000 was "money that did not end up in our nest egg", however.

Gone are the days when kids could just sit around, watch a little TV and then go outside to play with their friends. Veronica Hanson enrolled her daughters, ages 5 and 7, into activities when they were just a few months old.  Their resume since then has included swimming, music classes, Japanese lessons, Girl Scouts, acting, soccer, rock climbing, art, hiking, yoga, cooking, ballet and gymnastics.

Hanson said: “I have two daughters who are part of our world’s future. My husband and I invest everything we can into making sure our kids are global citizens who can contribute to progress. I think it’s important to let them explore a bunch of different things when they’re young.”

“It is a huge investment,” she continued. She says she spends about $7,000 per summer on activities alone. 

Shelly Schneider drops $3,000 a year on her three children for theater group, vocal coaches, Girl Scouts, tee ball, soccer, football, and piano lessons.

She concluded: “Through all of these things, [the kids] are proving themselves and building confidence, building relationships and growing their little brains, and that’s very important. I believe the arts are a very important part of learning and opening up the brain to help you with other subjects. Learning music is proven to help with math and science. And if they learn to love science and math, that can really expand their careers.”

“It’s noble to support your kid in the pursuit of their dreams, but it’s also important for a parent not to do that in a way that can wreck their own dreams of being financially stable and retiring someday,” Schulz concluded.