1. Be an early bird: Many leagues offer a discount for committing in advance.
2. Join the team: Agree to be a ref or assistant coach and you not only skip the fee, you may get paid.
3. Trade talents: Do you have a tennis player or guitarist in your area? Ask her to give your child lessons in exchange for baby-sitting or some meals—you’ll both save.
4. Hit resale shops like Play It Again Sports for sporting goods, and consignment shops for leotards and tights.
5. Post a request for gear from other students on dance and karate studio bulletin boards.
6. Rent equipment: Just starting out? Don’t buy yet.
7. Carpool: Make friends with parents to split up driving duties.
8. Pare down: Ask your kids to pick their favorite activity and cut one or more of the rest. Unstructured time to play and be with you is important, too.
9. Do a cost analysis: Don’t commit to an activity before you research what it requires in terms of time and money. Sometimes the “best” swimming class that’s a half hour away is not what’s best for your family. Or you might have to weigh a $200 karate class against a $75 soccer league. Group classes at the Y, community centers, schools and churches tend to be cheaper than independent leagues and gyms.
10. Do it yourself: Forgo the pricey sports league and organize your own with fellow parents and children. Get everyone to chip in bases and balls, and agree to meet at a local park for weekend games.
TIP: For safety and sanitary reasons, don’t buy used bike helmets, sneakers and swimsuits.