My five-year-old nephew is pretty excited these days, but who could blame him? On Saturday, he’ll be suiting up for his very first hockey game: a momentous occasion for his parents, and sports-loving aunt. And while I don’t quite know what to expect from his tyke league – I’m imagining a pack of boys shuffling aimlessly across the ice for 45 minutes – I do know this: Hockey is one pricey pastime.
By the time league fees are paid and the catalogue of equipment is purchased, parents will be on the hook for hundreds and hundreds of dollars. In fact, according to a study by Harris/Decima, 49 per cent of Canadian families plan to shell out approximately $1,000 per child to play hockey this year.
Sad but true. The cost of partaking in the good old hockey game is incredibly steep, presenting a real barrier to many families.
“It can price a lot of parents out of the market,” says personal finance expert and author Kelley Keehn. “But everything that’s expensive can be managed with the right tools.”
Ms. Keehn suggests three easy ways parents can minimize the blow to their wallets this hockey season:
1. Swap it.
Websites like Kijiji, Craigslist, Facebook and Twitter make it easy to buy used equipment or sell what your child has outgrown. “When you have that used equipment, and your kids aren’t using it, why not get it back into the hands of people who need it?” asks Ms. Keehn. She suggests getting a bit creative and even starting a Facebook group devoted to swapping old equipment. There are also used sports equipment retailers, such as Play It Again Sports, that target this very audience. League message boards may also help you find those much-needed junior elbow or shoulder pads.
2. Claim it.
If you have a child under 16 years old, or 18 years old for a child with a disability, you can take advantage of the federal child tax benefit. That allows you to claim on your income tax return up to $500 per child for the registration and membership costs of physical activity.
3. Charge it.
Rather than paying for everything with cash or debit, Ms. Keehn suggests using a cash-back credit card instead. An array of credit cards including the TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express or the Scotia Momentum VISA card offer 1 per cent cash back on all eligible purchases. Provided you can make your monthly payments, this option makes financial sense.