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Keep the kids fit and your bank account too

Children on a soccer field

When Marci O'Connor recently decided to drop her $40-a-month gym membership, it wasn't because she no longer needed the exercise.

The Montreal-based writer and social media manager cut her paid classes and bought a used bike, a sacrifice made in order to keep her two sons in sports.

"We have a fixed income and, honestly, I'd be more likely to drop out of a class than they would be so I'd rather allocate that money to them," Ms. O'Connor said in an e-mail.

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Ms. O'Connor says she spends about $2,900 a year on hockey alone, with all the travel and equipment costs. Then there's $1,500 for skiing, $550 for soccer and another $500 for various camps and equipment.

"We indulge and encourage most sports they have expressed interest in, mainly because they are so enthusiastic and committed to them," she said. "I think it sets them up nicely for a life that just naturally includes physical activities in a way that was not heavily encouraged when I was a kid."

Ms. O'Connor is not the only Canadian parent willing to make financial sacrifices for their children's sports.

According to a recent poll conducted by Harris Decima for Investors Group, Canadian parents spend, on average, $1,658 a year on their children's athletic pursuits. More than a quarter of those parents said it was a financial burden for which they had to sacrifice other spending.

It's easy to go overboard when it comes to children's activities. As parents, we want to keep our kids active and build important skills such as sportsmanship and leadership.

So what's a parent to do? Here are a few ideas:

1. Know what you're spending. Add up the monthly fees, and don't forget to include the equipment you buy, plus any food and travel costs you incur getting to events.

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2. Stick to a budget. Tell your kids there's a certain amount of money you're willing to spend, and get them to prioritize their activities. It'll be a good lesson in financial planning.

3. Know your tax credits. Keep your receipts and use them at tax time to claim the children's fitness amount and children's arts amount.

4. Make it deductible. For a bigger tax benefit, swap your weekly sports lessons for a week-long sports camp, which is a tax-deductible child care expense for working parents.

5. Beg, borrow and swap. Ask friends with older children for their gently used equipment. Try yard sales, online classified ads and consignment stores.

6. Do it yourself. If you can skate and ride a bike, chances are you're perfectly qualified to pass on those skills to your kids. You'll get some exercise and family time too.

Do you have other tips for saving on children's sports? Send them to or share them in the comments.

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