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10 Tips: Paying for Little League

Big-league aspirations take big money

By Laura T. Coffey, Times Correspondent
Published August 12, 2007


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Sports equipment. Uniforms. Team fees. Travel costs. Who knew it could be so expensive to let your kid stay in shape and learn about teamwork by playing a team sport? Debt-settlement company CreditAnswers says many families spend at least $2,000 a year on sports-related expenses for their children. These tips can help you save:

1 Buy used equipment. We're not talking about ancient, beat-up hand-me-downs here. We're talking about the stunning amount of barely used gear you can find at resale stores such as Play It Again Sports, in online ads on eBay www.ebay.com and Craigslist (http://tampa. craigslist.org/), in newspaper ads and at yard sales.

2 Know when not to buy used. Be careful about buying used safety equipment, such as helmets and masks. Also avoid shoes, baseball gloves and other gear that almost certainly molded to the last user's body.

3 Sell your used stuff. If your child has outgrown gear, sell it. Time it so you end up with money to help offset the price of new or gently used equipment.

4 Get on the right mailing lists. Get on catalog and e-mail lists for your favorite stores. Rather than being seduced into buying new equipment more often than necessary, study the materials and figure out how to time the sales. Use coupons.

5 Keep your options open. Buy equipment that can serve multiple purposes. A utility baseball glove could let your young athlete make numerous position changes, which is less expensive than buying different gloves.

6 Save on team travel costs. You can find deep discounts on hotel accommodations through sites such as Priceline.com and Hotwire.com. Opt for a hotel that offers a free continental breakfast, or for accommodations with a refrigerator where you can store easy-to-eat items. Eat late lunches or early dinners off of lunch or early-bird menus.

7 Have the kid contribute. Your child can help cover the costs of uniforms (which usually must be bought new), as well as entry fees for meets and tournaments. He or she could be given the responsibility of devoting a certain percentage of allowance money to the cause. You could negotiate a pay rate for special jobs such as mowing the lawn or washing the car.

8 Conduct an honest assessment. If you see genuine motivation, talent and even scholarship potential, it could be worth it to pay the higher fees for the "club level" of play. Otherwise, the lower-cost "recreational level" might be a better bet for your child and your wallet.

9 Know when to say when. Consider limiting the number of sports your child participates in. Seasons can overlap, and if that happens, sports can reign supreme and become overwhelming - financially and in other ways too.

10 Seek out charities. A quick Google (www.google.com) search can help you find charities that exist for specific youth sports. Pitch In For Baseball (www.pitchinforbaseball.org) collects gently used baseball equipment and shares it with teams who otherwise might not be able to afford it. You can donate used gear or approach them for assistance.

Laura T. Coffey (laura@tentips.org)

Sources: Active.com; MSN Money (moneycentral.msn.com/home.asp); Money Savvy Generation (www.msgen.com).

[Last modified August 10, 2007, 12:40:15]


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