Where most children spend their time playing with friends, learning new games and dabbling in recreational sports, future Olympians give up everything to become the fiercest athletes in the world. Because of the level of skill they need to acquire, training entails quite a bit of sacrifice from everyone in the family. There are costs — financial and otherwise — involved in training for the Olympics.
Those costs don’t start once you’re at the games, but early in life. Recently, future Olympic hopeful Elise Freezer’s parents told CNBC they were spending $20,000 per year on lessons for Elise starting at age 5, and that costs only escalated from there. She’s now 11 years old and her parents are spending $60,000 per year on lessons, registration fees, ice time and travel. To afford the costs of her Olympic dreams, the Freezers give up vacations and don’t dine out. They also commute to a less expensive training facility nearby.
If one of your children is especially talented and forging toward their Olympic dreams one dollar at a time, it’s crucial to follow the Freezer’s example and save where you can. Here are some tips to stretch the family budget further while keeping up with the rising costs of professional lessons and training.
1. Learn to budget
A budget helps anyone get a better handle on their income and how it compares to their expenses. Better yet, it forces you to compare both, then figure out better ways to spend each dollar you earn. While there are plenty of fancy budgeting apps out there, you can also create a budget with pen and paper. Simply put, there’s no excuse not to closely monitor your money.
If you’re eager to start budgeting, the first steps are writing down exactly how much you earn each month and comparing that total to every monthly expense you pay. (Remember, to allocate for savings!)
Tracking your spending for a few months can also answer questions if you wonder where some of your money disappears each month. Either way, use your budget to figure out where you’re overspending so you can allocate more cash to debt repayments and savings, and you’ll be a lot better off.
2. Get used to doing everything the frugal way
If you plan to spend thousands per month on training and lessons, it’s crucial to do everything as frugally as possible. Imagine how much more expensive it might be for the Freezers to afford ice skating lessons if they dined out every night or splurged on fast food on the way home from lessons.
To save money, look at everything you do and ask if there’s a cheaper way. Instead of stopping through the driveway on the way to the gym, could you pack dinners in a cooler instead? Like the Freezers, could you choose a cheaper training facility?
Should you try making large crock pot meals on the weekends so you have fresh meals all week? Should you shop for new performance outfits second-hand instead of buying new each year? Ask similar questions based on your lifestyle and spending habits to find the easiest ways to save.
3. Get used to living off a limited income
Olympic hopefuls need their parents to pay for the costs of training while they’re young, but parents often need to make huge sacrifices in terms of time as well. Once an Olympic athlete gets far enough along in their journey, parents have to travel to competitions and provide hands-on support year-round. That means, at some point, you might be living off one income.
That’s why it’s important to build up a nest egg of savings early on in your child’s budding sports career to rely on later. (You can find some very simple ways to save more here.) Besides, by staying on a tight budget, you’ll become accustomed to living on less, which will make it much easier to transition if one parent needs to quit their job.
4. Ask for help
Last but not least, there’s nothing wrong with asking your community for help – especially as your child inches closer to their Olympic dreams. Many people are happy to donate to fundraisers for baseball teams or school sports, so why not your kid?
Go Fund Me, a crowdsourcing website, has made fundraising for Olympic hopefuls and hundreds of other causes easier than ever. According to a recent story in Utah’s Park Record, Olympic skier Tess Johnson’s family found themselves in that position when a friend opened a Go Fund Me account on their behalf. The goal of the Go Fund Me page was raising $15,000 to help send her family to South Korea to watch the games. In the first day, more than 30 people donated a total of $8,000, notes the Park Record. The page reached its goal of raising $15,000 shortly after, and has since stopped taking donations.
The bottom line: People may want to help, and they may not. But, you’ll never know unless you ask.
Kids are expensive, even when they’re not interested in training for the Olympics. Here are some useful savings hacks for parents.