Financing your kid’s passion in sports or the arts can send your budget spiraling into red ink. But don’t despair. You have many opportunities to lessen the pain.
My daughter dances. She practically lives at her dance studio, spending over 20 hours/week taking classes and participating in rehearsals. The kid eats, breathes, and sleeps dance, and she dreams of a career as a contemporary ballerina.
If she had this kind of passion but no talent, with few prospects for success, or if she had talent without the fire in her belly, I would be less inclined to break my budget for the sake of feeding her dream.
But she’s that rare bird, the kind with a natural gift nurtured and honed through commitment and determination.
So I have to find a way to help her pursue her passion.
The Cost of My Kid’s Passion
I’m looking at thousands a year. Thousands and thousands.
Here’s the breakdown:
Dance classes: Full price for classes at her studio runs about $6,200/year (I get financial aid, though. See below).
Pointe shoes: $110/pair, plus ribbon, elastic, and toe pads, so real cost is around $130/pair. We buy two to three pairs every few months, and WAY more during her summer intensive when she’s focusing exclusively on ballet and it’s humid out (the shoes wear out faster in humidity). This past summer, she brought six pairs with her to the dance intensive she attended, then had two more shipped to her during the program.
Leotards and tights: About $150/year.
Audition fees for summer intensives: At $30-$50 a pop, about $400 total.
Travel for auditions, workshops, and summer intensives: Even nabbing great discounts using credit card points, I spent over $2,000 last year, including airfare, hotels, meals, ground transportation, and dog sitting for our pup when we were away. This coming year I will probably spend even more.
Tuition, room and board for summer intensives: Anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000.
Private lessons and individualized coaching/choreographing from instructors for audition video solos: Anywhere from $300 to thousands (I spent $950 in 2019).
And, drum roll please … the biggest expense of all: She’s decided to finish out high school at a dance training program. With tuition, room, and board, this could cost up to $30,000.
And I was planning to pay down debt?!?
For your kid it might be horses, with stable fees, classes, show fees, specialized clothing and equipment, and possibly the cost of owning, feeding, and boarding a horse.
Or private violin lessons, the purchase of a high quality instrument, tuition at a specialized music school, and travel costs to competitions and performances.
No matter what your child’s talent, supporting it will take moula. A lot of it.
Still, you can find ways to lower the costs.
Nine ideas for financing your kid’s passion in sports or the arts:
1. Ask for a Discount
It never hurts to ask. If your child is really good, the coaches or faculty at music or dance school will want to work with you. Explain your financial situation (paying college tuition for your other child, car just died, unexpected home repair, etc.).
The owner of my daughter’s studio offers us financial aid every year. She also lets me pay a set amount each month, which on an annual basis equals less than the total amount I owe. I plan to just continue paying a little each month even after my child leaves the studio, until I’m paid up.
I’m fortunate that over the many years my kiddo has danced there (since kindergarten, and she’s now 16), we’ve built a strong relationship with the studio owner, who supports my daughter’s dreams and aspirations.
Do you have a skill that could benefit your child’s gymnastics gym or music academy?
Offer to help in exchange for a discount in fees or tuition.
Endless possibilities exist for exchanging services. You could write grants, initiate and manage social media marketing campaigns, employ your graphic design skills, write a weekly or monthly newsletter, help with carpentry or other physical plant needs, offer legal services, even man the front desk and answer the phone.
I know – you’re grateful to the people who have helped and nurtured your child, and you want to contribute your services for free. You can do that, too, while still suggesting an exchange for over-and-above efforts.
3. Have your child ask to work in exchange for reduced tuition or fees. And/or somehow squeeze in a job between school and training.
One summer, my daughter and her friend cleaned and vacuumed the dressing room at the dance studio in exchange for reduced tuition for the summer program. She currently assists in a ballet class for younger kids to help defray the cost of her training.
Every little bit helps, especially when her dance and school/homework schedule prevent her from getting a regular job.
She does work, though. Sort of. A friend of ours owns a couple of rental properties near our home. He pays my daughter to take out the trash the night before garbage pick-up and to put the barrels back the next day. She can fit this in even at 9:00 at night after dance, where she could never work the hours required in retail, waitressing, or another “real” job.
Other ideas where your child can have flexible hours and refuse jobs that interfere with practice or performances include babysitting, shoveling snow, doing yard work, or pet sitting.
Entrepreneurial kids can even start a side hustle to help fund their training, like a middle schooler in Portland who makes $8,000 a year to pay for his summer dance intensives – by selling T-shirts!
4. Help finance your kid’s passion with scholarships
Until I started writing this article, I had no idea that some organizations award scholarships for dance training, not just for college.
A simple Google search led me to the National Young Arts Foundation, that holds an annual merit-based competition for literary, visual, or performing artists from 15 to 18 years of age. They award scholarships of up to $10,000 – to be used in any way the recipient wants!
No doubt, the process is extremely competitive. But your child has nothing to lose by applying.
I found other dance scholarships, as well, that help cover tuition at dance academies and training programs. My daughter will definitely be applying.
Search the Internet for scholarships available that may help in financing your kid’s passion in sports or the arts. The time you spend may end up saving you thousands of dollars.
5. Go Fund Me
Last year, when my daughter got into an advanced summer dance intensive, her studio director helped her start a Go Fund Me campaign and promoted it on the studio’s social media platforms.
I hesitated to approve this. It felt a bit like begging to me, and went against my “I’m-independent-and-will-figure-out-a-way” grain. But the director insisted, letting me know that these types of campaigns have helped other dancers from the studio.
Wow. The generosity of friends, family, and even strangers blew me away. My daughter raised over $2,000, much of it from extended family – but a significant amount from people we don’t know. Some of those people have younger kids who dance at the studio, and others include friends and supporters of the director.
As a result, I feel more inclined to give when acquaintances post a fundraiser on Facebook. A side benefit of my kid’s Go Fund Me campaign is increased generosity!
6. Travel Hack
If your child’s passion requires travel, learn how to use credit cards to fly and/or stay at hotels for free.
Yes, for free.
It’s not that hard. While I’ve spent thousands on dance-related activities, I’ve also saved thousands on travel expenses by opening credit card accounts that offer large sign-up bonuses.
Do this ONLY if you can:
- Pay off your full balance every month so you don’t incur interest;
- Use the credit cards to buy things, like groceries, that you would buy anyway. It isn’t worth it if you over-spend just to get the points.
- Put your bills on auto-pay so you never rack up any late fees.
7. Say No Occasionally
Sometimes my daughter wants to attend a dance workshop or other event in another city, and I have to say “no.” You can, too.
As opportunities arise, we weigh the costs against the potential the event holds for teaching her something or propelling her towards fulfillment of her dreams.
I agreed to take her to NYC for a three-day workshop this fall. She really, really wanted to attend, especially because principal dancers of the ballet company hosting the workshop would act as instructors.
Because we could take the bus to New York for relatively low money, stay one night at a friend’s house in New Jersey, and use credit card points to defray the cost of the hotel for the other two nights, I okayed this one.
If the workshop had taken place somewhere that required us to take a plane and spend three nights in a hotel, I would have said no.
Figure out how to get your child to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities or to trainings and competitions that might further their chances of successfully launching a career. For other events – those that would be nice to attend but won’t really make a difference one way or another – it’s okay to say “no.”
8. Seek out sponsors
Some kids with Instagram accounts gain large followings by documenting their athletic accomplishments. With a sizable following, they can attract corporate sponsors, especially companies selling gear associated with the kid’s sport.
With the right personality and social media approach, successful influencers – even teens – can make a lot of money.
My daughter isn’t interested, and that’s fine with me. But maybe your child could do this well. For a guide to get you started, read How to Find an Athlete Sponsor on Make A Champ.
Without becoming an Internet star, your child could approach local businesses that might be interested in helping community kids reach their dreams. The best place to start would be companies that sell equipment your kid needs – dance supply stores, ski/snowboard suppliers, etc. – especially if you’ve been patronizing them for years and have built up a relationship.
Offer to write an article for the local newspaper to publicize their sponsorship.
9. Get that side hustle going – you’ll need it!
Assuming my daughter gets into some of the dance academies she’s auditioning for, she’ll end up wherever she gets the most financial aid.
Even with aid and help from family, though, the cost of room, board, and tuition will put me in the red, especially since my older daughter still has one more year of college.
As her mother, I feel an almost sacred duty to help her launch the life she dreams of so passionately. She’s talented and devoted to dance, but she’s also kind and thoughtful and funny and in no way entitled. She may not make it in the dance world eventually, and that’s okay, too. But as long as she continues to want it with all her heart, I will do whatever I can to give her a shot.
At the same time, I’m committed to FI and to paying down debt instead of taking more on. I’m only going to be able to afford sending her to a year-round, pre-professional training program if I make more money.
I must make more money!
So I’m working on building my audience for this blog, and will soon start adding some affiliate links. I’m also considering other related (and unrelated) ways to help people and make money at the same time.
Stay tuned …
How Are You Financing Your Kid’s Passion in Sports or the Arts?
So you have a talented kid who’s absolutely devoted to a sport or to dance, music, or another artistic pursuit.
What a blessing! What a burden!
How are you dealing with the cost? If you have other ideas for ways to lessen the load, please share them in the comments.
Let us know what side hustles you’re pursuing, scholarships your child has applied for and/or received, or any other creative work-arounds to the cost of training and equipment.