Got Active Kids? Here Are 8 Simple Ways to Stretch the Family Budget

Mother and kids playing soccer in the garden.
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You’ve weathered the baby-rearing years. Congratulations! Now you can sit back and enjoy having your kids in school.

Oh, but now there are hobbies: band, dance class and sports. Don’t forget field trips.

By the time you’ve paid for that clarinet and lessons, dance shoes and costumes, cleats and knee pads, your family budget is shot.

Raising kids is expensive. But there are things you can do to help the rest of the family budget survive as your little progeny showcases all of their talents.

1. Do Fun Stuff for Less

OK, the kids are in school, and that’s expensive. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit around on the weekends watching the grass grow. Get out there, and do some fun stuff!

Just don’t pay full price for it.

If you haven’t embraced deal sites like Groupon or LivingSocial yet, it’s time to take a look. You can find a lot of sweet deals on local activities, attractions and restaurants with very little effort. It’s a simple way to save money but still get out of the house.

2. Make Sure You’re Not Overpaying for Car Insurance

 family on a road trip in car
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All of the driving you do to get your kids to soccer or the science fair adds up. It also means you’re probably not getting that low-mileage discount from your car insurance company. Are you spending too much on your car insurance? When was the last time you checked?

Just like you compare the prices of flights, shoes and laptops before purchasing, why not compare car insurance?

You’re probably overpaying for car insurance. And how would you know, really?

Have you shopped around lately? Have you compared rates from the 20 largest auto insurers that do business in your area? That sounds kind of difficult and time-consuming, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, a service called Gabi will do it for you, and you don’t even have to fill out any forms. Simply link your insurance account and provide your driver’s license number, and Gabi will go to work.

Once you link your insurance account to Gabi, it will:

  • Scan your existing insurance plan.
  • Analyze what coverage you have.
  • Compare the major insurers’ rates for that same coverage.
  • Help you switch on the spot if it finds you a better rate.

Gabi says it finds an average savings of $720 per year for its customers.

It is a true apples-to-apples comparison at the same coverage levels and deductibles you currently have. Once you sign up, you never have to shop again. Gabi’s software has your policy on file and keeps on monitoring for savings as your life changes.

3. Pay Less to Get There. And There. And There.

Mother getting children (6-10) to soccer practice
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Having kids means you have to run to a lot of activities. From sporting events to band practice and any number of other things, you may feel like you live in your car.

And that car needs gas. No, not the stinky kind. If you have boys, you’re probably all set there. We mean gasoline, and that can get expensive. You need to save at the pump.

Get a discount card from GasBuddy to automatically save 10 cents per gallon on your first purchase (and 5 cents per gallon after that).

The free discount card is tied directly to your checking account. It works at 95% of gas stations throughout the country, so you don’t have to drive around town just to find “your” station. Plus, you don’t have to wait for a rebate — it’s immediate savings.

Simply and securely sign up through GasBuddy. Connect your bank account, enter your address, and GasBuddy will put a card in the mail.

4. Missed a Good Deal? Get Paid Back

If you’re like most parents, you don’t have a lot of time to run to the mall. You probably do a lot of your shopping online. That’s cool. Now you don’t have to worry about the “what ifs” of sales that start tomorrow or next week. Get the tool that hunts for those deals for you.

One of our secret weapons is called Capital One Shopping Price Protection — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop.

Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Capital One Shopping Price Protection will help you get compensated.

Disclosure: Capital One Shopping Price Protection compensates us when you sign up using the links we provide.

5. Get Paid to Dress the Kids for Success

Mother and daughter picking out clothes in bedroom
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When your kids are in school, they grow — and fast. That super-cute outfit you bought last fall? Useless now. You need new clothes for them. Again.

One of our favorite ways to save is with Ebates, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something online. For example, Ebates gives you up to 10% cash back on online purchases at Walmart.

Plus, you’ll get a free $10 gift card to Walmart for giving the site a try.

To earn your gift card:

  1. Sign up for Ebates with your email or Facebook account.
  2. Use the Ebates portal the next time you need to buy something. It’s connected to thousands of stores, including Walmart, Amazon and Target. You’ll need to make your first purchase through the site within 90 days and spend at least $25.
  3. Your account will be credited with rewards points you can cash in for your $10 Walmart gift card.

It’s easy savings for clothes you know you have to buy because they’ve already outgrown last month’s styles.

6. Sell off Stuff They Don’t Need Anymore

From toys to clothes to bedroom decor, your kids accumulate stuff fast, don’t they?

Don’t just hang on to that stuff and let it fill up your basement or garage. Sell it, so you have a little extra money (and room) to buy the new stuff.

You can sell virtually anything on Letgo. This intuitive app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds. It removes a lot of the hassle of selling things online, and it’s 100% free to use.

Come on, you know your kids are going to want new stuff, and your home can only hold so much!

7. Feed the Fam for Less

The refrigerator never stays full for long when you have kids. Make those frequent trips to the grocery store a little less painful by earning cash back.

That’s right: Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.

Here’s how it works:  Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.

Bam. Cash back.

Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $5 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.

Some cash-back opportunities we’ve seen include:

  • 25 cents back for any item.
  • 25 cents back on strawberries.
  • 50 cents back on frozen fruit snacks.

Notice those aren’t tied to a brand — just shop for the staples on your list and earn cash back!

8. Keep Saving Even Though You’re Busy

Saving money is tough. Saving money when you have kids in school can seem impossible. So what if you could do it in a way where you wouldn’t even notice?

Digit makes that possible.

This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.

Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 just for signing up! Additionally, savers will receive a 1.00% bonus every three months.

Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, Penny Hoarder Matt Wiley told us he saved $4,300 without noticing.

If you need that money sooner than expected, you’ll always have access to it within one business day.

Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward. That’s a small price to pay to keep your family saving during the crazy days of school.

Take Your Mind off Money and Focus on Fun

Father And Daughter Playing Basketball On Driveway At Home
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Hey, your kids are only this age once. Enjoy it!

Having school-aged kids can be financially taxing, but you can relieve some of that stress by following these tips and taking some of the pressure off. You don’t want to spend all of your time dwelling on the family budget. You want to teach your baby girl to hit her free throws and your little guy how to play that guitar.

Remember, it might be hard, but it’s OK to say no to your kids on occasion, too. They don’t have to be in every extracurricular activity out there. Learning how to limit their activities and wants can save you a lot of money and a little bit of stress, as well.

Oh, and don’t forget to get a Groupon or Livingsocial deal for a nice, relaxing date night for yourself. You deserve it.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. He is bracing for the day that his twin babies start school and all of the fun that goes with it. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.