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The Hidden Costs Of Extracurricular Activities

February 7, 2019

When the kids first started school, I knew it wouldn’t come cheap. By then we’ve done extensive research on the average school fees for public schooling in South Africa, and made a comprehensive list of good schools based on what’s most suitable for our family. When the time came around to shop for school uniforms, the costs completely blew my mind and it was at this exact moment that I realized how expensive having kids really are.  More accurately, how expensive having school-going kids are.

Unfortunately, it would appear, salaries don’t magically increase when the kids start school and the unexpected day-to-day costs begin to pile up, so we began our kids’ journey into schooldom by cutting down on as many of our monthly luxuries possible. This meant fewer trips to the cinema and more movie dates at home, fewer Spur lunches and happy meals and more weekends around the braai, and allot less impromptu long drives out of town (guilty pleasure) and more time at the community park.

We thought we had it all figured out, until one day Jada came home from school and announced she now belongs to the drama academy and the swim club, and Miguel suddenly needed gear and equipment for all the different types of sports he was “trying out” for. Extracurricular activities are great opportunities for kids to build their confidence and to meet new friends, so of course, we agreed. However, we knew simply cutting out on take-out and movies wasn’t going to do and that we needed a more solid game plan.

We now have a savings account, the emergency fund as we call it , especially for those unexpected costs and it’s been working great for us so far. It’s certainly served its purpose to help with the extramural fees every term and comes in handy when we need to get costumes, equipment and prepare for sudden school trips.

All these unplanned-for costs really do become a heavy burden to bear for many families. You’re not alone in this. Parents are working double shifts or even doing double jobs altogether to make sure their kids are able to participate in school activities, apart from school fees and uniforms that are mandatory in almost all South African schools. To so many parents out there, sending kids to school seems more like a privilege than a right and others go as far as to avoid certain, more “superior” schools, simply because they’re afraid they may not be able to afford all the “hidden costs”. Sure, we can opt out of participating in extramural activities, but the truth is that pressure from both the school and our children makes it difficult to say no every time.

I found a great list of the best savings accounts in SA and the best returns according to Moneytoday.co.za. During these difficult financial times, it also doesn’t hurt to speak to a financial adviser to help you make the right decision and point you in the right direction, whether short or longterm because all our kids deserve the best and to experience the best school has to offer.