This is part 2 in my cheer mom series. Make sure you catch up by reading part 1–why it’s okay to let your kid cheer.
There’s no easy way to say this, and I’m sorry in advance to those of you who thought that maybe I’d say something different. But if your child is interested in cheerleading, there’s one completely unavoidable fact.
It is expensive.
I don’t know that’s it’s necessarily more expensive than sports like gymnastics or hockey or ice skating or dance, but cheer, especially competitive cheer, can come with a hefty price tag.
I wish I had better news.
The main items you can expect to pay for:
- Registration fees
- Cheer shoes, bow, accessories, makeup, socks
- Practice gear (some squads require a practice uniform, some do not so this might not apply to you)
- Hair accessories–curlers or curling iron (some people buy “cheer hair” instead and it makes me a little sad to write that sentence because I want to pretend that fake cheer hair isn’t a real thing), bobby pins, hairspray (lots and lots of hairspray)
- Tumbling classes (sometimes it’s optional, sometimes it’s included in the registration fee, sometimes you have to pay for the classes separately)
- Cheer photos (individual and team)–optional
- Cheer camp–optional (depends on the squad. Might be required)
- Hotel fees for away competitions
- Spectator tickets at competitions
I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of items I’ve forgotten but this gives a pretty good breakdown of common expenses. I’ve purposefully left out prices because they vary wildly from squad to squad, league to league. But a conservative estimate for a 10 month competitive cheer experience is $3000. It might be more. If you do half a year, or your child only cheers for a rec league at football games and there’s no competitions, the cost is significantly less. If your child want to cheer for her school, and only her school, I’d guess it’s in the neighborhood of $1000.
Looking at the itemized list, you’re probably thinking “holy crap, that’s way too many things I need to pay for and I’m going to go broke if my daughter wants to cheer.” I know that because I thought the same thing during my daughter’s first year. And when the bill comes around at the beginning of each season, I still think the same thing. It’s overwhelming.
The good news is that cheer is not entirely cost prohibitive, and there are a few ways you can make the experience more financially manageable for you, your family, and your cheerleader:
Budget, part 1. Most squads and leagues, at least in my experience, are upfront about their fees. You can typically find them on the squad’s website and if you can’t, give the contact person a call or send an email asking for that information. So when you’re researching a squad or league to join, look at how much it’ll cost and then look at your monthly budget. See a) if it fits in or b) if you can make some adjustments in other areas to make cheer fit your budget. Looking at your overall financial picture in comparison to the fees will let you know what you can and can’t afford. There are leagues and squads for every budget and, depending on what kind of cheer experience you’re looking for, you should be able to find one that fits what you can afford.
Budget, part 2. Not only do you need to determine how the baseline expenses like uniform and registration fit with your budget, but you also need to account for things like vendors at competitions. Those vendors, especially the ones that sell the bows, are smart marketers and it’s hard not buy a T-shirt for your kid at every competition. But if you have more than one child and you have more than one competition per season, this stuff can add up quickly. Prior to each competition, set a budget limit for these items and bring only that amount of money. Or, instead, tell your kid that you’ll buy stuff at one or two competitions per season. That should be sufficient to satisfy your kid’s desire for competition swag and not kill your budget.
Investigate discount options. I think that title might be misleading but let’s keep going. When you register your child, are there discounts for paying in full on the day of registration or for registering early? If the squad needs to buy new bows, is a percentage taken off the total price for ordering in bulk? Are there coupon codes available for a website that sells cheer shoes or accessories? Can you purchase a used uniform from an older girl who outgrew hers or who quit cheering (note: this only works if the squad doesn’t change uniforms every year)? For items like hairspray and bobby pins, can you get those items at the dollar store or clip coupons for them? If you’re creative, you can find all different methods to cut costs on all non-fixed expenses which helps make the sport more budget friendly.
Participate in fundraisers. Many squads will do fundraisers to offset the costs of travel expenses, registration fees at competitions, new equipment (like mats), or even apply towards the cost of uniforms or tumbling classes. Depending on the type of fundraiser, it can make a big difference. (Confession: I don’t do these since I hate asking people for money and between school fundraisers and cheer fundraisers, I feel like I’d be taking advantage of my family and friends. I’d rather just budget the money and pay out of pocket.)
The only other suggestion I can offer is this: if your child wants to cheer and it is completely outside the realm of financial possibility, talk to the coach or cheer director or league president. There might be scholarships or additional payment plans or some other way they can help you afford it. Most of them are very understanding.
It bears repeating: cheerleading is expensive. But it doesn’t have to make you broke.
Do you have any money saving tips for cheer parents? What did I miss?