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Saving money on cheer gear

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Cheer Mom

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.cheer mom button

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
  • Uniform
  • 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:

Uniform photo found on Omni Cheer

Uniform photo found on Omni Cheer

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? 


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Series Navigation<< 4 reasons it’s okay to let your kid cheerRandom thoughts from a new(ish) cheer mom >>


  1. Nadine

    My sister always says stuff about how expensive cheerleading is, obviously she is not alone! She said the worse thing is having to pay for the entire family to get in to football games every Friday night to watch her oldest cheer at the games. Because she pays everything you mentioned plus $60 per week on every game. Yikes! And they have two that cheer, and one that does basketball. But think of all the memories you get πŸ™‚
    Nadine recently posted…Weekend ShenanigansMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I have a friend whose daughter is on Erica’s football cheer squad (this squad competes, too). She has 3 other children and a fiance. If they all go, she pays a minimum of $50 to get into the competition, not to mention all the travel expenses and food at the concession stands since we’re not allowed to bring our own. Sometimes it’s closer to $100 for EACH competition just in spectator fees. It’s absolute madness.

  2. Kerry

    I didn’t realize it was so expensive. Hopefully the fundraising covers a good portion of it.
    Kerry recently posted…Work For RestMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I know that fundraising can help, particularly if the money goes to the individual kid. Sometimes it goes to the squad or the league but then it might help offset the cost to the parent in registration fees or whatever.

  3. SMD @ Life According to Steph

    It really does add up just like other sports. All good tips to help prepare for and absorb the costs!
    SMD @ Life According to Steph recently posted…TWTW – wedding styleMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      ALL sports are expensive, especially if a kid does them year round and there’s travel and private coaching and clinics and all of that going on, too. It’s not just cheer that costs a fortune.

  4. kathy @ vodka and soda

    that’s like dance. first off, dance classes are HELLA expensive. then costumes are like $150 MINIMUM and they’re only in those costumes for like, 5mins at most. for the amount i pay for costumes, i swear, they should made of diamonds but they look like something that *I* could have made!!
    kathy @ vodka and soda recently posted…trip down memory laneMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      Erica’s cheer uniform looks like a Halloween costume. It’s so bland and boring and plain and generic cheerleader and I really don’t get how it cost $150. However, we should get at least 8 months out of it which is better than what you guys pay for dance costumes.

  5. Kelli

    Sports are so expensive, I feel like Little K is leaning toward Drama and Science stuff so maybe I’ll save some money. πŸ™‚
    Kelli recently posted…Picture Practice: StrangersMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      That stuff is a little less expensive, unless with the drama she wants private acting lessons or singing lessons or those kinds of things. There are hidden costs and fees for EVERYTHING.

  6. Amber

    If Natalie decided to do cheerleading, I’d have no idea how to do her hair OR her makeup. I’m so lost in those areas.

    Natalie did dance for a year and I couldn’t believe the costs that came with it. Oh, and I had to ask someone to do her hair for me.
    Amber recently posted…My Dos and Don’ts of DeploymentMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      The hair has been a learning process. I refuse to buy the horrible fake cheer hair so I’ve had to learn. I’m getting better. The makeup, at least for this age, is pretty easy. It’s when she gets older that I’m nervous!

  7. lisacng @ expandng.com

    I’m thinking that any sort of activity a kid wants to take seriously will cost money. My sister and I played tennis so that meant shoes, tennis skirts, rackets, re-stringing, and my sister took private lessons. But it’s good to have a budget in mind and have all of the information up front instead of being surprised. If I feel like I have control over my money, then I’m not so sad/mad to spend it. Good outline of what’s to be expected from a cheer mom and good starting point for other sports. Hey, are you going to snark on the different types of cheer moms in a future post :)?
    lisacng @ expandng.com recently posted…Fall, stranger, refrigerator tetris {photos}My Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I probably won’t do that as a post but maybe I’ll link to one that’s already been done πŸ™‚

  8. Jenniemarie @ Another Housewife

    This is great. I am a softball/baseball/gymnastics mom and have already raised a football/wrestler. The cost for each can be a financial nightmare if you are not prepared. That is why I also make it a point to include the unknown cost of athletes, as you did, when a parent ask about how much we pay for our kid to be on a team. The travel, concessions, admission, gas, physicals, snacks for team, coaches gifts, uniforms, team outings, pictures, swag and extra practice gear adds up quick. This is even true for the cheaper recreational leagues in our area.
    Jenniemarie @ Another Housewife recently posted…Finish StrongMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I feel for parents who do this for more than one kid. The cost is outrageous just for one! I mean, it’s feasible if you’re careful but it’s still a hefty price tag. I know that some say that they just wouldn’t let their kid do it but what if it’s all your kid wants to do? How do you say no? That’s why budgeting is essential.

  9. Melanie

    wow, I had no idea it was so much money!!!!
    Melanie @ meandmr.com

  10. Ellesees.blogspot.com

    i’m still in shock by the cheer hair…what the??
    Ellesees.blogspot.com recently posted…DIY: Frosted Cranberry ScrubMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      Yep. You can buy fake hair that’s pre-curled and on a ponytail holder that you put in the kid’s hair so you don’t have to curl it. I’d rather do the curlers. The fake cheer hair is bizarre.

  11. Tricia's Mostly Healthy Life

    I knew it was expensive but I wasn’t even thinking of paying for the whole family to get into an event and then paying for the additional items at said event!
    Tricia’s Mostly Healthy Life recently posted…Adrenaline, Anxiety and Meditation, Huh?My Profile

  12. B @ The Sequin Notebook

    I cheered all through high school and I remember that we would constantly get new uniforms, new sneakers, new warm-up suits…my poor parents!!
    B @ The Sequin Notebook recently posted…Pumpkin Mac and Cheese {Guest Post from Kelli’s Recipes}My Profile


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