10 Saving Money During Softball Tournaments

money saving tipsAdmit it, you are softball poor.

While most people think of golf, or horseback riding as the expensive sports – we all know firsthand that softball AINT CHEAP! Between the equipment, and the shoes that either get beaten up, or grown out of, uniforms and tournaments expenses – its easy to drop thousands of dollars over the course of a year to keep your daughter playing tournament ball.

Even more expensive – tournament expenses.  Whether your team attends one day, two-day or week-long tournaments – it is expensive to be away from home.  First of all, there are lots of gate fees to pay, which means if you are bringing a lot of family members you could drop half a grocery budget just to get into the park. Then, there are foods, drinks, snacks, concessions, meals, (and lodging if they are overnight and out-of-town)

Is there anyway to make it cheaper?  YES!  And the following tips, even if you only take away ONE tip, may help to ease some of the expenses.

1.  First, bring your own food. Paying $2.50 for a bottle of water at the park is ridiculous, especially considering you can buy a 24 pack for that price. Stock up on drinks, such as Gatorade’s and PowerAde’s and waters throughout the year when they are on sale. If your team has a tax ID number, you can also get local grocery stores to donate drinks to the team.  In fact, its much easier to get people to donate goods rather than money.  Also, discount scratch and dent grocery stores are great places to stock up on drinks and you may find the prices are negotiable. Dropping $40 during a tournament on drinks is just silly.  If you don’t want to carry a big cooler – load a small one up with plenty of ice and keep extras in the car. (COUPONS!!!!!!)  If you cannot find coupons for these items, go to their websites and you will find many.

2. If gate fees are getting you down, call tournament directors ahead of time – especially if you have a large cheering section and ask about a TEAM gate fee.  Many will negotiate and give you a $100 TEAM gate fee which divided among the whole team is a lot better than paying $5 to $7 per person upon entry. Whether you are a coach or a parent – don’t be afraid to call the tournament director and ask! Trust us, they WANT your team to show up, and not everyone is rich.

3. The kids love to eat out. You hate the damage to your credit card. Eat cheap.  Or better yet, prepare healthy foods and snacks to take with you like sandwiches, pickles, granola mixes and fruit. If you must eat out – just stand firm with your kids that you are on a budget and will be ordering from the dollar menu.  One idea that may work well is to allot your children $5 meal expenses for the day.  They can use it at the concession, or save it to go out with the team. Children tend to think more wisely when given the money in their hands to see how fast it goes.

4.  Say NO!  If you have packed for the tournament and have snacks, fruits, drinks etc. – don’t be afraid to say no.  It can be hard when all the other parents are saying yes, yes, yes – but the reality is that you have to stick to your guns.  Make sure your children (especially if they are old enough) realize the costs involved in tournament ball. Plus once you say NO – you will be surprised how many parents around you will breathe a sigh of relief and say NO as well.

5. Printable t-shirts and sweatshirts at the park expensive. We started out only getting t-shirts when the kids came in first.  Then, that too got expensive.  Here’s a GREAT TIP!  Buy a t-shirt or sweatshirt or hoodies or even sweatpants somewhere else and have them print it for you at the park  Most will only charge $5 to do the printing on site – and you can find the t-shirts and hoodies for pretty cheap online or in dollar stores, or Wal-Mart. Seriously, paying $45 for a hoodie is a bit much.  Just plan ahead and bring  your own stuff.

6. If you are going away, traveling, lodging for a tourney – look for houses to rent instead and then split the costs. Bring air mattresses and sleeping bags and you could bunk up 4 – 5 families depending on the house.  You can save hundreds of dollars going this route.  Plus, you will have a kitchen, and likely a washing machine and dryer as well.

7. Cookout as a team during breaks. Have someone bring a grille, drinks, snacks, paper products etc. (don’t forget to see if you can get any of these items donated) and cookout hotdogs or burgers for lunch or dinner.  Not only will you not have to leave the park (saving gas and keeping your parking spot) but its a lot cheaper to eat this way, and NONE of the kids will feel like they are missing out on something.

8. When it comes to equipment, trade and yard sale! Have your team or get several other teams get involved in a softball trade-off.  Everyone can bring their old cleats, and no longer used bats or gloves, or ball bags and either trade these items – or sell them off at yard sale prices. If you are anything like most softball families you have an entourage of extra equipment, clothing and other softball items that you are no longer using anymore.  Also, check out websites for coaches that often have a for sale, or trade forum where you can find great items. Just because you no longer use your Xeno, or have outgrown a pair of cleats, doesn’t mean that someone else on your team or in your area won’t be thankful for the find.

9. Budget. Budget softball like you do any other expense. If you know when you are having tournaments and can plan ahead of time, make sure to budget X amount of dollars and start yourself a softball savings piggy bank.  Then, the real trick is sticking to your budget.

10. Get involved in fund raising! GET THE GIRLS INVOLVED IN FUNDRAISING. Car washes, bake sales, selling raffle tickets, going door to door at businesses, selling home made goods like bows, etc. is a TEAM AFFAIR!  Organize a fundraising friendly tournament where all the team members run the event rather than play. If every person on the team did their part and got involved in fundraising, you can defer a lot of the costs of softball.  Some teams do this, and some don’t. And as your daughters get older and start earning allowances, put them in charge of spending THEIR money for any of the extras they beg for at the tournaments. Softball teaches a lot of life lessons. As parents, we DONT HAVE TO DO IT, and kids must be encouraged to do their part.  Otherwise, they won’t be grateful. The lessons taught in softball far outreach the field.

Even with these 10 money saving TIPS, softball IS expensive. While some things in life are simply worth it, it doesn’t mean you have to go broke to keep your daughter playing.

Got any more tips to share?  We’d love to hear them.

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