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Here’s a problem for you: 4 kids x 7 sports leagues = 2 broke parents.

Every week, we, along with the parents of the estimated 45 million children participating in youth sports, pile our kids into the mini-van and schlep them to their various practices and games; rushing homework and doing dinner on the fly in order to get them there on time and avoid that embarrassing extra lap that has me hanging my head in shame. (I’m still trying to understand why my kids get punished for me being late.)

Like the others, we signed our children up for team sports to raise their self-esteem, keep them fit, and all that other good stuff. But according to a recent infographic published by TurboTax, youth sports have evolved from friendly, organized activities to a $5 billion a year industry in which parents are spending anywhere from $671 to $1,000 or more a year per child. We’re in the “or more” range.

Between registration fees, uniforms, equipment, fundraisers, snacks, tournaments, hotel rooms, and the gas money to get them to and from games in and out of state (ka-ching!), every month we find ourselves strapped for cash, scrimping and saving for essentials. Never mind the hours spent, keeping us from doing whatever it is that people do over the weekend these days.

So why are we spending so much time and money on sports of all things? By no means are we trying to groom the next LeBron James or Tiger Woods. I’ll be happy if my children get through gym class without failing, like a certain person I know (yes, me). But we do feel like we’re investing in our kids’ futures, hoping (and praying) that they’ll be good enough in high school to land scholarships and play in college, ultimately saving us money.

The statistics are against us with only a percentage of kids playing at the collegiate level, and even fewer going pro. We keep telling ourselves that in doing this, we’re helping them forge new friendships and learn the importance of teamwork. The reality? We could’ve just sent them to a cheap week-long camp and called it a day. And I’ve become painfully aware of the fact that the money we spend over the years could probably go into a savings account to take care of some of those college costs. Unfortunately, at this point we’re in too deep to stop now.

So, a bit of advice for those thinking about signing their kids up for youth sports: go for something like swimming or volleyball and save yourself some cash.

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Photo Credit: Football + Money/Shutterstock

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