May 8, 2013

Hedging the cost of skating

Two classes, one or two lessons, public skating pass, a couple of practice ice times.

Skates, practice clothes, bags, gloves, book covers, blade guards.

Year end pizza party.

A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking real money. How do you keep your husband finding out what it costs pay for it all?

At some rinks, they'll trade volunteer hours for practice ice coupons. It's not exactly "free" because it costs you time, but it's a great way to cover practice ice cost. (Let's hope the IRS doesn't catch on.) Do me a favor and be righteous: don't sell your free coupons to non-volunteers at a discount. (Here's how you can tell someone is doing this-- they monitor FAR more than the number of sessions their skater is actually using.) Don't take your free coupons but not actually show up for your monitor time.  Don't show up and "monitor" when there's already a monitor there. Don't sign in as a monitor and then sit in the stands. (Don't ask where I observed all these behaviors.)

"Skating" job
Concession stand, junior coaching, really coaching, working at the local skate shop, rink guard, even babysitting.  Many skaters, teen and adult, take the edge off the cost by taking on extra jobs specifically to cover skating expenses. Parents will sometimes do this as well. It's a lot to do for your kid, but it's better than putting everything on the credit card, or cashing in a 401k.

Junior coaching
Sometimes pros will have their older or higher test students teach or supervise their younger students, and will knock a little off the bill for this.  This also helps the parents of the younger students, who may (should) be charged a lower fee for that time.

Ask your pro if your skater can share lesson time with other kids at her/his level for some lessons.

Set asides
In other words, a special "fund" just for skating.  This might be an extra $5 or $10 or $15 a week. It might be that every time you pay a skating bill, you stick $10 in a box. Or make it a dollar each time you go to the rink, or a hundred dollars every time your skater is in a test or competition. You'll be amazed at how quickly this will add up.  This is a great way to make sure you have the funds when you need new skates, or for an out of town competition, or that pesky synchro bill.

Putting the kid to work
Not really helping financially, but a lot of skating families make younger kids "earn" their skating time.  They put specific monetary values on extra household chores and pay the kid in private scrip, redeemable for lessons, skates, practice ice, etc.

How do you help cover skating costs?


  1. Hi Xan,

    Thanks so much for this post -- paying for skating is a serious concern for many parents. I'd add one more item: ask the rink if they have an "angels" that can help. Occasionally you'll find some generous souls have donated a few bucks so that the less fortunate can get a "scholarship" to a free class or two. We got lucky ourselves when I was going through some rough times; don't be shy about dropping hints along the lines of "I'm not sure if we can afford classes next time," as long as you are honestly sincere.

    Or for those parents reading who are free from monetary worries, please consider working with the skate school director to sponsor a few kids! Hey, what comes around goes around (smile).

    -- Jeff
    L.A. SkateDad

    1. Minds of the great, Jeff. I almost put this in, but figured someone would bring it up in the comments! Fundraising, as you say, works not just for whole programs, but for individual kids as well. Some synchro teams have scholarships, and most municipal rinks have scholarships available for residents; if your private rink has a booster club this is another place to go. Skaters sometimes raise funds on their own as well, by simply writing letters to all their parents' friends and colleagues asking for help (my son went to Interlochen music camp for two years by doing this).

  2. How about selling free (i.e. volunteer or junior coaching) coupons to non-volunteers for the regular price, is that OK?

    1. I would say no. For one thing, you are taking money from the rink twice if you do that. If you don't need them, give them away. Better yet, use the ones you don't need to create a scholarship pool for needy kids.

      Coupons-for-time are not meant to be a source of cash for the monitors.

  3. Your comment - "How do you keep your husband finding out what it costs pay for it all" almost made me spew my drink at the monitor. OMG that is exactly what it is like for me!

  4. We do semi-private lessons pretty frequently - in addition to private. Good to know I'm not the only one whose husband is in the dark about the true cost of skating. Mine has yet to find out that freestyle ice is not included with the public skating pass. He doesn't usually go to the rink with us, but when he does I have to sneak the time card by sending him out to the car first. Does he really need to know that hour on the ice just cost us $10+ more than he thought? What he doesn't know won't hurt him. Right? ;)

  5. I am constantly looking at ways to lower our skating budget!

    For one- finding quiet ice on public session for practice(our rink includes all public sessions for the month with the group class fee) VS paying for freestyle ice as often as possible.

    Another- reselling skates, pants and jackets as your child outgrows them to help cover the costs of new ones. In theory I should be doing this with dresses as well. Yet, I have a closet-full of dresses! (I am apparently too emotionally attached to to sell)

    Here is one I am working on-

    Offering to apply stones to other skaters dresses for a flat rate per gross. This is a task I quite enjoy and a way to earn a few extra $ for the budget!

    While we absolutely feel the "pain" of the cost of skating we are fortunate enough to be able to pay for it. So count me in as one who is also looking for ways to anonymously help other families who may be struggling. I like the idea of offering a scholarship from time to time for group lessons.

    That said- there are many times when I sit down with my budget that I convince myself that the only way to manage it all is to get a night job! Its not easy.

    1. I love that your rink gives class skaters passes to public skating! This is really smart marketing.

    2. We, too, try to spend as much time on public ice as possible - especially in the summer when public sessions are very quiet! We go earlier - around lunchtime - when everyone else is at the pool and it's hot as heck outside. We like to go to the pool later in the day anyway when it's not as busy. Can you tell I hate crowds? ;) And I re-sell dresses on ebay or at the annual skate sale at the rink. It really helps offset some of the cost.

  6. As for hedging the cost of skating, we just don't get the new guards/jacket/ fads/etc. For us it is helpful to be realistic about the costs and open with our skater and decisions are made together.

    Sometimes when we volunteer, the rink gives public session passes. those really help but aren't taken for granted. ~Meg

    1. This is the best comment on here, and I should be ashamed that I did not include it in my original list. Giant "duh"-- don't spend money on the fads and the image. Spend it on the skating.