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It’s that time of year again for us. The beginning of club ball season. Our daughter plays girls’ fast pitch softball and our son is a baseball player. Between the two of them, we spend a LOT of time away from home from the middle of April through the beginning of July. As a means to participate in team sports while homeschooling, we make club ball a priority during these months, but with only one full time income in our household, sometimes I need to get creative to save money. Here are some of my tips for saving money while traveling for club ball:
Meals at Home
With busy tournament weekends, games during the week, and practices in between, weekday meals can be just as much a problem as the weekends. I combat this with some preparation before ball season starts. I plan some meals for the freezer, either by cooking extra meals of by making double of some recipes and freezing half.
For those nights when we just can’t do anything but grab fast food, I keep an envelop with restaurant coupons handy. We also take advantage of offers such as the one we had for Burger King last year, where we were able to purchase vouchers at a reduced price and use them during ball season.
Food at the Field
Keeping everyone fed while on the road is a huge task. Eating fast food and out of the concession stand can get expensive quickly, so I try to find ways to keep it to a minimum. Instead, we purchased a cooler on wheels (a life saver for those long hikes from the parking lot to the field!) and fill it with water, Gatorade, soda, and juice that I purchase at the grocery store and bring from home. With beverages costing less than fifty cents this way, we save an average of $1 per drink off the concession stand price.
We also stock up on meats, cheeses, and small bags of chips for easy lunches. Rather than bread, I pack tortillas to make wraps. Tortillas tend to store better without getting soggy like bread does. We also have a portable grill that we sometimes take along for tournament days. Grilling hot dogs or hamburgers makes for a quick lunch or supper, and we save a ton of money by not eating out.
Another easy way to provide meals is to work together with the rest of the families on the team. Everyone provides part of the meal, so that no one has to bring everything for their family. Not only is this fun, but it is much easier, too. It helps if one person is in charge and everyone signs up, so that you have a variety of foods rather than just dessert.
At the beginning of the year I set aside money for one big shopping trip, either to our grocery store or to a warehouse. I purchase bulk snacks to repackage and pack in my snack bag. I also purchase the ingredients for a variety of cookies. Before ball season starts, I spend a day or two mixing up cookie dough, forming it into small balls, and freezing them. I put them into baggies labeled with the type of cookie and the baking instructions. This makes it easy to bake a couple of dozen cookies at a time without all of the mess of mixing the dough. Depending on your oven, it may take a few minutes longer when the dough is completely frozen.
Travel and Hotel
Part of playing on a traveling team is the actual traveling, which is the most costly part of ball for us. While we go into each year knowing that this will be our largest expense, we also do what we can to keep it down. Some ideas we have used include using the Internet to find the best hotel prices, camping instead of staying in a hotel, and driving back and forth each day rather than staying in a hotel when the location and schedule works. We have also used rebate cards or loyalty cards to save money on gasoline, and occasionally we carpool, especially when our kids are going two different directions.
I purchase as much of as possible of my children’s sports clothing at the end of the season when it is on clearance. I also watch for coupons and specials from the sports stores, and purchase from discount sports stores online. I use ebates whenever I purchase online. Simply by clicking on the store link through ebates, I can get a rebate of as much as 10% on my purchases.
As my kids have gotten older, their sports equipment has become more specialized. For my younger kids, though, I sometimes thought outside the box. For example, one year we purchased soccer cleats instead of baseball cleats, since soccer cleats were cheaper and on clearance.
What are some of the ways that you save money traveling for club ball? Let me know in the comments.