Today, having kids who are interested in anything means money out of pocket for classes and gear and opportunities to use their new found talents. Music lessons, sports, art classes all cost money. Irish dance is no exception.
Things that cost money in Irish dance:
Irish dance lessons are not cheap. Every class costs money. Also, for most Irish dancers who are wanting to push to the next level or get ready for major competitions there are the added workshops- that are many times mandatory- and private lessons. These Irish dance classes, workshops, and one-on-one lessons can add up.
For grade-level Irish dancers, there is the cost of a school dress for girls or an outfit for boys. For champion level Irish dancers (occasionally starting in the Open Prizewinner level) there is the sometimes extreme cost of a solo costume. For the girls this can mean up to $3000 for a dress. For the boys, luckily, they can get away with black pants and a waistcoat or vest, but even the vests can run to and over $400. This is much less than the cost for the girls, but still can be a financial burden on a family with a higher-level dancer.
Oh, shoes, shoes, shoes. If only their feet didn't grow so very very much. Girls and boys wear the same type of hardshoes or jig shoes. These can run up to $170. For reel shoes, boys' shoes can run near $100 and girls' ghillies can run up to $70.
For every competition that a child enters at a feis, there is a cost. It usually doesn't seem like much, but these fees do add up. Also, included in the cost of feisanna, one must also consider travel to and from the event, food, and possible hotel stays. With the higher-level dancers, there is a once a year regional qualifier or Oireachtas. If the dancer qualifies, there can also be National and International competitions. Each of these bigger competitions comes with a bit higher registration fee of up to $100. These trips to major competitions can come with a hefty price tag.
Unless you've found one of the wee folk and convinced them to share their pot o'gold, you're most likely like most of us- just trying to save money and stay on budget. There are ways one can save money in the world of Irish dance. This is no "Extreme Couponing" type of thrifty, but any little bit helps.
1.) Higher level Irish dancers can sometimes assist with Irish dance classes in exchange for tuition breaks or credit towards classes, workshops, and/or private lessons. Every school is different, but it's worth asking if there are any opportunities to help with classes.
2.) Ask if there is a multiple child discount or family cap on tuition. This can save you big money. I know some schools do free tuition after so many classes or 3rd class and any additional classes are fifty percent off. If one kid is dancing, maybe you can convince another to dance as well-- saves money on gas too since you'll be at the classes anyways.
3.) This might sound a bit odd as a way to save money, but make sure your child is practicing at home. Going to class prepared- with material practiced at home will help them to get the most out of class. You pay for your child to learn and learn well. If they're not practicing their Irish dance steps at home, this means more class time is used to reinforce or even possibly re-learn material that has already been presented.
1.) If your child is in an Irish dance school costume, take good care of it. Treat stains right away, keep it covered in some type of garment bag or dress bag when not in use, and take it off immediately after performances and competitions. Why?? Well, as much as you spent on that school costume, many times you can recoup 50% to 100% of that cost when you resell it within your school when your dancer outgrows it. I can not tell you how many costumes I've re-sold over the years. Keeping them in good condition ensures a sale.
2.) Buy used!! Whether it's a school costume or a solo costume, there are always used ones to be found that are in great condition. With the solo costumes, there are boards online that have hundreds of solo dresses for resale. Look for ones that are current styles so that when you go to resell the dress, you can get a good price. The price tag for a used solo dress can be half of what a new one would be. For boys, it is a tad harder to find used waistcoats, but they are out there on sites such as dance.net, eBay, and even on the Moms to Reel Boys Facebook page.
3.) Find a good seamstress or learn how to sew! I'll admit that I can't sew, but I am great at finding ladies who can. We have had many vests made over the years. I have found a few seamstresses through asking employees at fabric stores. Fabric stores always seem to have a book or business card file with names of ladies who are far more talented than I could ever hope to be with needle and thread. Also, ask around at your Irish dance school. There are many cottage-sized businesses that are popping up run by moms who've started making Irish dance dresses and vests as a side business to help support their own dancers.
1.) Buy used when you can!! For grade-level dancers, used is perfectly acceptable in both hard and soft shoes. My dancers actually found used hard shoes to be the best, as they were already broken in. Check your school for shoes for sale. I have also gotten lucky on eBay. If you have a few kiddos dancing, make use of hand-me-down shoes when you can. A little polish on the leather and India ink or permanent marker on the fiberglass, and they look like new. Also, you can get new straps and buckles for the makers of the shoes and have a local cobbler put them on.
2.) Take care of your child's shoes and sell them when they outgrow them. Shine them up and post them at your Irish dance school or online.
3.) If enough people at your Irish dance wear the same brand of shoes, it is a good idea to contact the maker of the shoes to see if they would offer a school discount. Check with the director of your Irish dance school first. Our school has a discount with one of the shoe makers. It works to the shoe-makers' advantage as the discount is substantial enough that most dancers at our school will only buy shoes from the shoe maker that gives our school a discount.
1.) Stay at the venue where the feis is at. In the past, I would tell you to find a discount hotel nearby, but after doing this a few times, I realized that a.) the discount of the host hotel is actually really decent. b.) it usually saves me the price of parking at the hotel or rental car fees if we've flown. c.) Many major competitions now charge a fee of $100 a day for those people who stay off-site. I've done the math. Staying at the host hotel, is usually best financially.
2.) Carpool to events with other families from your school! Great fun, and saves on gas!
3.) If staying in a hotel, share the room! Makes things a bit more cozy, but half a hotel room is half the price. See if anyone from your school or even your area is going and wants to share.
4.) If you're driving, bring a cooler filled with snacks and drinks so you won't need to stop for breakfast on the way or dinner on the way home. We've saved big bucks doing this.
5.) Talk to the director of your Irish dance school about doing fundraisers. Many times these fundraisers can help to pay for entrance fees or some of the travel expenses of upper level Irish dancers who want to compete at the National or International level. Even if your Irish dancer doesn't benefit right away, hopefully, when they get to a level where they can benefit the fundraisers will already be set up and going strong as a means of helping dancers financially.
One final note..........
If your family is struggling financially, and you have a child or children who really want to do Irish dance, there is usually a way to make it happen. I'd suggest talking with the director of your Irish dance school. Sometimes, they need help in the way of cleaning of studio space, paperwork with registrations, class attendance, tuition payment entries, etc or even coordinating performances. Ask. The saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way", requires action and initiative and a bit of creativity. There are usually ways to save money or barter services for classes or tuition. Usually, but not always. It never hurts to at least ask.
I hope some of these ways to save money in the world of Irish dance help you. There are many more, I am sure. :)