I was surprised when I heard a financial expert on a podcast say that she thought her costs would go down once her child was in school. Kids do not get cheaper as they age. The costs just become less fixed.
I admit, I felt the same sense of relief when I stopped paying for daycare, but reality set in fairly soon. School supplies, after-school activities, outgrown clothes and shoes, school fundraisers, teachers' presents, birthday presents, summer camp, book fairs and so on.
Granted, there are things you can do to keep these costs from skyrocketing (buying used clothes, saying "no" to fundraisers, having your child make presents), but not spending any money is next to impossible.
The easiest way to transition from the fixed day care costs to these lumpy, don't-know-when-they'll-hit costs is to budget the money you were budgeting for day care to a "kids' expenses" category. I lumped them altogether like that so that once a year, I can look at how much I'm really spending on these things and adjust as necessary. Let me tell you, that number didn't go down until one of my kids had a job!
If your budget is still struggling to keep up, it may be time to look for cheaper alternatives.
My daughter's love of art and dance really flourished at the local Boys and Girls Club. She received many opportunities there that would have cost a lot more at private dance or art studios, and had a lot of fun. Once she was ready to move on to a private dance studio, she volunteered to decrease the monthly tuition. It never hurts to ask if you or your child can volunteer in exchange for a discount. I believe that my daughter got more out of her private dance studio experience because of the hours she spent helping there. She loved working with the younger kids and received advice and inspiration from all the teachers, not just her own.
Often, she would ask if we had a certain something for an art project. Often, we didn't. Sylvia never let that stop her, and would come up with creative solutions that garnered her more pride than merely buying something.
Once you think your kids are old enough, you can involve them in the conversation and their answers may be the best! If your child really really wants to be on the team, they may be more than willing to contribute half their allowance or set up a lemonade stand for the uniform and association fees. And if they don't, then why are you stressing about it? Toss the application and move on with your life!
Even when they're younger, you can start talking about choices. When you're at the grocery store, and your child is asking for this, that and that and that, tell them they can choose one. Or give them a dollar amount (no more than $5, probably) that they can use on a treat. (This also helps with their boredom and impatience at the store!)
The choices are not always that easy, of course, but the more your kids practice making choices, they'll be more prepared to tackle the difficult ones.
I always wanted to give my kids more than I could afford, but they usually exceeded expectations when I couldn't.
Still, there will be those times when $$ just has to be spent. If you never count on costs going down, you'll be better prepared for those times.