By Annaleis Smith
Jul 26, 2016

Cost of Cub Scouting

How much does it cost to be a Cub Scout?  That isn’t actually a question I hear very often. What you are more likely to hear is, “Why does Scouting cost so much?” or “Why are uniforms so expensive?” I have to tell you, this last one (about uniforms being too expensive) really gets to me. In fact for some reason I woke up thinking about it and decided that I just had to write a blog article about the cost of Cub Scout uniforms. I realize there are other costs depending on your pack, but I’m going to focus just on the cost of uniforms. The following is my personal experience and opinion—I’d love to hear yours, in the comment section at the end.

When we sign our children up for a sports team we know that the uniform is expected, required and a part of the overall cost.  When was the last time your child was allowed out on the field to play when they were not in uniform? In Cub Scouting the uniform is no less important.  In Scouting we do let boys “play” even if they are not in uniform but… that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have one.

First let’s make sure we are all on the same page so we know what is required for a full Cub Scout uniform.The Cub Scout uniform consists of the following 6 parts:

Looking Good! Boy in uniform

Looking Good! Boys in uniform

  • Shirt—The official uniform shirt is available with long or short sleeves and has button-flap pockets and “Boy Scouts of America” lettered in gold above the right pocket.
  • Trousers or shorts—Official blue. (Webelos have the option of olive pants with tan shirt)
  • Belt—Official navy-blue web belt with metal buckle and Tiger, Cub Scout, or Webelos Scout emblem. Note – The Webelos bucket does fit the green belt but the adventure loops only fit on the blue Cub Scout belt.
  • Socks—Official socks are available in three lengths: ankle, crew, and knee. Tiger Scout socks are navy blue with orange tops; Cub Scout socks are navy blue with gold (yellow) tops.
  • Cap—Official navy-blue cap with orange front panel and tiger emblem for Tigers, yellow panel and wolf emblem for Wolfs, blue panel and bear emblem for Bears. Webelos Scouts wear the olive cap with a plaid panel bearing the Webelos logo.
  • Neckerchief & Slide—Triangular neckerchief is orange with navy-blue trim for Tiger Scouts, gold with navy-blue trim for Wolf Scouts, light blue with navy-blue trim for Bear Scouts, and plaid for Webelos Scouts. Official BSA neckerchiefs are the only neckerchiefs Cub Scout boys should wear. Boys can wear slides they have made themselves.

Some packs “recycle” the neckerchiefs as boys move through the ranks. Some packs supply the pack numerals or other patches. Some packs even have a uniform bank to share and pass on “experienced” uniform parts. So, depending on your pack you may not need to purchase every part yourself. But for the sake of argument lets say that you do need to buy the entire uniform.  Let’s take a quick look at what it will cost.

Screenshot from scoutstuff.org

Screenshot from the scoutstuff.org website

Right now (July 2016) the average Cub Scout uniform costs right around $100. The actual price goes up or down a little depending on whether you choose short sleeves or long, pants or shorts.  It also varies because of how many numerals you need for your pack, if you buy a neckerchief slide, etc. (According to Scoutstuff.org a Wolf uniform is $83 – $135). So, let’s say you pay $100 for your son’s uniform and he wears it to every meeting, as he should. There should be at least 48 meetings during the 52 week year (12 pack meetings + 36 den meetings). That means his uniform costs you $2.08 per wear. The next year he will need a new neckerchief and hat ($21) but you were smart and bought the shirt and pants with room to grow. The second year his uniform only costs you 44 cents per wear. The same could be true for the next year or more depending on how much he grows.

Webelos Uniform options

Webelos options

Once your Cub Scout is a Webelos he has the option of switching from the Blue Cub Scout uniform to the Tan and Olive that the Boy Scouts wear.  If your son has outgrown his Cub uniform this is a good option.  If the blue still fits him, don’t switch yet.  If your son started as a Tiger he will probably have grown quite a bit by the time he is a Webelos. If he started as a Wolf he may or may not have grown. In my 13 years as a Cub Scout leader I have had very few boys in my pack that couldn’t wear the same uniform for all 3 years (Wolf, Bear & Webelos). Most boys don’t hit a large growth spurt until later, during their Boy Scout years.

But what if your son begins in Cub Scouting as a Wolf and by the time he is a Webelos he has outgrown his blue uniform. Your costs for his uniforms over 3 years would be about $221 (May actually be less because you wouldn’t need new council patch or numerals, but if you are switching to the tan you would need shoulder loops, so let’s just say about 100 for that new year also). $221 and 103 meetings would be $2.15 per wear.  If he fits into that blue uniform for all 3 years those costs are even lower—$1.31 per wear.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 11.32.01 PM

Your daily cost?

Is a cost of $1.31-2.15 per wear really too much?  I have a feeling that those who complain about the cost of a uniform have not broken the cost down like I have.  And I know most of those that complain are even in a pack that only requires the shirt (cost $25 – $30). Really?!  When you buy clothing do you figure out how often you think you will wear it and calculate the cost/wear?  How many of you have paid $30 dollars for a shirt/blouse and wear it every week for the next 2 or 3 years so that the cost per wear is only 28-20 cents per wear?  I bet few of you (unless you wear a uniform) wear the same shirt every single week and yet if all you have bought for your son is his Cub Scout shirt—like 90% of the Cub Scouts in our council—then you are complaining about spending less than 30 cents per week. I’ll bet most of you spend more than that daily for a soda, coffee, or other daily “treat.”  Think about what your complaints say about your son.  Is $2 a week really too much?

Swim Geer

Swim team  > $5 per swim meet

Let’s look at some other examples of cost per wear… How about your daughter’s prom dress that you paid easily $100 or more that is only worn once. How much do you pay each year for your children who participate in sports, dance, karate etc.? My daughter joined the high school swim team last year for the first time and I actually sat down and figured out how much we paid per swim meet. I was shocked to find out that the total costs averaged out to $5 per wear/swim meet just for her team swimsuit/uniform. If I factor in the team fees (like some packs have weekly dues), it cost us just under $16 per swim meet for the year.  And it is even more when I add in the sweats, googles, swim cap, flippers, pull buoy and other equipment she needed to have for practices. Now that is expensive! Not to mention that the swim season, foot ball season etc. only lasts for a few months. Scouting is all year round. I think that swim is one of the less expensive school sports. I bet if we were talking football, softball, or cheerleading it would be even more than that.

Great Deal

Cub Scouting is a great deal!

So, after breaking it down to “cost per wear” as well as comparing costs of other activities that many parents pay for…I ask the question again. Is a Cub Scout uniform too expensive?  I say NO!  When you factor in everything a boy gains from Cub Scouting, you are getting a really great deal at about $2 per week. He’s only Cub Scout age for a little while and it’s such a formative time in his life. Cub Scouting is a really great program that helps boys grow to be the kind of young men that this world needs.  Boys who are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent, in my opinion, are worth WAY more than $2 a week. What do you think?

Annaleis SmithAnnaleis Smith – is a “stay at home” mother of 5 children.  She has been a Cub Scout leader for the past 13 years in various positions. She is currently a Cubmaster, Unit Commissioner, and the VP of Membership for the Utah National Parks Council (Heading up the Lion and Tiger initiative in the UNPC) Scouting is for every boy!

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6 thoughts on “Cost of Cub Scouting

  1. Ray Cox

    I never really thought to break it down to cost per wear. Over the past few years my scout uniform has been my most frequently worn “outfit”. My cost per wear is probably pennies now.

    As a kid, the thing I liked most about Cub Scouts was belonging to a group. I was ridiculously proud of my uniform and even wore it to school on den meeting days. To me, it was worth every penny my parents spent on it.

    I now have scouts of my own, and I’m paying for scout uniforms. It’s definitely not cheap. But I still believe it’s worth it. And really, what would I spend that $100 on? A new XBox game? A family dinner or two at a local restaurant? My boys will get much greater value from being part of Scouting than they will from almost anything else I could spend that money on.

    Reply
  2. Deborah Schultz

    Our unit is in an inner city area where many people are struggling. I believe that many families in our area would spend $100 on an entire school year’s wardrobe, if even that much. I do believe that the arguments for a uniform are valid. Having a committee of uniform “sponsors” who help keep a supply of gently used shirts available, having other people search out used uniforms and having a uniform library to borrow and exchange from has helped our troop and pack keep our boys in uniform without placing financial hardship on struggling families. We’ve also had volunteer moms help all of the boys keep their uniforms up-to-date, clean and appropriately sized. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

    Reply
    1. Annaleis SmithAnnaleis Smith Post author

      Yes, there are lots of ways to make uniforms more accessible. A uniform bank is a great way! What fun to wear an “experienced” shirt that has been there before.

      Reply
  3. Retta

    Breaking the price down is usually an effective tactic. Of course there are people who actually budget and can’t spend it all at once. The obstacle in our council is a the pack level. The packs tell the parents they don’t need the entire uniform. Almost every parent comes in and says “They told me I don’t need the pants”. “They” need to be better informed in order to maintain the uniform standard in scouting. In my view, councils would benefit from stressing the importance of a complete uniform to those packs because it increases retention rates.

    Reply
  4. Jenn Collier

    The hardship comes in paying 135 for a uniform and 70 in pack fees all at once. If I could pay for the uniform over a year (or 3 years time) that would be great. But I have it on good authority that you don’t have payment plans when selling a uniform. While you may have the luxury of being a stay at home mom, I am a single mother whose children’s dead beat dad does not pay the child support ordered and struggle to provide for my children. I saw scouts as a great opportunity to provide positive male influences in my son’s life as well as provide him with a strong moral compass.

    Reply
    1. Nanaof 5

      Jenn,
      I agree with your statement “The hardship comes in paying 135 for a uniform and 70 in pack fees all at once”. As a single grandmother who is completely financially responsible for my grandson the fees of joining, uniform, dues, fun/events is staggering. I get no help from the father (he wrote him off even before he was born) and his mother is disabled and cannot work due to having brain surgery. I asked for assistance/scholarships/etc and was told ” there is none”…so I have a grandson begging to being included and it is draining every resource we have. So he will go to the den meetings and pack meetings but will not be able to go to other fun things unless we magically end up with a guardian angel!
      I need the scouting opportunity to “help” shape my grandson into the good person I know he can be, I wish we had more people to count on in this situation but we don’t so we will struggle and do the best we can for him.

      Reply

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