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High School Umpire

Making Money Umpiring

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Umpired high school for 4 years. Got in it for the enjoyment, the exercise, and to make some money. Finally did a full accounting and was shocked as to how unprofitable it is when everything is accounted for. Not trying to convince anyone to umpire at all. Appreciated the people who did it as a player and am glad there are people still willing to do it. Just letting umpires or prospective umpires know, especially those who are trying to make some money for school, for a child, or for whatever, that it is basically a volunteer activity and they are probably not making nearly as much as they think, due to the variety of expenses involved. Especially umpires who are just beginning and will have the cost of a course and will probably not receive good schedules for the first few years. These numbers are from 2017, the most profitable year worked.  Accounting for games, meetings, rainouts, fees, equipment, mileage, and travel time, made, before taxes--about $4.34 an hour. 

Games 24

Meetings 5

Rainouts 3

Game Fees $50-55 (regardless of whether varsity or junior varsity)

Dues (State & Local) $85

Equipment $100 [Spent $300+ in first year & $200+ in third year, when state required all shirts & hats to have embroidered logos & no patches.]

Mileage (934 Miles at $0.535 per Mile) $500

Gross Game Fees $1,285

Net After Dues-Equipment $1,099

Net After Mileage $599

Net Per Game $24.96

Net Per Hour $6.24 [assuming 4 hours per game]

Net Per Event (Games, Meetings, Rainouts) $17.36

Net Per Hour Per Event  $4.34 [assuming 4 hours per games, 1.5 hours per meeting, 1 hour per rainout]

After Tax Net Per Hour Per Event $3.69

 

 

 

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It's not as bad as you are trying to make it out to be.

Meetings, dues, clinics, mileage (From FT job to game), equipment, is all tax deductible.

Not understanding the hour per rainout. Here, if we are there and it's rained out we're paid.(or at least a travel fee) If it's cancelled early in the day, I don't see any time lost. 

4 hour games?? wow (and if you're counting travel time,  don't...Do you get paid for the time it takes  to drive to and from your regular job? ) 

24 games is a light schedule, and, no offense, but $50 a game for varsity sucks. 

Then there's travel or rec or tourneys you can get involved with with little to no extra expenses.

You're right there..Working only a high school schedule in most parts of the country wouldn't be very profitable at all. 

 

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These numbers are far better than normal. 

The tax deductions are of limited value and have little impact on the final numbers. For each $1 you spend on an expense, whether it be meetings or dues or equipment, you don't get $1 back from the deduction. Depending on your personal tax rate, you might get something like $0.15 back for each dollar you spend. In other words, each dollar deducted does not add $1 to your tax refund, it only reduces your tax liability, and would therefore only have a very limited impact this analysis. 

Also, these numbers are generous because this was by far the most profitable of the 4 years. Year 1 involved the purchase of hundreds of dollars of equipment plus the price of the class. Year 3 involved the purchase of all new shirts and jackets, because the state decided that shirts and jackets and hats lacking the new embroidered logo were not allowed. 

And this is especially for potential umpires or those who are fairly new, this was by far the most profitable year. Early years involved a reduced schedule, lower game fees because Freshmen games were mixed in, etc. 

Finally, 24 games may be a light schedule by more experienced umpires working Varsity almost exclusively, but it is not a light schedule for guys starting out, especially in places with cold, rainy seasons. I was scheduled for around 40 games before the season in question. But Freshman and JV games are the first to get cancelled without being rescheduled in both the states I worked in (Northeast, Midwest). And I got more games each of my 4 years than anyone else with my years of experience. Assuming 34 games takes the hourly way from $4.34 an hour to $8.49. And that's pretax--the numbers are even worse after tax, even accounting for deductions.

 

 

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3 minutes ago, High School Umpire said:

These numbers are far better than normal. 

The tax deductions are of limited value and have little impact on the final numbers. For each $1 you spend on an expense, whether it be meetings or dues or equipment, you don't get $1 back from the deduction. Depending on your personal tax rate, you might get something like $0.15 back for each dollar you spend. In other words, each dollar deducted does not add $1 to your tax refund, it only reduces your tax liability, and would therefore only have a very limited impact this analysis. 

Also, these numbers are generous because this was by far the most profitable of the 4 years. Year 1 involved the purchase of hundreds of dollars of equipment plus the price of the class. Year 3 involved the purchase of all new shirts and jackets, because the state decided that shirts and jackets and hats lacking the new embroidered logo were not allowed. 

And this is especially for potential umpires or those who are fairly new, this was by far the most profitable year. Early years involved a reduced schedule, lower game fees because Freshmen games were mixed in, etc. 

Finally, 24 games may be a light schedule by more experienced umpires working Varsity almost exclusively, but it is not a light schedule for guys starting out, especially in places with cold, rainy seasons. I was scheduled for around 40 games before the season in question. But Freshman and JV games are the first to get cancelled without being rescheduled in both the states I worked in (Northeast, Midwest). And I got more games each of my 4 years than anyone else with my years of experience. Assuming 34 games takes the hourly way from $4.34 an hour to $8.49. And that's pretax--the numbers are even worse after tax, even accounting for deductions.

 

 

I agree that starting out, it can be tough in terms of monetary return. But keep in mind that the more games you work, the less your expense/revenue ratio becomes, not necessarily because your expenses go down (as a college/summer ball umpire that does 100+ games a season, my expenses are probably much higher due to clinics, interstate travel, frequent equipment replacement, etc.) but the revenue goes up as the number and level of games increases.

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Those are great points Matt, thank you. 

You're absolutely right of course about the expense ratio improving as the number of games increase. All I'll say is that, the vast majority of umpires who graduate from the classes to get state certification to work high school, do not last long enough to get a good, full schedule (guys trying to make some money for school, for their children, etc, while doing something they might enjoy). I either got more games than all of my classmates or at least almost all of my classmates my first two years in one state. In my last two years in another state, I got good, full schedules. But both years included Junior Varsity games, which were cancelled and not rescheduled at a high rate or rescheduled on dates that conflicted with existing games. 

But the main reason the vast majority of umpires who graduate from classes never work a good, full schedule is that they do not last, at least in the two states I worked. Even though I'm not young at all, I was one of only a handful of umpires under 50 in my local association. Looking back, I must have lost money the first two years, when a lot of classmates dropped like flies. And things must not be much better for guys with 3-5 years experience, because they were few and far between in both states I worked. 

P.S. The class I took for certification made clear to everyone that there's a huge shortage of umpires and that if we graduated there'd be plenty of games to go around and people would be dying to get us to work games. But a week after graduating, most of the class had to face the fact that almost all games assignments had been made months before, that the schedulers had no idea who we were and were hardly concerned about feeding most of the class games, that whatever games we'd get would be Freshmen-JV games usually partnered with more experienced guys who, although very good to me, were still at the very bottom of the totem pole (meaning the chances to get noticed and to get more games were very, very limited). 

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You can't really make any money with umpiring, the pay is for crap, but not only that, the hours you can work are limited. In my area, you can basically only get one game per day during the week. More on Saturdays, but even Sundays are limited unless you're working some tournaments. The drawback to tournaments are the usually lower rate per game. Even if you do 10-12 games in a weekend, the pay still sucks for the hours you have to spend. I've done the math many different ways and it always comes out to about $20.00 +/- per hour gross pay. That would be fine if you could count on 40-50 hours per week, but still it's terrible, particularly in my area where the cost of living is so high. Remember, that's gross pay. All your expenses come out of those game fees.

It can be an okay supplement to your regular job or if you're collecting some sort of retirement. But that also is dependent on the area you live in. In So Cal, you can work a ton of games each year, but that is not feasible in other parts of the country. Since I work full time and have a family, I'm not interested in working all weekend at tournaments. For me, the pay is basically extra beer money. For many in my HS association, it's a supplement to their retirement income. Still to make it worthwhile, you need to be working 300-400 games per year, which is a sh!t ton of games. Even if you did that many games as your full time job, it's still poverty in many areas of the country. I know a number of guys that umpire or officiate full time as their main source of income, and I can tell you they "ain't" making any money, and it shows. Even minor league guys start out at about $1900.00 per month, and that is working nearly everyday each month during the relatively short season. Even if you could do it on that level for 12 months out of the year, the pay is still terrible, barely enough to pay rent. I think best way to make a little extra pocket change umpiring is to be retired with a pension. That way you have free time to umpire more games during the year that will increase your gross earnings.

I had an old boss once tell me that there is a difference between earning a living and making money. You're not really doing either one umpiring baseball. Most of us do it for the love of it and maybe a little extra change each month. But forget about ever making money as an amateur umpire.

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Those are great points JonnyCat.  I appreciate hearing from someone else who has worked the numbers. I knew from the beginning that it wouldn't be lucrative, but never imagined it would be as bad as the numbers suggest. Wish I had understood your points before I made the decision to invest my time and money into it. I liked working games and overall had a very good experience in terms of the umpires, players, coaches, and even fans. But I like a million things (my wife, my children, playing sports, watching sports, etc) and there's all sorts of things I would have done with my time had I known how bad the compensation is when taking account of total costs (expenses, hidden expenses, time). 

I did sense some of what you're saying, especially your point about needing to work an extreme number of games to make it worthwhile. That's why I just got out, because it's not worthwhile and I have no interest in working even 100+ games. I'm from the north, so the number of games is limited, even if you work Sunday tournaments and summer.

Really appreciate your point about your old boss, thanks.  

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9 minutes ago, High School Umpire said:

Those are great points JonnyCat.  I appreciate hearing from someone else who has worked the numbers. I knew from the beginning that it wouldn't be lucrative, but never imagined it would be as bad as the numbers suggest. Wish I had understood your points before I made the decision to invest my time and money into it. I liked working games and overall had a very good experience in terms of the umpires, players, coaches, and even fans. But I like a million things (my wife, my children, playing sports, watching sports, etc) and there's all sorts of things I would have done with my time had I known how bad the compensation is when taking account of total costs (expenses, hidden expenses, time). 

I did sense some of what you're saying, especially your point about needing to work an extreme number of games to make it worthwhile. That's why I just got out, because it's not worthwhile and I have no interest in working even 100+ games. I'm from the north, so the number of games is limited, even if you work Sunday tournaments and summer.

Really appreciate your point about your old boss, thanks.  

Uh, the first thing I tell new guys in training is that you are not here for the money. You pay for your gear the first year. Then it’s just beer money at the Rec HS level. But we still had young persons stick with it. What didn’t stick with it were guys looking for extra cash. We don’t miss them. 

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48 minutes ago, High School Umpire said:

Those are great points JonnyCat.  I appreciate hearing from someone else who has worked the numbers. I knew from the beginning that it wouldn't be lucrative, but never imagined it would be as bad as the numbers suggest. Wish I had understood your points before I made the decision to invest my time and money into it. I liked working games and overall had a very good experience in terms of the umpires, players, coaches, and even fans. But I like a million things (my wife, my children, playing sports, watching sports, etc) and there's all sorts of things I would have done with my time had I known how bad the compensation is when taking account of total costs (expenses, hidden expenses, time). 

I did sense some of what you're saying, especially your point about needing to work an extreme number of games to make it worthwhile. That's why I just got out, because it's not worthwhile and I have no interest in working even 100+ games. I'm from the north, so the number of games is limited, even if you work Sunday tournaments and summer.

Really appreciate your point about your old boss, thanks.  

I used to do more games each year, but I've scaled back the past couple of years. I've always really just done it as a hobby, mostly because I enjoy it and working with my fellow umps. I have other hobbies that take some of my time, so I just don't spend all my free time officiating. If the pay was better, I might work more games. For me, working a lot of games makes no sense financially. I found myself neglecting my business in order to leave early for a mid-week HS game that pays a lousy $78.00. I was just leaving too much money on the table to justify working so many HS games.

I completely understand why you got out of it, especially if you're trying to earn some extra money. There are much easier ways to earn extra cash. Even if I was retired, I just couldn't fathom working as many games per year as some of my colleagues do.

 

 

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7 hours ago, JonnyCat said:

I found myself neglecting my business in order to leave early for a mid-week HS game that pays a lousy $78.00.

Lousy $78 for 2 hours (maybe 3 on a bad day) of work?

If you come into officiating as a money-maker, you're going to leave disappointed. Officiating for most of us is a hobby - a way to spend a few hours of an afternoon or evening having fun. There aren't a lot of hobbies that allow someone with a few days of learning it to get guaranteed pay. And those that do require a lot of upfront money as well.

In umpiring, you have two paths:

(1) Learn, learn, learn. Have your nose in a book when you aren't on the field. Go to optional training courses (sometimes that will cost money, too). When your association has two or three meetings in a week, go to all three. Ask your assigner and veteran officials to coffee or lunch - find out what it will take to move up (also costs money). Work your ass off on these sub-Varsity games. Get noticed, move up, keep working your ass off. The next thing you know, you're getting assigned college (probably JuCo to start, maybe some lower-division) games. Work your ass off. Attend a longer clinic. Keep working your ass off. Now you're working higher-division ball and bringing in some bank for that weekend series - you even get a dressing room!

(2) Work more games. Adjust your personal life to have all your evenings and weekends open and whore yourself let local leagues know you're available. Sign up for those 8U travel ball tournaments and work the 6-8 games on Saturday. Sure, the pay is horrible, but once you multiply it by 12 for the two days, it's a lot of money. Sure, you made some excuse to your high school assigner who had that JV game with him available, but that's ok - you've got that freshman game tomorrow with the guy who's been around for 20 years and always works the bases.

Which path you choose is up to you. Neither is wrong, but both have different rewards.

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10 hours ago, JonnyCat said:

You can't really make any money with umpiring, the pay is for crap, but not only that, the hours you can work are limited. In my area, you can basically only get one game per day during the week. More on Saturdays, but even Sundays are limited unless you're working some tournaments. The drawback to tournaments are the usually lower rate per game. Even if you do 10-12 games in a weekend, the pay still sucks for the hours you have to spend. I've done the math many different ways and it always comes out to about $20.00 +/- per hour gross pay. That would be fine if you could count on 40-50 hours per week, but still it's terrible, particularly in my area where the cost of living is so high. Remember, that's gross pay. All your expenses come out of those game fees.

It can be an okay supplement to your regular job or if you're collecting some sort of retirement. But that also is dependent on the area you live in. In So Cal, you can work a ton of games each year, but that is not feasible in other parts of the country. Since I work full time and have a family, I'm not interested in working all weekend at tournaments. For me, the pay is basically extra beer money. For many in my HS association, it's a supplement to their retirement income. Still to make it worthwhile, you need to be working 300-400 games per year, which is a sh!t ton of games. Even if you did that many games as your full time job, it's still poverty in many areas of the country. I know a number of guys that umpire or officiate full time as their main source of income, and I can tell you they "ain't" making any money, and it shows. Even minor league guys start out at about $1900.00 per month, and that is working nearly everyday each month during the relatively short season. Even if you could do it on that level for 12 months out of the year, the pay is still terrible, barely enough to pay rent. I think best way to make a little extra pocket change umpiring is to be retired with a pension. That way you have free time to umpire more games during the year that will increase your gross earnings.

I had an old boss once tell me that there is a difference between earning a living and making money. You're not really doing either one umpiring baseball. Most of us do it for the love of it and maybe a little extra change each month. But forget about ever making money as an amateur umpire.

Or you can work your ass off... Get to an NCAA D1 level where some guys can make nearly $40k in 16 weeks. 

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1 hour ago, yawetag said:

Lousy $78 for 2 hours (maybe 3 on a bad day) of work?

If you come into officiating as a money-maker, you're going to leave disappointed. Officiating for most of us is a hobby - a way to spend a few hours of an afternoon or evening having fun. There aren't a lot of hobbies that allow someone with a few days of learning it to get guaranteed pay. And those that do require a lot of upfront money as well.

In umpiring, you have two paths:

(1) Learn, learn, learn. Have your nose in a book when you aren't on the field. Go to optional training courses (sometimes that will cost money, too). When your association has two or three meetings in a week, go to all three. Ask your assigner and veteran officials to coffee or lunch - find out what it will take to move up (also costs money). Work your ass off on these sub-Varsity games. Get noticed, move up, keep working your ass off. The next thing you know, you're getting assigned college (probably JuCo to start, maybe some lower-division) games. Work your ass off. Attend a longer clinic. Keep working your ass off. Now you're working higher-division ball and bringing in some bank for that weekend series - you even get a dressing room!

(2) Work more games. Adjust your personal life to have all your evenings and weekends open and whore yourself let local leagues know you're available. Sign up for those 8U travel ball tournaments and work the 6-8 games on Saturday. Sure, the pay is horrible, but once you multiply it by 12 for the two days, it's a lot of money. Sure, you made some excuse to your high school assigner who had that JV game with him available, but that's ok - you've got that freshman game tomorrow with the guy who's been around for 20 years and always works the bases.

Which path you choose is up to you. Neither is wrong, but both have different rewards.

It is still not a lot of money for the work in my case, it's obviously different for others. But in my case, my regular job pays WAY more than umpiring. As I said in my post, it's a hobby for me. And it is not just for 2 hours of work, at least not in my case. Because of work, in the case of a HS game that usually starts at 3:00pm, I need to leave my job at around 1pm, go home and shower, grab my other truck and head to the game. After working the game, I'll hit 5:00pm traffic and usually not get home until 6:00pm. I realize that is not the norm for everyone, but for me, it's usually a 5 hour commitment, and sometimes more depending on where the game is located in our county. So yes, when I'm leaving a $200,000.00 remodel/room addition, it's a lousy $78.00. I understand each situation is different, but I was responding to the OP with my experience.

As to your points 1 and 2. I've done both, even attending pro school. It's not a matter of getting games, I could be umpiring full time. It's just that it doesn't pay enough to pay the bills here in Southern California. Again, might be different in other areas, and I can't speak for everyone. Since I work full time and like my wife and kids, I'm not about to spend every weekend at tournaments. Fine if that is what you want to do, I have no issue with that, but it's still not a lot of money. It would be almost impossible to pay most mortgages with just income from umpiring. Hard to even pay rent on that kind of money.

It's a great hobby and I like it, but as far as making money, not usually going to happen. Any way you do the math, It's only about $20.00 per hour gross pay on average. Good in some areas, not in So Cal with the high cost of living. If you're young and can work a ton of games, it might seem like a lot of money is to be made on the amatuer umpiring circuit. But if you're old and crusty like me and have mortgages, car payments, kids in college, etc. Can't do it with just umpring.

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36 minutes ago, JSam21 said:

Or you can work your ass off... Get to an NCAA D1 level where some guys can make nearly $40k in 16 weeks. 

That is the exception rather than the norm. But for those of us that are older with careers and established lifestyles, it's not really an option. I suspect the OP is in the same boat. The OP wanted to make a little extra money umpiring HS ball, but is finding out the pay does not work out in his situation.

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I think you're conflating "amateur umpiring" and "career choice".

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I think the largest thing with OP is missing is the glamour, night life and chicks that come with the gig! Just cannot keep those umpire groupies away!

Oh, wait... that's Rock Star... I get easily confused!

 

Bottom line... I take the 25 or so HS game fees a season and pay off or pay down a bill, take a vacation, or something similar. Am I going to pay my house payment with this extra 'side job'? Nope. I could work games almost every day of the year, but as other posters have already said, this is a hobby. Get out there, get some exercise, see the sun, make a 14 year old cry... all the important things! 

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I am fortunate that I do not umpire to supplement my income.  My umpire fees go toward the expenses I incur for this hobby so I do not take away from the family budget and to provide the kids with some extra spending money when we go on vacation.

I did not get into this to "make money" but rather as a way to stay connected to a game I loved for a long as I can remember. I know of many folks who officiate 4, 5 or even 6 different sports.  Perhaps that is a way to improve your money making money opportunities.  Never had a desire to be a "sports official", just an umpire.

Perhaps the only people who get into this level of umpiring (summer, HS, etc.; NOT Division I Power Conference) to make money are also the same folks who thought they would be able to buy a yacht by placing "tiny classified ads" like the dude they saw on the infomercial at 2:30 AM.

 

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Slightly different angle, I believe umpiring to be the best job a high schooler could have. Where else could I make $20 an hour, while setting my own schedule, and doing something I love? Even after spending close to $1000 to overhaul my equipment, get stuff to do basketball, and pay for gas, I still came out way ahead last year, and I'm getting even better games and pay this year, with way less overhead (driving a way more gas efficient car!).

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Couldn't agree more with @Biscuit, the pay per hour is truly ridiculous compared to what our friends make. Personally, I make around $1100 per month when there's baseball, working two nights a week during the HS season and usually all or most of Saturday. My friends all make significantly less money for working the same hours.

Now, I would agree that you will not make much, if any, money officiating at the amateur level. However, for HS and college students, it's the perfect job. There's a college student in our group that grossed ~$14,000 last calendar year from our group alone, because he's open all weekend and three nights a week, and works in three different groups outside ours. Last I talked to him he said that he netted about $20,000 across baseball and basketball.

- BR

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4 minutes ago, BlueRanger said:

Couldn't agree more with @Biscuit, the pay per hour is truly ridiculous compared to what our friends make. Personally, I make around $1100 per month when there's baseball, working two nights a week during the HS season and usually all or most of Saturday. My friends all make significantly less money for working the same hours.

Now, I would agree that you will not make much, if any, money officiating at the amateur level. However, for HS and college students, it's the perfect job. There's a college student in our group that grossed ~$14,000 last calendar year from our group alone, because he's open all weekend and three nights a week, and works in three different groups outside ours. Last I talked to him he said that he netted about $20,000 across baseball and basketball.

- BR

Im pretty sure I'm making more than most of my friends with less hours... And it's something I thoroughly enjoy, and can take with me past high school.

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I figure that I'm probably making $15-$20/hour net on average.

So I have my "day job" which pays ~$30/hr, but provides me with lots of bennies: health insurance, retirement, stability, year-round work, etc.

I have side-gig #1 (consulting) which pays really well ($100/hr, with few expenses), but which I would kill myself doing all the time, and even if I did would be 10- hours/week some weeks and 100+ hours/week on others. Both of these first two have me looking at a computer screen and typing all day.

Then I have side-gig #2 (officiating) which doesn't pay nearly as well, but which gets me outside, moving my body, and seems to be generally appreciated (despite the occasional parent in the stands or coach that didn't like that one call). Yeah, I'll take that.

When I first spoke to SWMBO about doing this (after a few years of rec ball - so I knew what I was doing, but didn't have any of my own equipment, uniforms, etc.), she said "most people's hobbies lose them money - go for it." I don't really consider it a "hobby" as much as "a fun other job". Besides, what am I going to do if I'm not doing this? Sit on my butt, bored, and watching movies? No thanks. There is plenty of time to do that when games are rained out. :)

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@Biscuit@BlueRanger

couldn't agree more guys...i did this all through college, joined the local HS assoc in the area and umpired at a tournament site nearby. I always made my class schedule with umpiring in mind. Class in the am, umpiring in the afternoon, and "extra-curriculars" at night. Cant beat it for a college kid.

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7 hours ago, kylehutson said:

When I first spoke to SWMBO about doing this (after a few years of rec ball - so I knew what I was doing, but didn't have any of my own equipment, uniforms, etc.), she said "most people's hobbies lose them money - go for it."

That's been my SWMBO's stance for 13 years. I've never had a year I didn't net positive. Sure, some of those years had very little expenses, but some with the biggest expenses had the biggest net profits.

Now, dealing with SWMBO and TWWDHM (Those Who Want Dad Home More) is a topic all on its own.

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My real job isn’t making me rich. I’ve raised 2 kids, paid off my house, have only a little debt, and I’ve managed to pay all my bills on time. It sure wasn’t easy and there were plenty times things were really tight. One thing for sure ....,If I didn’t start umpiring 8 years ago making a little extra cash, I would have been working a second job at night at Home Depot or something making less per hour, and having way less fun than I do umpiring. 

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11 hours ago, yawetag said:

Now, dealing with SWMBO and TWWDHM (Those Who Want Dad Home More) is a topic all on its own.

My kids are all out of the house now, so I have the opposite problem. "Why are you home???"

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On 5/6/2019 at 9:44 AM, Biscuit said:

Slightly different angle, I believe umpiring to be the best job a high schooler could have. Where else could I make $20 an hour, while setting my own schedule, and doing something I love? Even after spending close to $1000 to overhaul my equipment, get stuff to do basketball, and pay for gas, I still came out way ahead last year, and I'm getting even better games and pay this year, with way less overhead (driving a way more gas efficient car!).

Absolutely agree with this being a great job for students. My son is a freshman in HS... plays baseball for his school team... on the weekends, he is working 1-2 LL games at $25/game. Where else at 15 is he going to pull $50 for 4 hours work? There are few jobs available for kids any longer.

He has some spending cash to go to the movies with his buddies, or to buy a new game for his X-Box. He is also saving some so he can pay for gas/insurance in a year when he gets his license.

 

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