Paying for private school

Tips and tricks for sending your child to private school

Install a Power Plant

Did you own a home and regularly mulch flower and tree beds? Five hundred square feet in mulch will cost over $500 installed (apartment dwellers have wisely skipped this expense). Over ten years that is $5000! Of course you would do that yourself. Still, it is a lot of money. And you could do all that stuff. *Or* you can install a power plant one time.

Behold the powerful and lovely pachysandra plant.  In the first year after planting it sleeps, the second year it creeps and by the third year it leaps.

 

It grows in value

A small tray of this  green ground cover will run you about $20 at a landscape store. And that is all you need to start.

We bought ours of someone who had a big  patch of it for $4. We got it in wet newspaper and promptly planted  just a few stems in various places. I have been transplanting seedlings ever since slowly filling in the beds. Each year I have needed less and less mulch as this plant serves as a living mulch. And each spring  we enjoy lovely white flowers and fresh air produced by the plants. And last year a frog moved into to the shady refuge these plants provide.

And unlike mulch which is a drain on the budget, a pachysandra plant is a flowering ground cover that produces more value each year. We now have thousands of these plants worth thousands of dollars.

Many options

And if you don’t like this particular plant no problem – there are lots of ground covers to choose from that spread on their own.  English Ivy and Vinca are good choices but require a bit of care. Once those are in add some flowers and enjoy the beautiful savings

It’s easy being green.

Increase your food expenses!

Food is  a big portion of household spending. You probably think you want me to cut expenses drastically here as well. Nope.

You have enough income to consider private school so most likely you have a two income household where everyone works in competitive and draining jobs. And now I am asking you to think about cutting costs and to take regularly repeated actions. This takes a lot of energy and a clear mind.

Going for the pancakes instead of an egg white omelet with mushrooms and peppers because the pancakes are a fraction of the cost makes sense right?

Not always. Paying for private school means developing your children to their full potential. And that applies to you as well. Some things make sense to pay more for and actually ending up costing less in the long run.

Pancakes, for example, can cause a temporary spike, and insulin rush, a crash and then a fuzzy fog hours later. We need you to have steady and calm energy all day and then in the evenings, after a long commute, feeling like you could be productive. That way you will have enough energy to do some money saving record keeping after a full day at work. Slow and steady wins this race. Eat whole foods.

You will find your food costs might go up a little but your energy levels become a steady fire once you drop the spikes associated with sugar and ultra refined flours. Soon enough, after a ten hour work day followed up by dinner and dishes, more work will be quite simple and enjoyable. This is an investment in yourself, just like private school is an investment,  and will soon pay for itself many times over as your steady energy enables you to do more.

Don’t worry. You come from a long line of people who worked from dawn until dusk six days a week.  All you need to do is eat like them. Don’t eat anything your great

grandmother didn’t eat. If the dish appears to be traditional eat that – most likely it is mostly vegetables with a protein mixed in and sometimes a whole grain. Do this for a week for each meal and prepared to be amazed.

And when you are outside your dwelling some evening because there is something you need to do to save money and because you eat well you will have the energy to do so. You will invariable notice the soft glow in the windows nearby just sitting around being passively entertained. At first this will be alarming. Eventually you will realize you are playing a game where only a few are even showing up to participate.

 

 

Reasons people send their children to private school

Recently on a message board I occasionally read, a parent was wondering if they should send their child to private school. So she asked the parents of other private school children if her child would feel poor compared to other families and feel bad about themselves as a result.

One respondent decided to inform the original poster on the real reason they were considering private school:

If it were truly “education” that you care about, your kid would be in a high performing public school. Private school parents care more about the “experience” which is code for “rubbing shoulders with rich people to learn their values and customs and not hard working immigrant values.”

Angry person art

By SmurfyOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Wow, I am glad that respondent cleared it up for them – I bet the parent didn’t even know they were against education!

This kind of shaming response is quite common and the main reason for this web site. Those kind of knee jerk responses assumes that parents send their kids to private school to “rub shoulders with the rich people and learn their customs”.

I attended private schools for 12 years and have paid for a child to attend one nearly as long.

Not once in this time have I seen or heard anyone doing some sort of anthropological study of the ways of the wealthy. Indeed, all the kids attend all the same classes and, at many schools, are required to wear the same clothing (uniforms) to avoid status from being an issue.

Here are the reasons I have actually heard from parents sending their children to private or independent charter schools, as well as home schooling.

  • School matches the families religion
  • Alignment with the family values
  • Specialized learning environment where the private school focused on particular area such as
    • Special needs
    • College preparation
    • Military career preparation schools
    • The arts (dance, theater etc.)
    • An international based education where the child learns the language of their culture (very good for diplomats who will need to return to their country at the end of service)
    • Greek tradition (sports and academic having equal weight)
  • Smaller class size enabling better learning outcomes
  • Additional learning resources are available in some of the private schools – one I know of has Ipads, the other offers horseback riding for kids (apparently it calms the kids who have sensory issues).

I am sure I am missing some. And I would love to hear from any parent that sends their kids to private school to study the culture and norms of wealthy people to learn their ways!

And for everyone else – I do want to assure you that selecting a private school means you are focused on providing a good education for your child. And an educated child becomes an educated adult which benefits all of society. Keep up the great work and sacrifice and thank you.

 

Stock pick of the month: General Electric

If you have been following the tips on this and other financial blogs you will become a producer instead of a consumer. And you will find joy in the simple life. And eventually, ever so slowly, even with a gigantic tuition, you will have some money to put aside. For me that goes into dividend stocks that are high quality and that align with my values.

This month’s stock pick is General Electric.

This company has really declined dropping almost 60% quoted value in the last year compared to an almost 12% rise in market quoted value during that same period.

General Electric Trailing 12 Month Valuation April 2018

General Electric Trailing 12 Month Valuation April 2018

[1]

 

 

What happened?

It has become apparent that some of GE’s businesses aren’t doing well. More importantly the reported numbers appeared to be subject to what is called performance theater and very positive views of the business were presented in past years that might have been too optimistic.

This uncertainty combined with a stark new reality including billions of unexpected charges and, just this past week, a plan to restate all the previous numbers has folks repricing the company.

Institutional investors understandably don’t want to put other’s people money into something that can’t even assess since the reported earnings and projections both appear to have been incorrect. The company suffered from a very rapid repricing and then was followed by a market imbalance where lots of folks wanted to sell and not so many wanted to purchase. That market imbalance causes the price to automatically adjust downwards (sometimes rapidly) until a new balance is found. This might very well continue down from here.

 

The business

This isn’t the GE you might know from your home. They don’t even own the GE appliance brand anymore – they sold it and the name. Much of their business is industrial services. They create and service the leading air craft engine, medical imaging equipment locomotives and electrical generation plants. These are tough business to get into from a standing start so they have a fairly defendable position built up through the hard work of previous GE teams over the last 100 years. They debt load is astronomical (over 100 billion) and, depending on their terms and the direction of rates in coming years could be very damaging for many years. However, their revenue generation is huge – $122 billion last year (well, something along those lines – we shall see after they restate it) making in the top 20 of all companies![2]

 

With those kinds of numbers and excellent margins in many of their business a batch of cost cutting should enable them to improve their financial condition substantially.

 

The valuation

Looking ahead even this new price of $12 a share, down from $30 last year isn’t as cheap as you would think. Based on the company’s own revised estimates of earning a dollar a share that is still a PE of 12 or, if you pretend it’s a bank account, a earnings yield of 8% (some of which is paid out in dividends. I can get the maker of Sharpie pens for less, even in today’s elevated market.

As is often the case, that isn’t’ the entire story. Some folks are saying that $1 estimate is too high and earnings will be half that  or just 50 cents per share this year.  And they might be right.  Suddenly this company doesn’t look so cheap – even with it’s share price cut in half.

 

The long view

However, the company is cutting costs and selling assets. Just a few years back they reported earnings of over $2 a share – and assuming that is reasonably close to the restated earnings – that is pretty good. Indeed, should succeed in rationalizing the business they might even return to that number within a decade.

And if they do that today’s price looks a lot better. What you are looking at today is the pricing in the trough of their earnings and dividends (which they recently cut in half).

In our imagined future of returning to $2 a share of earnings the PE ratio based on today’s market quotation is 6 and the earnings yield is 16%. And while the dividend yield is unlikely to return to previous levels anytime soon there may be upside there as well.

 

The assessment

For the really patient and risk tolerant investor with a long horizon this is an interesting offering. And should the company return to its previous earnings –it’s historical price to earnings ratio is about 17 placing the future price around $34 a share and the annual return at just under 11% in market value increase plus the dividend of 3% for an annual return of 14% over a ten year period which would be excellent.

Of course they could also default which means you must make your own assessment and this post is not intended as a recommendation or financial advice.

Full disclosure

Many years ago my grandmother owned general electric stock and the proceeds from its sale helped pay for some of my education. I have a very favorable view of the company, am happy to have this opportunity and might have a lot more patience than other investors for that reason.

 

[1] “GE Interactive Stock Chart | General Electric Company Stock.” Yahoo! Finance. Accessed April 12, 2018.

 

[2] “General Electric.” Fortune. Accessed April 12, 2018. http://fortune.com/fortune500/general-electric/.

 

Think multi-purpose

Ever noticed all those low profile and uninteresting hatchbacks, mini-vans and station wagons wheeling around?

Time to get excited about them because they are awesome.

We purchased our battle wagon for a net of $8000 even though it only has $70K miles and gobs of air bags.

Last month we needed a new side board (well, a side board, we never owned one).

New side boards were $1000 for low end ones unless you go with those glue and saw dust ones that have to be replaced soon anyway.

Too much! Guess those boxes stay on the floor.

We looked on Craigslist for weeks. And weeks. Even the cruddy stuff at low end stores was $500. Sigh. We were very close to dishing the money out for a new piece and cutting in other areas to make it work.

But wait, Craigslist has a 5 foot solid wood one for sale that on the Havertys awesome web site sells for $1000 new (love their stuff – so cool). And it is only $200 bucks and within a few miles of the house!

If only we had something to move it with – I am too lazy to rent something and it would take too much time. It might be gone and what if I don’t like it when I see it. In comes the incredible station wagon with seats that fold down! volvo-wagon-blueAn hour later the sideboard was now gracing our home instead of headed to the trash heap.  Money saving environmentalism.

On the way home I couldn’t help but realize the $800 saved was the equivalent of a 10% yield pay out on the wagon. That is pretty sweet contribution to the tuition.

Keep costs low and think multi-purpose.

Is A Used Car Cheaper To Own Than a New Car?

Is a used car cheaper than a new car to own? For those of us scrounging to pay for tuition there is a better (and easier) question to ask. And that is, what is my cost per use for this car?

Consider Cost Per Use Instead

Folks paying tuition don’t get to pick any car they want to won. Instead, we buy the safest cars possible and determine the correct one by comparing cost per use (in this case cost per miles).

Instead We Consider Cost Per Use on Large Purchases

Here is an example. Our car cost $45,000 new.  A long time ago. We paid net (after sale of the old car) $8000 for it second hand with 70,000 miles on it. Same features as the original owner had but with more miles on it, some character and a bit of a vintage feel. Let’s use the cost per use method to see if we paid a fair price for the vehicle.volvo-wagon-blue

Before we get into the numbers I realize some of you hate this sort of conversation. You find it is tedious and you never trust the numbers you end up with.  Send me a note or post a comment and I will run the numbers for you. And don’t worry about getting the match exactly right, just remember to keep cost per use in mind when facing a major purchase decision.

On to the numbers!

The original owner paid $45,000 for 75,000 miles of use or 60 cents for each mile driven, not counting fuel, tires, service and parts. Assume we keep the car another $75,000 miles and get the 75K, 100K and 125K maintenance work which will cost in total about $4000. Our combined cost for the car is $12,000, again ignoring consumables. Our cost will be 16 cents per mile or only 25% of the cost of the car if it was purchased new.  I declare this to be a good deal as we can get four of them for the same cost as the car was new.

Is A Used Car Cheaper To Own Than a New Car?

This doesn’t mean all used cars are cheaper than all new cars.

Today on Autotrader.com a 2013 Jeep Wrangler with 45K miles is selling for $25,900 despite having a poor side impact safety rating and marginal front impact rating. At the same time a new Subaru Forester, is selling for $26,100. Not as cool looking but stellar safety ratings.

If both cars are driven for 100K miles the Wrangler will need both the 75K, the expensive 100K services and a more expensive 125K service, and new tires for about $5000 in parts and labor. The Subaru will only need the $1500 75K service.

Let’s compare the cost per use of each vehicle in the handy table.

Wrangler (21 MPG) Forester (32 MPG)
Up front cost $25900 $21600
Service $5000 $1500
Gas for 100K miles @ $3 a gallon $14285 $9375
Total cost $45,185

 

$32,475

 

45 cents 32 cents

 

The Forester, despite being newer, safer, and more reliable and more gas efficient, at first glance appears to be about the same price as the used and cooler looking Wrangler. But the cost per mile reveals the Wrangler is 40% more for each mile driven. A brand new Forester is much cheaper then the used Wrangler.

The astute reader at this point will wonder – wait a minute – wouldn’t a used Subaru save us even more? I am glad you asked because today on Autotrader.com a 2013 Forester is $16,488.

Let’s compare cost per use of all three vehicles.

 

Wrangler (21 MPG) New Forester (32 MPG) Used 2013 Forester (27 MPG)
Up front cost $25900 $21600 $16488
Service $5000 $1500 $5,000
Gas for 100K miles @ $3 a gallon $14285 $9375 $11,111
Total cost $45,185

 

$32,475

 

$32,599

 

45 cents 32 cents 33 cents

 

Oooooh!  So sorry! The new car is still the most economical. The less gas efficient 2013 Forester combined with that 100K services hit really put the new vehicle in the lead.

We have found it helpful to think cost per use to get the most out of something so extra funds can be redirected towards tuition and hope you will too.

So the three cars I chose for this example were pretty close. Ideally, you are looking for comparisons that are really easy so that it is fairly obvious by adding up some numbers. But you get the idea. If you find a car that is safe and reliable but makes you go “meh” it is likely to be the correct car. That is why there are so many of them on the road as lots of other folks have come to the same conclusion.

If you are thinking a particular car you are looking into is so cool, move on. Get your excitement out of some fancy new shoes instead.

Simplicity

Years ago a statement from Bruce Lee about punching stuck with me as a good life philosophy.

“The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum. It is the halfway cultivation that leads to ornamentation.” – Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee

This same philosophy applies to paying for private school. Your child’s education isn’t about social status, fancy sweatshirts, a beautiful campus or a list of college admissions lists. Those are at best artifacts of a private education but more likely are distractions. They aren’t the purpose of an education.

Keep your specific purpose for sending your child to a private school in mind. It might be very different than my purpose. And that is OK as everything else is a ornamentation.  Your success on this endeavor will help both your child and the broader community by educating its citizens with a diversity of thought.

 

You can do this.

 

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
― Bruce Lee

That is One Long Cable!

Eleven years ago we moved into our current home. And the previous owners had not installed cable television. To get it installed meant an all day visit and lots of holes would have to be drilled into the relatively intact walls. And then we would have a $100 a month bill.

We put it off. Then we thought about it. And then we passed on it and just used Netflix and then eventually Amazon Prime for videos and a fancy “digital” antenna for local television stations.

In the first year we spent $1200 less than we would have otherwise. Importantly, we missed all those advertisements that likely would have increased our spending even more. Ten years later we had avoided $12,000 in costs.

Last year we got a sweet deal on a used Volvo XC70. Originally $45,000 when it was new, we picked it up used for $12,000. After selling the previous car for $4000 the net cost was $8000.

Volvo Wagon - New to us!

Battle Wagon – New to us!

By skipping on the cable expense for the decade prior we essentially got a free car with all the gas it will need for many years paid for up front. And that is good because we need to pay the tuition bills.

Limit those little expenses. They add up quickly.

A Tale of Two Dishwashers

Our dishwasher was not functioning well. Repeated repair attempts had extended the life a bit but dirty dishes after each wash was the motivation to finally replace it.

We selected a washer that made sense for us (hard food disposal!) and had decent reviews.

Picture of an awesome Maytag Dishwasher with hard food disposal.

Awesome Maytag Dishwasher with hard food disposal.

There was a fancy one for $598.  Let’s assume we would have it installed for us rather than attempt to get the thing in ourselves.

The Numbers

 

Below are actual quotes from the site we purchased The Awesome Dishwasher (rhymes with West Guy).

 

Fancy Stainless Steel Version – Installed Fancy Stainless Steel Version, DYI
Base price $494 $494
Installation $139 $0
Install Kit $29 $29
Haul Away $15 $0
Totals $677 $523

 

So $154 more for the installed version. That is 30% more for the same functionality.

The Time

This might seem like a waste of time as I am wholly unqualified to install a dishwasher. And despite daily practice my ability to even use one has come into question (hence the hard food disposal). It would take a pro 1 hour. It took me two hours on a Saturday and another two hours on a Sunday. Since we took our time I was able to clean up all the junk under it, test it multiple times for leaks and line it up just right under the cabinet. The previous, professionally installed one, was a miniature leaning tower of Pisa.

And I didn’t have to wait for a contractor and can do it in the morning. 4 hours to save a measly $154. That is only 38 bucks an hour! Based on this calculator that is $79,040.00.

This is looking better already.

But wait – this is tax free money. I don’t have to earn that $154 which would have taken $215 in gross income (before taxes, withdraws, sales taxes and mystery fees). Now we are bumped up to $53 an hour.

The Adjusted Savings

That is better. $53 an hour equates to $110,000 annual salary.

Of course your salary takes priority but if you were going to spend a lazy afternoon with a non-fiction book you can have just as much fun watching a you tube video of how to install a dishwasher.

Change Your Mind Set To Make The Grade

Paying for private school means changing your mind set on seemingly small things. You can do this.

Build the Catherdral

For over half a century Trappist monk Justo Gallego has been building a cathedral in Spain. Led by his calling and with no formal training his effort has resulted in incredible results

Justo Gallego. Source: wikipedia

Justo Gallego. Source: wikipedias been a slow and steady building up of something beautiful. He expects no return on investment and, while accepting help, he has to be the driving force behind it, day after day, month after month, year after year.

I love this story. We as parents all of us are doing the same for our children. One way we do this is to match our

child’s needs to the appropriate school. And if you are at this site, you have selected, or are considering, a private school as one possible option.

Justo might be a little bit crazy. And many of us have  heard that we are nuts for wasting money on private school tuition. But wouldn’t it be nice to create something beautiful  for someone else?– In this case a series of experiences, lessons and morale frameworks for your children and the broader community.

You can do this. We can help.

 

« Older posts