Breaking news – the faucet is fixed!

Breaking news in our house – the 25 year old leaking bathroom faucet has been replaced!

I know, huge!

Why is this breaking news? I am glad you asked!  The news is that we saved money in two places – the $5 on the Amazon Prime movie rental we were going to watch instead of fixing the sink as well as on the labor to install the replacement faucet.

To get this double benefit we followed the instructions (repeatedly) and after extreme highs (it works!) and equally bad lows (nope, the new connections leak) we got stuff disconnected and the new stuff reconnected. There are only three connection points – hot water, cold water and the drain but I assure you for a novice like me it was a slow and laborious process.   Let talk benefits in order to convince you to consider in sourcing  before hiring someone.

First, we changed from passive consumers to active producers (and I use that term loosely). From observers to doers. This mind shift is more important that the actual money saved.

Though we did save a chunk of change. According to HomeWyse.com, this would have normally cost us $331 in labor for an expert. And to earn that we would have had to earn $479 in income to pay for it (not to mention asking someone to work a holiday weekend).

$300 bucks might not seem like a lot but ten of these $300 do-it-yourself gigs adds up to $3000. Combined with other habits this can help out with the tuition bills.

Of course safety is paramount and we double and triple checked to make sure the circuit breaker was off and that the dishwasher was off before we did anything else. Start small with something simple that you are comfortable with but would normally hire out to someone else.

Doing your research

You have decided to send your child to a private school! Good for you! And good for your children and the broader community!

However, in doing so you suddenly switch from a mindset of a exploring a single school system to lots of choices. You soon realize you aren’t selecting a school. Instead you are starting a two way conversation about joining a community.

It can be overwhelming and you don’t want to start from scratch. The good news is there are many information sources out there to help you out.

The leader in our area, the DC School Hub, provides families in and near the national’s capital with information daycare, nursery school, preschool and independent and private schools.

What is wonderful about this resource is the variety of perspectives. They include descriptions of the areas schools, messages from the heads of

DC School Hub schools and detailed stories written by parents *for* parents describing their children’s experience. In about ten minutes of reading you can learn from decades of real experience.

They even list  who has spots open for new students.

Look around for something similar in your area. Even if there isn’t one, reading through the DC School Hub will provide a framework for the kinds of questions you should be thinking about when selecting a private school for your child.

The key take away here is you want the variety of perspectives – the head of school, teachers, parents and the students. That depth of information is too much to gather and absorb during a school’s open house so a site is a valuable resource. In addition to visiting the school, read the information on these sites and ask neighbors, colleagues and family members about the schools you think might be a match. We were very surprised to learn that someone we know quite well was both a teacher and a board of trustees member at our child’s school and had all kinds of helpful tips for us.

The worst you will get by asking around is a shrug or a lecture on why all children should attend their local public school or advice on how to better spend your money. And hear them out – that is information for you to consider as well.

How to save $3000 in a single weekend

This weekend we had quite the coup on the financial front. In short, we saved $3000 in a single weekend. The largest portion of these savings is very counter intuitive. Specifically, it is something we *didn’t* do that resulted in the savings.

Our sidewalk has sunk  down into the ground quite a bit and we need it back here on earth. To do this we were considering hiring a contractor to repair and replace our entire front sidewalk.

Grassy Slate Sidewalk - Source: Wiki Commons
Grassy Slate Sidewalk – Source: Wiki Commons

We diligently obtained lots of quotes – some as high as $8000 and one  contractor quoted us is a good deal at $2000. And the contractor seems excellent. And the firm is made up of U.S.  military service veterans.  So, heroes.

And then we paused.

We are all correctly hardwired to an action for bias. But to pay for school means to prioritize spending in a most singular way. And that often means *not* taking action. After some thought we decided to pass. $2000 saved immediately. There are lots of other much lower cost options available to us. The alternatives aren’t as quick, or as fancy looking, as a new slate sidewalk. But a $40 slate patch serves a more important purpose.

Many people say this and I can’t stress it enough; The most effective way to save money is to not spend it.

It is not the 2 for 1 deals, coupons or thrift stores that get it done. Those are indeed effective tools – but only after not spending is considered as the first choice.

The saving super power of not doing anything is often forgotten. It goes against our bias towards action.

And it is sacrifice. That is what is required to pay the tuition for someone else. Embrace it. The lower cost solution still meets the need and makes room for something more valuable. It also has the benefit of keeping us from getting a little too proud or having the neighbors get envious of a brand new slate sidewalk. Instead they will see a nice and neat, but uninspiring, repair job.

So that is the first $2000.

The remaining $1000 was saved on a train trip using an Amtrak rewards card. We had enough points to take a required family trip for free. Score! This is what most of us will get excited about. Goods and services for free! Points! Free travel!

I want to reiterate that this isn’t where the magic happens. It happens on the cracked and aged (but still serviceable) sidewalk staying that way. Boring, simple and requiring no action. Embrace the self-restraint and acknowledge that it is difficult to do. The children aren’t the only ones who get an education from a private school.

Do nothing - Source Wiki Commons
Do nothing – Source Wiki Commons

$3000 saved in 2 days, most of it through pausing and then… doing nothing.

Are you sure you can’t afford  to pay for private school?

Hero profile: Dorothy Counts

In 1957, Dorothy Counts desegregated an all-white school by being the first person of color to attend. She is still fighting for equal rights for all today.

Private school is about having choices but a valid argument of public school proponents is that the private school system can be used as, or  inadvertantly beome, a  method of discrimination.

In addition to selecting the appropriate education and value system for your child, you have a moral obligation to make sure doing so doesn’t adversely affect other children. Take a close look at the private school your child is attending. If it doesn’t include a diverse student body drawn from the community, connect with other parents and demand a change.  Paying a tuition gives you a powerful voice at your school. More importantly, future parents will want to know about a school that has this problem and did nothing to make it better. Don’t look the other way if your child’s school isn’t diversified.

We are lucky in that our child’s school considers diversity a core value. Use your considerable influence to start the conversation at your school.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”[1]

Desmond Tutu

[1] https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/d/desmondtut106145.html

Paying for private school is training wheels for college expenses

I often hear from folks who say that can’t afford to pay for private school for their young children because they are saving for college.

That is like saying you are going to wait to train for a marathon until the day before because you don’t want to wear yourself out.

The time to educate your children is now, not after they have grown up and are using education primarily for job skills acquisition.

And a benefit of this approach is you are running a college simulation program! You are practicing paying for a portion (or all) of college, right now. Good for you! Keep it up!

Yes, there is a risk that things won’t work out as expected but life is full or risks. Don’t wait until the end of it to do what you feel is right.

You can do this.