Paying for private school

Tips and tricks for sending your child to private school

Tag: help paying for college (page 1 of 3)

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.

Boundaries

Fancy terms are tossed around for those who reach some impressive goal. Will-power, strength, perseverance, forcefulness and might. Awesomeness!

Super Heros

These are good and make for excellent attributes of world leaders and super heroes.

Jedi Knights

What you need to save money is more along the lines of a monk (or Jedi knights); patience, flexibility, willingness to compromise, teamwork and collaboration.

Set Boundaries and Win

But above all you need boundaries. The ability to say no to others and yourself.

Boundaries are the super power of paying for private school.

Indeed, the best way to save money for a higher purpose is to not spend it on a million other valuable things. To resist the impulses bouncing around in your 3 lb. brain driving you to get this (I might need it), visit that (it would be a great experience) or eat those (I need the energy).

Become comfortable with not having the best of everythingGive your self permission to being disliked. You will find life much less stressful as a side benefit.

Get this Book

Get this book: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life – Slightly Imperfect.

Fair warning it has a slightly religious tilt (which I like).

Did you catch what just happened?

Wait A Minute

If you are new to this this whole frugality thing you probably thought “I need this now!”  and were tempted to click on the link to purchase it. Slow down. Go pick it up at the library or at least purchase a used copy.

Slow down. Let it stew. You didn’t know about it a minute ago. Meditate.

And while you are at the library or borrowing books from Amazon pick  up The Psychology of Persuasion so you know how to catch yourself next time someone presents their problem (I need to sell books)  as yours (you need to buy this book).

There you go – together we just saved $40 in under 60 seconds.

Was that so hard?

Better put an UGG on it

Consider UGG boots for the family as one of your four holiday gifts  (something to need, want, read and wear). They will be appreciated (or will be soon enough) and yield dividends.

Fight the cold

Winter floors can get really cold. Putting on socks – or even house shoes – is too much of a hassle. Cold feet lead to the heat creeping up. UGGs are slip on house boots that have wool in them. They keep your feat toasty warm. Wearing them on even a mild day can be uncomfortable because they are the perfect winter house shoe.

Be an environmentalist *and* save money

Don’t turn up the heat up to walk around the house. Put an UGG on it! We keep our house at 62 degrees Fahrenheit (16 Celsius) in the winter and everyone has a pair of UGGs.

With a onetime investment you are able to keep the heat down for years. This in turn enables us to increase our available cash for tuition payments.

Combined with a down blanket we lowered our heat from 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Celsius) at night to 62 degrees (16 Celsius) with no loss in comfort. Saving 3% on our bill for every degree we lower our heat means we dropped our bill by about thirty percent. And this applies for every month of the winter. Every year. On a $200 heating bill (it’s cold where we live) that is $60 bucks each month that can be sent to the school to pay for tuition. And it reduces are carbon emissions.

Keep going!

Your job is to find five of these kinds of savings. And then, once you have that done try to find more. To start off, turn down the heat and put an UGG on it.

A simple approach to the holidays

There is constant pressure to buy lots and lots of gifts to wow the children with great big piles of loot. But there are limits to available resources.

How about this time tested approach instead? Consider just 4 items for each child for the holidays.

  • Something they want
  • Something they need
  • Something to wear
  • Something to read

Give them the benefits of a frugal Christmas. This in turn may allow for higher quality items to be purchased while creating less waste.

Expect complaints. And comparisons to what other kids received. Be ok with that. Instead give your kids a great education and the tools, later in life, to buy stacks of material goods if they so choose.

A Financial Super Power You Can Use: The Snowball Effect

Paying for private school is a challenge but there is a secret super power available to you to help called the snow ball effect. The idea is that small changes start to build upon each other,  much like a rolling snowball,  to have an out sized total result in a surprisingly short amount of time. Usually this is associated with compound interest over many decades enabling a comfortable retirement.

However, unlike early retirees who strive to benefit from decades of compound interest we don’t have the luxury of waiting. We need the money right now! I first read about the more near term concept in the Tightwad Gazette and recommend you get a copy (from the library, of course) if you haven’t read it.

The Snowball Effect In Practice

Earlier I spoke of the power of moving to a decent, but not the best, school district as a savings enhancer. A small house, with its smaller mortgage or rent has other financial benefits – lower utilities being one of them. And this includes the peer pressure effect of self-reliance in the blue collar neighborhoods you will now likely reside. Wastefulness is correctly seen as a source of shame and embarrassment.

Small Differences Add Up Over Time

In such a neighborhood you feel pressured to do simple chores (like raking the leaves) yourself. This social pressure changes your outlook in a most valuable way and is the true turbo boost benefit from a smaller house in a decent, but not the best, school district.

An Example

Here is a real life financial snow ball example.

When we moved here the 30 year old home did not have cable. It *never* had cable. Ever. To get it installed would have meant drilling, installing and all sorts of mysterious things. So we skipped it and learned most folks on the street do the same. Fast forward ten years. That one decision to avoid a $120 a month extra expensive saved us many hours of time, protected us from adds to purchase stuff we don’t even know about and netted $14,4000*, tax free.

Our house comes with a free car every ten years.

All because the home wasn’t wired for cable and folks around here simply don’t do that sort of thing.

Now Roll It!

Later, we sold an old Subaru for $4000 and replaces it with a used station wagon for $12,000. I couldn’t help but notice the net cost of the car ($8000) was more than covered by the cable savings.

The savings on cable ($14,000) paid for the used car.  The used  the car was $45,000 new so that saved us  and additional $33,000.  Those very simple moves added up to a lot of savings we would have otherwise spent which went towards tuition expenses.

With some of those savings we paid the tuition and we bought a coffee machine which saves another $1000 a year.

In ten years we $12,000 saved on cable. We used those savings to pay for a gently used car and saved another $33,000. Those savings then funded a coffee machine which saves us another $10,000 over ten years. That is $55,000 in savings with three simple and repeatable steps that take less time and effort than the alternate steps. No need to tune into the latest shows (we can’t), nor to get our used car detailed (why would we do that) or drive to the coffee shop (we have it here).

What About The Extra Time

The savings go to the tuition payments. The extra time? We spend it leisurely looking for additional clever things to do .

Once you start a snowball it is a lot of fun to keep rolling the sucker.

 

What To Look For To Start Your Own Financial Snowball

Look for neighborhoods where folks are sweeping their own sidewalks, mowing their own lawns and washing their own cars. That is the correct place to live. Or starting living the way now – you don’t even have to move.

Are you sure you can’t afford private school? Reconsider the power of the financial snow ball.

Enormous snowball made in South Park in a snow-covered Oxford by Kamyar Adl

Enormous snowball made in South Park in a snow-covered Oxford By Kamyar AdlFlickr, CC BY 2.0, Link

* We have been here 11 years so total saving is actually $15,840 on the cable, a few thousand on items we never bought and a few thousand more for productive things we did with all that free time that we didn’t have to pay for. So it is more like $25,000 in savings but for this exercise you get the point. You can do this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The power of a cold shower

Paying for private school requires change from within.

The costs might require taking a promotion that is both good for your organization and good for your family but not in your comfort zone.

Or, it might involve forgoing a worthwhile and generally enjoyable vacation, or upgrading the coffee maker. Or, in a peaceful way, it might involve saying no to a lot of things.

Voluntary Discomfort As Mind Training

In short, it requires you to be proficient at voluntary discomfort. This requires you to be prepared to act with integrity in the moment. And training is what prepares you.

Enter the cold shower. I know, it sounds crazy but bear with me.

This technique is quick, low cost, effective and good for you and the environment.  And it makes you

caption2

By Miguel AndradeOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

appreciate the simpler things such as,  oh I don’t know,  room temperature air and, well, not being in a cold shower. This last part, while amusing at first, is where the power of it comes in as it changes your mind set. You build patience and tolerance to discomfort. A brief cold blast of water puts a tough meeting later in the day in perspective and makes it easier.

 

Instructions:

  1. Start with your shower at the normal temperature.
  2. After a minute or two turn it down just a little.
  3. Repeat until you get to cool and slightly uncomfortable
  4. Adjust the water temperature to make it colder still and end the show with a cold blast of water for a few seconds.
  5. Mind training complete.

Your voluntarily discomfort practice will enable you to focus your mental powers on what is important. Soon enough you will scoff at ‘pampering yourself’, ‘indulging’ or ‘you deserve the very best’ advertisements and correctly see them as a form of weakness.

You need the clarity of mind to shake that stuff off and decide if paying for private school is appropriate for your family and then the mental toughness to stick to it.  A cold shower regimen can help tap the power of voluntary discomfort training for any worthwhile endeavor that requires focus over time.

This is Not New and Can Make You Healthier

And this is not a new form of training. Thomas Jefferson bathed his feet in cold water every morning for 50 years (they didn’t have showers).

As an added bonus it *actually* makes you healthier and tougher by increasing brown fat cells (little space heaters in your body).   It might even help you stay healthier longer –  read this  2015 interview with Ed Ronthalier who started the practice in 1918.

 

 

 

The school district shuffle

Housing is one of the largest expenses a family takes on. And reducing that expense is a potential source of funding for your children’s education.

Villa Haas Mansion - Source: Wiki Commons

Villa Haas Mansion – Source: Wiki Commons

We purchased our home knowing that we were sending our child to private school. And this meant avoiding housing in the best school districts and saving a lot of money.

The numbers

In California, for example, housing in the best school districts cost 50% more. The median home value in California is $472,100 in 2015. A house in a great school district that cost 50% more would be $708,150. That is an additional $263,050 right there. And that doesn’t include the lower cost of upkeep for will be a more forgiving neighborhood. And the lower cost of ongoing operations in a smaller house (air conditioning, heating, hot water, replacing the roof and so on).

A good kind of peer pressure

US Currency - Source Wiki Commons

US Currency – Source Wiki Commons

We did exactly this in the DC area and our house is  now worth about $400,000 (on a really good day). That might seem like a lot but it’s on the low end – even for our neighborhood.  We live in a largely blue collar neighborhood with wonderful salt of the earth people. The only pressure to keep up with the Jones is to be self-reliant. With two mechanics on our street the idea of someone else washing our car or mowing the lawn is readily frowned upon. This “peer pressure” is a further financial turbo boost and part of the education of your child.

Sure the house won’t be as fancy as the more expensive version but that has its own appeal. And you are doing this for the benefit of the kid. Stop caring what other people might think of you. Embrace voluntary restrictions on consumption. Grow up. Be the adult here. You can still be cool. Forget square footage. These days it is all about how much more environmentally friendly your smaller (and presumably older) house is for the planet. Brag about your stewardship of the planet. Your an environmentalist now!

Tiny House. Source: Steven Walling, Wiki Commons

Really Tiny House. Source: Steven Walling, Wiki Commons

Your child will eventually move away from home – but the values, mental models, and behaviors they pick up at school will be part of their identity for their entire lives.

 

I look forward to seeing you in our neighborhood soon as you downsize. You are welcome to use our leaf blower – I will show you how to use it.

 

“The beautiful thing about learning is no one can take it away from you.” — B.B. King

 

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