Paying for private school

Tips and tricks for sending your child to private school

Change your perspective on what is awesome

It is time for a new stove in the paying for private school household.

Our 30 year GE Spectra Electric Oven is awesome – it cooks food inside the house without lighting it on fire with the push of the button. But it’s a smokey mess and a health hazard. We would probably be fine with it but we are inspired to replace it but not break the bank doing so.

Unlike many newer stoves this one has exposed coils on the bottom. The theory being that you use the self-cleaning option to blast all the particles and you would never need to clean the bottom by hand with anything other than a wet rag.

We tried this self-cleaning thing twice. The fumes and soot and smoke were overwhelming – even with the windows open and us out of the house. On the second run on it I thought that maybe sending soot and carbonized cleaning supplies that were into the air wasn’t good for anyone . And I could blast it out of the house where it would immediately harm anyone walking in the neighborhood.

Maybe I was doing it wrong? So I went to the internet and was appalled to find that the self-cleaning option will kill small pets, and reduce the life of the oven (and presumably the oven operator). Yeah I don’t want that – but what to do? Research of course!

In my search I found that the Maytag Company offers an awesome Aqualift technology that uses water and heat to get some of the grub off the sides. It doesn’t make the stove spotless but attacks the gunk at the bottom, which is what really smokes up. No chemicals, no fumes, lower energy use. To my way of thinking this appears to be the perfect stove.

Imagine my surprise when folks were posting notes about how it doesn’t clean the sides and is totally lame. So the manufacturer dutifully returned to the high energy approach and retailers discounted the AquaLift models.

We got ours, new I might add, for $537 instead of the original $899. Even with this small challenge I think this technology should be the most expensive, not the least, given the leap the company has made in a healthier and greener self-cleaning option. Go them.

100 years ago our ancestors cooked on wood stove or an open fire. Before that they cooked outside in the fire – if they were lucky. Many people, today, right now, are cooking with cow dung. Here is a handy instructional guide on how to do so.

And cow dung is major advance from earlier times when (Ezekiel 4:15) Then He said to me, “See, I will give you cow’s dung in place of human dung over which you will prepare your bread.”

But folks on the message boards are going nuts:

“The AquaLift cleaning feature does not work. I tried it twice in a row & still had crusted patches of grease to deal with.”(Home Depot Message boards)

And I don’t mean to pick on this particular person – I am sure I would react the same way and then need to catch myself. Here is the point; stop trying to optimize everything. A working stove is awesome.  All of them are modern engineering marvels of system engineering a the stove level and more broadly mining, materials engineering, electrical utility generation and input, financial management, shipping and logistics, regulation, insulation, retail and advertising.

A working stove that steam cleans itself is super -amazing – awesome.

To pay for private school you, retire early or do anything worthwhile you must be ok with second place in a lot of other areas so you can focus resources on something meaningful and worthwhile to both you and the broader community.

I am not saying you need to dry your own poop into cooking blocks and use it. Or even use cow dung (unless you have ready access to a free supply of pellets).

However, if you always seek to optimize on everything by purchasing the best means your income – essentially your life energy – will be frittered away in a thousand different directions and the optimized solution might actually be way worse for your health than a lower cost alternative.

By changing our perspectives on what is awesome ( a hot plate is way better than hot poo, for example) you can focus on what is important to over the longer term.

Our Annual Black Friday Shopping Guide. Get ready!!!!

It is here

Black Friday is in just a few days! One can save thousands by acting fast!  One day sales only! Plan ahead! Quick! Move! Urgent! You Might Miss Out! We Might Miss Out!

Save hundreds by spending thousands.

caption2

By Powhusku from Laramie, WY, USA – Black Friday, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Sure, your credit card balance will rise but hey, look at all the new fancy stuff you didn’t even know you needed!

Resist

Slow down.

Get out of line. Empty your online cart. Turn of the sources of advertisements that short circuit your brain. Breath in. Hold for ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two and one.. And out.

That stuff will still be there next week. And the week after that. And without time pressure you can buy fewer items and spend less money overall.  The easiest way to save 100% is to not spend it.

Simplify

How about this instead? Consider just 4 items as gifts 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.

 

Free installation with any purchase!

We recently purchased a super fancy set of revolutionary Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector. These things talk to each other and alert us to the specific location of the room the problem is occurring in. Fantastic!

Nest Protect Advanced Wireless Smoke Detector Available on Amazon.

Nest Protect Advanced Wireless Smoke Detector Available on Amazon.

We replaced the existing 30 year old hard wired smoke detector alarms with the Nest Protects. These things will even contact you phone if something happens. I got an email from the first one when I shut down the power for the second installation. Well done Nest team! It is not clear are old ones would have even gone off (when removing them the tag noted they expired in 2003) in a fire situation. Will yours?

Do  it yourself to save money

This amazing technology combination is available for only $99 each. And an installer can be hired to connected wired ones for $80. We opted to pass on that and to save the money and the hassle (for all involved) of taking a day to have someone out. The first one took me about three hours of watching videos and carefully proceeding (mostly issues with removing the old one). The last one I installed took less than thirty minutes from opening the package to the final test.

Take your time

If conditions make sense, do the installation yourself. Watch the videos (as many times as you need). Follow all instructions and expect to run into snags that will require more research and take additional time. This isn’t a race and you aren’t being graded on efficiency.  If you are like us you will find the experience saves money which can be used for private school tuition and is more rewarding  than taking off work for an installer to arrive.

A tale of two colleges

A hard working young family member recently went off to college. Before doing so there was a choice to make. Should they go to the fancy college and stack up $300,000 in student loans. Or go another, excellent school – but with a less known name – and get a decent education  free and clear of debt?

They chose the lower cost school thus proving they were qualified for either place.

How wise were they?

Assuming a $300,000 loan and using this helpful loan estimator calculator and the lower end of current rates (5%) for student loans after graduation the monthly re-payment would $1980 a month.  For 20 years. Yikes. Hope  students at the fancy school really like the job they get as they will need to work at it for a really long time. That payment schedule is the original $300,000 paid back plus and additional $175,000.

So they saved a lot of future hassle by avoiding the massive loan to fill their head with fancy thoughts. So very wise!

But wait, there is more!

As a thought exercise lets pretend that upon graduation that same amount is contributed to a retirement account instead of repaying a loan. How would they be doing after 20 years?

According to this investment return calculator  the same $300,000 plus $175,000 is dumped in an account over 20 years. That is $475,000 in contributions. And that yields $328,000 in interest over the two post school decades. So by avoiding the large loan and investing the difference this student would end up with $803,492.

Want to be a millionaire? It’s easy.  Pretend like you took out a huge student loan and go to a lower cost college instead. Invest the different and then decide if you still want to keep working or retire at a fairly early age.

The actual decision

It is easy to imagine stacks of cash with some high paying job from the prestigious university. Well, if it works out. What is easy to forget about really large student loans is that they are loans and must be paid back. * And that money means other options (a car, a house, medical expenses investment) are already spoken for right out of the gate. And you might change your mind next year. Or ten year from now.

So the decision is not “should I take out a $300,000” loan. The decision is actually “Is this school’s tuition worth $803,492 and much of my future income”?

 

* The idea of planning on loan forgivness or defaulting on it, means a contract signed with no intention to pay it back. Maybe that appears clever. Another more way to look at it as proof that one either does not make and keep promises, lies or took extra risk  (or all three). Doesn’t seem worth trading one’s options and good will for bunch of lectures you can get at other places.

Use the innovation cycle to save stacks of cash

Life 100 years ago 

One hundred years ago most people worked 60 hours a week and there was one car for every 50 people.  And  then they came home to dark homes – many did not have electricity. And the first appliance just turned a hundred a few years ago.

There has been remarkable advancements in the past 100 years and you can use that to your advantage to save stacks of cash.

Freeze your standard of living

To save money with no effort, simply freeze your standard of living in time. Do you want a stainless steel fridge? Forget it – no one even had a refrigerator 100 years ago. Even better, the modern marvel of 50 years ago is now the economy version of today so your replacement cost is lower each time you need to replace an item.

Need that latest turbo, all wheel drive, leather interior badged car? No you don’t! You will be just fine with an economy car and still be better off than 49 out of 50 people 100 years ago.

So Many Horses!

Did you know the model T ford generated 20 horse power?

What amazing technology! 20 horses in one device! Wow!!!

The 2018 Ford Focus generates 160 horsepower and made the list of lowest cost cars! That is 8 times the power of the model T and 160 horses!  That is plenty of zoom and more power than most farmers had 100 years ago.  And it the Ford Focus of HorsePower Awesomeness can be owned new for a about $18000. And, amazingly, this is  still costs less than the slower (inflation adjusted) Model T Ford price of $22,000. And you can often (but not always) save more money purchasing a used car!

Public Domain, Link

The idea here to freeze your standard of living where it’s  at now. No upgrades, just replacement items.  You will be just fine keeping the things the same. You know this because you live exactly that way right now!

Add Even More Horsepower

 

In a pickle and want to save more money? Work 55 hours a week. 50 at work and  doing your own chores around the house you currently outsource.  You will save money and might get a raise.

By attempting to match your grandparents work ethic and freezing your standard of living your cash flow will almost immediately turn positive.  I look forward to seeing you soon in the private school parking lot  in your amazing  horseless carriage. Zoom zoom.

 

One day only special! Half-priced cars!

Want a tip for buying a great car at a discount?

Go contrarian – buy out of style cars

Here is what we did;  we purchased an older car but with relatively few miles for it’s age but was out of favor at the time we purchased it.

This has varied over time depending on the circumstances which makes our car history quite varied and has almost always caused raised eye brows on our choice (we take that as a good sign).

At the time we purchased our last car, during a late stage bull market,  luxury cars buyers certainly did not want an out of style luxury car that someone else drove in. The perception of “luxury” typically doesn’t pair well with “used”.

And economy buyers wanted the used cars rated highest for reliability.

This left few buyers in the used luxury cars market segment. And we really value safety features so  we watched the market for a really safe used luxury(ish) car.

And those conditions means we were able to get our current rig at a much lower cost than one would expect.

Behold the Battle Wagon

Our current rig in all it’s glory:

Volvo Wagon - New to us!

Volvo Wagon – New to us!

Swedish steel! Best in class safety. Row boat like styling. Squishy seats. Impossibly thick paint. Odd brown stains on the ceiling of questionable provenance. Vintage!! Did you know they don’t even make this model any more? It’s true! And butt warmers!

Buy older cars with low miles to get lots of trouble free service

The Battle Wagon was ten years old with only 75K on the odometer when we purchased it. Net, we bought this unloved ride for 80% off the original sale price. It was fairly low cost. Indeed, once we sold the our previous battle wagonette and accounted for the ten years without cable savings the car was effectively  free with years of pre-paid gas included. A brand new car would have absorbed all those savings and I would have been worried about scratching the fancy doors.

Right now electric cars are out of favor because of low gas prices

Right now non-Tesla electric cars are out a vogue and can be purchased for a song. With low gas prices they are really out of fashion. You can get one for a fraction of the cost of similar vehicles. Well, that is until gas prices go back up.

Want to be an environmentalist? Get a used electric car and reduce fossil fuel emissions *and* save a perfectly good car from going to the scrap heap. You are *so* green. More of a  outdoors person? Wait until gas prices go back up to the $4 and $5 a gallon price range and get one of those gigantic pick-em-up-truck for half price.

Please check the safety rating on the model year and proceed!

Don’t quit!

Scrimping and Saving

I realize most folks are frugal so they can escape the rat race and the idea of living frugally and then spending it all on tuition fees seems somewhat counter intuitive to many people.

Our thinking is that we are paying for a school that aligns with our values and educates our child. We are supporting our family through a great education and the school through our tuition. It means lots of stuff doesn’t happen, and we  keep lots of records.

If you are following a similar path,  after years of scrimping for school your spending will be on autopilot. And one day you will reach that point where there is no more tuition and you can redirect those funds to retirement savings. And one day you might have the option to quitting your job! Don’t!

An alternative

Instead  select a job you enjoy and a cause that resonates  with you and funnel your future earnings there. Or take on a volunteer with a charity. Help a family member. Write poetry. Or start a blog. The point is, set aside some side to be productive and direct that output to the benefit of other people.

After all, your education (from elementary school to today) probably cost more than your car.  And your house. Don’t let it go to waste simply because you are done with it. After being so efficient for so many years it seems sort of wasteful to let your productive capacity diminish through lack of use.

The idea of voluntary simplicity in spending to eventually  to spend most of the time on the beach might appeal for you. And do it. For a year. And then use your good fortune, your skills, and your hard acquired skills and education for the greater good.

Consider giving it away. Imagine the good you can do if you are so fortunate. I bet there is a school you are really familiar with that could use some donations from income you don’t need  or hands on volunteer help.

 

We need you

But don’t quit. We need you. And you need us.

 

Benjamin Franklin

“The used key is always bright.”

Benjamin Franklin

Get rich through advanced technology.

After tossing our third $80 cordless battery powered dust buster I wondered if there is more efficient and less costly technology alternative.

There is and it demonstrates the value of yesterdays advanced technology.  Back in the ancient days of house cleaning there was a device called a corded hand held dust buster. In their decades of competition they perfected reliable low cost cleaning power.

Now a days this perfected technology is used for largely for special cases. One such example is the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser. At $40 dollars and with a 16 foot cord this thing is similar to the gas station pay-for-clean systems in terms of power. When it shuts down it has the satisfying sound of a jet engine winding down.

Destroyer of tiny dust worlds

Sure “Pet Eraser” is an ominous name (or is it a warning?) but this thing blasts through dirt.

pet hair eraser

Pet Erasing Device

Last years pine needles? Goes right in. Pasta on the floor? Goes right in. The manual that came with the device? Goes right in.   Slow moving pets? Goes rights in.

 

Go corded

Our fancy lithium  battery dust buster fail every 18 months or so. That means we go through 5 of these $80 dollar suckers every decade for $400 total. That is ten times the cost of the jet powered pet eraser. Wait, how can I reach those touch to reach spots or my car you ask?  No problem. Another perfect yesteryear technology is called an extension cord. Grab one of those and enjoy the exercise of walking back and forth to set it up. And then blast those dust mites!

The true cost of watching a movie

What is the actual price of a movie? Consider these four costs before  you decide to hit  “play”.

 

Watching a movie has four major components. These are the fixed  cost,  the one time cost, the opportunity cost and the second order effect costs.  Let’s briefly visit each.  You of course cut cable a long time ago – or you are about to do that so lets use the streaming services as our example. 

Fixed Cost

Netflix offers a standard plan for $10.99 a month ,

Lets say you watch one show and three movies in an average month. That is $2.75 per show.

One Time Cost

By MrexcelOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

And Amazon Prime offers lots of movies for a low a $2.99 each and sometimes over $10 but you are frugal so the one time cost in this example is about the same as Netflix.

Either way each movie you watch is around $3 bucks. And before you binge a show to get that cost per movie down lets consider the opportunity costs.

Opportunity Cost

More pressing than the movie cost is the opportunity cost of watching the big screen for two hours. For example, yesterday, we changed the headlamp bulbs in our car. This cost $30 in parts but according to online quotes  the service price is between between $100 and $214. I am not clear if that is per bulb or for both but lets assume it’s $150 to replace both bulbs, parts and labor. We saved $130 bucks on that expense in 20 minutes, got to chat while doing so and didn’t have to take off work to take the car to the shop.

Too tired for such efforts? No problem ! Spend 20 minutes praying or meditation. This is a bit lower energy and has numerous benefits.

In both examples you still have lots of left over time to wander around the house (more health benefits).

The Second Order Costs

 

The second order effects are the most expensive. Many movies are action packed thrillers which can use a lot of your emotional energy up. These dynamic natural scenes impact your brain chemistry

and in extremes might reduce both the quality and length of your life.  It’s fun stuff but for the most intense movies you might need a mental break afterwards and changing the bulbs after a movie might be too much – anyway you have so little time after using two hours of to someone else’s script. This time compression is the worst offender and might end up with a dinner out ($40) since there is no time or energy to cook. Plus the world just blew up on the big screen so what’s the big deal with ordering delivery?

 

The True Cost

Lets compare the numbers!

 

The movie abstainers saved $130 bucks and the movie watchers spent $3 on the movie and $40 on take out. That puts the active family ahead by $173 dollars *and* they have a free hour to themselves. Time and money in abundance.

 

The Take Away

I am not against movies –  and they can be made into wonderful family events or a mental break if you are feeling ill. With that said if you work hard during the week to pay for tuition it seems a shame to not know  the full price you are going to pay before you hit play as something to do.

 

“Time is your most important resource. You can do so much in ten minutes. Ten minutes; once gone is gone for good.”

– Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA Founder)

By paying for private school you are funding educational experimentation.

One thing that has consistently surprised me about paying for private school is the unsolicited advice and harsh criticism we regularly receive.

We have heard simple advice such as you are wasting your money to all the way to it is unethical to send our child to private school.

In few other areas of our life have our decisions been reviewed, rated and then commented on so consistently.

There are lots of other easy targets – our home, my really old shoes, food, entertainment and religion are ripe for the picking. They might get a raised eye brow but rarely do we receive a detailed unsolicited analysis of our decisions like we do with our choice of education.

Online it is even worse. Here is a just one of many examples; If you send your kid to private school, you are a bad person.

I consider myself a pretty open person. For each criticism and suggestion I have careful considered the premise. Am I wasting our limited resources? Am I making education worse for other children? Is a school based on religious values wrong – that is- I am alienating religious minorities?

I have spent years considering, and reconsidering, this feedback. And would certainly be nice to have the extra cash or go on fancy vacations or purchase a new car from the modern era.

As a mental exercise I followed Charlie Munger’s advice and I inverted the problem. Come along with me.

Let us imagine there were no private schools at all. That small church school around the corner – gone. Harvard. Gone. Hogwarts. Gone. Evangelical schools. Gone. Homeschooling – illegal.

Have a child with extreme dyslexia who needs a different learning environment? Sorry those schools are gone as well.

Graz Reading Room by Dr. Marcus Gossler - Wiki Commons

Graz Reading Room by Dr. Marcus Gossler –
Wiki Commons

What is left is a pure government monopoly. No competition. No incentive to innovate. No incubators to experiment and fail and try again. Just one system. Legislation over teacher expertise. Scale over specialization. The motor vehicle registration of education.

Well that doesn’t seem desirable.

Let’s invert again – this time there are no public schools. Anywhere. It is all private schools. Can’t afford to pay tuition? Sorry your kid goes to the low cost school mill or comes to work with you for apprentice training. Are you an elementary aged child whose parents who can’t afford to feed, much less educate you? Sorry – you will never learn to read beyond a second grade level.

Old School House Sign - Source: Wiki Commons

Old School House Sign – Source: Wiki Commons

Well, that doesn’t seem desirable either.

 

Perhaps the middle road seems to make sense. A healthy mix of public, private and home schools creates a mutually beneficial ecosystem. The private schools can experiment, innovate, evolve and best practices can be adopted across all systems over time. The public schools can offer a world class low costs education for everyone no matter their financial circumstances. And they provide standardized testing to measure all schools academic performance.

Home schooling fills in the gaps. We know of one very religious family who has four kids and couldn’t afford private school so they home schooled simply so they could integrate their religion into the school day.

Sending your money and your kid or grandkid to a private school? Good for you. Your child is receiving an education that matches your values and you are funding an educational incubator. Perhaps your school, with its freedom to try different things out, will come up with an innovation that will be adopted by schools across the country. More likely the children from your school will bring their education to diversify the mental frameworks of the organizations and community.

You are right to send your child to private school if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to do so and are willing to make the sacrifices.

Monopolies have consistently been shown to cause complacency over time. Here in the US the Sherman Act was passed in 1890 as a “comprehensive charter of economic liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade.” [1]

By paying for private school you are funding educational experimentation. And unfettered competition. Be ok with the criticism. Listen to the unsolicited advice and harsh criticism and carefully consider it. At the end of the day you have to do what is right for your family and your community – even if it is unpopular.

[1] https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/competition-guidance/guide-antitrust-laws/antitrust-laws

 

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Winston Churchill

 

 

 

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