Paying for private school in the DMV area

Tips and tricks for sending your child to private school for Washingtonians

The power of focus

When reading about how great achievers succeeded in sports, finance, philanthropy or skateboarding it is hard for me not to notice all the things they did to do so well.

What is often over looked is what they didn’t do – what they left out to make space and time for them to focus on their big thing.

It Is Not About the Money

To be clear this isn’t entirely about money. Instead it is about focusing your limited energy and time on the few things that matter. For you that might be religion, family, community, service, education and health. Or it might be skateboarding. Or languages. Or dogs.

Top Dog Inc.

As way of an example, lets say your thing is dogs. You decide to start a dog walking service. You love it. And to ensure you keep getting to meet interesting dogs and their people you want to be good at it. Plus it is even more fun to be appreciated by both the dogs and the people.

So you make up shirts, hats and take out snappy advertisements. Sure you make less money doing this but what a great service you offer. And, as is often, is the case, your focus might make you one of the “top dogs” in the dog walking offerings in your area.

If you need more money you can franchise out to nearby areas and hire a few folks. That way others can participate and it ensures that a lot of your time is in the dog walking business and that the work is enough to the pay the bills.

For example, in the context of paying for tuition does camping instead of a giant beach house vacation makes sense. And so does keeping an older car.

Deciding What Not To Do Makes Space

Only through focus and deciding to let other things go can you make space. A month long trip during the holidays isn’t going to happen as the reliable dog walker – folks depend on you when they are traveling. And if it the focus is too much and no longer rewarding you can always change your focus. Just don’t keep all the things you ever did going around.

The Gas Station Emporium Case Study

Years ago we lived in the county. And by county I mean more-horses-than-people-power-outages-for-a-week-at-a-time-they-have-bears kind of county.

Our small town next to our really small town had a gas station. And this gas station was also a repair shop. And it sold trinkets. And it ran a pancake shop out of one of the cinderblock sheds.

The gas station/pancake shop was ok at each but not great at anything. I was always worried there would be a motor oil and vegetable oil mix up one day.

So when a new gas station opened two towns over – one that was open past dusk (they had lights – it was glorious!), they lost business. And when a pizza joint arrived just over the mountains they did very well. And our local gas staton lost business.

It is still there and still open but how much fun can it be to run a place that is often empty and mostly visited by folks who don’t want the hassle of going to the good place? I would imagine not fun. And not all that profitable either.

You Can’t Do All The Things

You can’t do all the things. You can, however, do some of things well.

Determine your focus and narrowing your working hours on the focus areas will help you move forward in your current endeavor.

The hard part, of course, is figuring out what to focus on and what to leave aside. Only you can determine what that is for you but realize you can always can change your focus. What you can’t do is all the things.

Have fun while saving money!

One of the unsung benefits of frugality is that you end up doing a broad range of things in addition to your work speciality. This has the added benefit of adding novelty to my week which I really enjoy.

For example, just this past week I changed the oil in the car, mowed the lawn, planted grass seed, baked a casserole and perform a variety of similar tasks.

Each of this were challenging, unique and the results were satisfying. It is easy to imagine that anyone of these tasks repeated 8 hours a day would become boring and then feel like a job. Instead they are interesting, productive and tax free ways to save money.

Tips for making the most of novelty

For me there are a couple of things that really making saving money fun:

  • I don’t take on too much. I leave the high pressure stuff for the workplace and try out money saving tasks that you enjoy. Your financial security and contentment will both increase.
  • I purchase (or borrow) great tools. It’s no fun to mow the lawn with a beat up device and usually a good tool pays for itself in weeks.
  • I calculate your hourly rate for those DYI tasks. For me it is usually more per hour than I make at work.
  • I take your time and do the job you are proud of your small task. This is, after all, my leisure time.
  • I understand the huge health benefits of perceived control.  There is no better way to control how your bed is made than to do it yourself. Go fo it – even at hotels!


Have some doubts? Trust the fine folks at Harvard who report that works make you happy.  Don’t let someone take away your happiness and your money just to windex your windows. Do it your self and grow your contentment and your bank account. Better yet try it out and see for yourself!

The Money Space Time Continuum

The Money Space Time Continuum

There is a mathematical model that joins space and time into a continuum. The physical manifestation of this truth is the rate of time  observed depends on an objects velocity relative to the observer[1].

By NASA/Crew of Expedition 22 –  Public Domain, Link

This theorem is also the basis for the original planet of the apes movies (must see!) where Charles Heston and his costars were flying really fast for a bit and when they return home, planet Earth had experience thousands of years where they experience only a few. And during that time difference the Apes took over. Not intuitive but that is how space-time works.

The Money Space Time Continuum is the similar and indicates that the lowest cost route is often also the fastest route to accomplish something. Cheapest should be slowest, and it often is, but not as often as one would expect.

Shoes In Space

Here is an example; I trod around the carpeted office  space in dress shoes. I eventually found out that I was replacing low cost shoes every six months. So a switched to higher up front cost Allen Edmonds  which are not only the greatest shoes in the world they also have a lower cost per use.

Being clever (or so I thought) I picked up a pair of factory seconds Road Warriors for a fraction of the cost of regular new shoes. Usually a factory second has some minor unbelievable small defect – like a small nick or tiny


discoloration that only an expert can see.

Not in this case. These factory seconds squeaked. And I mean duck—honking-loud-all-day-long. I figured they just needed to break in. Weeks later I realized this problem was here to stay and it was starting to raise eye brows as work.

No problem – factory seconds don’t quite meet the high standard of the fine Allen Edmonds Shoe Company.  They are low cost and usually still better than regular dress shoes but occasionally you will get a dud. Time to watch for a sale and drive to a shop to replace them. Their stores are really far from me so it was going to be an all-day affair that I was dreading.

Double Spend Problem Avoided

And then I remembered the Money Time Space Continuum. This theorem that I just made up (but others have observed and reported on) states that the lower cost solution is often faster. And the low cost option is to repair stuff.  I rushed online to see if anyone else in the world ever had squeaky shoes and if so, did they invent a way to fix them? I am not the first and apparently the solution was to add baby, talcum or baking powder under the insert and where the leather touches. This does two things – absorb any moisture and lowers the coefficient of friction between contact points resulting in noise free movement. Being the proud owner of talcum powder I distributed it liberally in the all the hidden squeak zones. The next day I walked the halls of my office complex in Ninja like silence.

I save the trek to the store and the after tax hours of labor to pay for a new pair of shoes. Hours, stress and the environment impact saved by remembering the Money Time Space Continuum.

Before you have to take a bunch of time to spend a bunch of money – stop and consider alternatives. Often you will end up with time saving alternatives that keeps more cash in your pocket.


[1] “Space-time.” Wikipedia. October 05, 2017. Accessed October 09, 2017.

Repair is a radical act

Paying for private school can be challenging but savings can be found in the most unusual places.

A broad category of savings is in that of repairing instead of replacing. The awesome Patagonia company (buy their stuff – it lasts a really long time) has a marketing campaign called “Repair is A Radical Act”.

Their focus is on the incredible environmental benefits of first looking to repair items before deciding to replace them. It’s also cheaper for you. Here at Paying for Private School we do it to save three environments: a child’s, a private school whose values we resonate and the world at large.


A tale of two tables

When we bought our  current home ten years ago and the patio furniture conveyed with it. Not because the previous owners thought it would help sell the place but because they didn’t really want to take it with them. Nor would the table have survived the trip. Low on cash we took this rickety table and continued to use it for a decade. Over time squirrels also used made use of the furniture to sharpen teeth and claws. Bits of sharp wood were sticking up on the surface. It had come unscrewed and it was time to be replaced. Ominous squeaking sounds omitted  from the gray thing every time we sat down on it.

Refinished table with new stain on it

Our glorious refinished table. Finished by hand!

Believing repair as a radical act  I bought a $24 palm sander and learned how to use it on an unsuspecting wooden cutting board that had broken in half early in the week.

Armed with below-novice knowledge, a sander, a hammer and low expectations, I hammered the nails back in, sanded it and re-stained it with a protective outdoor stain. For about $80 bucks in total I now have a table that would cost $300 new. And I get to keep the sander should I need it again for some future project.

And I saved $220, we learned a new skill (a number of us took a go with the sander) and delayed the need for a new table to be created, stored, marketed, shipped and sold. In the short term this will help us pay a tiny bit of the tuition  bill and over the longer term, in aggregate, this will result in less stuff being created from the natural world. One table is enough.

You can do this too and start saving money *and* the environment.


Repair is a radical act.

Don’t Retire. Do This Instead.

Don’t Retire. You have spent years acquiring wisdom learning your skillset across many jobs.

Instead, continue to work, to produce but share the proceeds.

And there are lots of ways to help out.

Keep Working

One option is to share some of your income now through tithing, sending a child to private school, funding or founding a charity, or helping out in times of crisis

Another options is to carefully save and invest and reach financial independence. Once you are set continue working and donate part or all of your salary.

Or you can spend time away from work really helping out a cause, group or individual in need. Take a sabbatical to care for a loved one instead of travelling the world.

Are you concerned about running out of money or having enough for health care expenses? No problem! Keeping saving and investing as long as you can. Perhaps move to a part time schedule but keep at it. Sign the giving pledge and make a difference if you are so fortunate to have some extra cash available after you are gone.

Stay Grounded

We are all a spot on the brain or block in the vein  away from trouble and tribulation. Recognize and be thankful when you are aren’t in that situation and help out others who going through a tough spot.  Use your good fortune to keep working and share the proceeds. Be happy with that gift.

Won’t working too long be bad for me?

We are meant to be productive and to a contributor in a group. I am not saying you should avoid a special trip or something you were really looking forward to in retirement. Or even that you have to get paid for your work. But do something structured to help others out. And retirement can be lethal.

Peanut butter



Instead, be like Ronald Reed the frugal janitor who worked well past retirement age and left behind $800,000 in stocks such as J.M. Smuckers, Wells-Fargo and Procter & Gamble to worthy causes. Or maybe you can be like Loren Wade who was still working at Wal-Mart at the age of 103.

Stop trying to save up an impossible amount to fund an unsustainable life style. Instead appreciate the simple joys and by doing so enable others to do the same. That should be, and is, enough.

The Battlewagon

A few years ago we reported the money saving technique of buying vehicles that are out of style (One day only special! Half-priced cars!).

When we purchased the battlewagon with row boat like styling it was certainly out of style. And, at that time, reliability was the name of the game. Top of reliable heap cars were expensive used and new. Yet pretty reliable cars were being sold for a substantial discount.

An Update

So how did it work out for us all these years later. Fine. No major repairs or problems as of yet and it keeps on rolling. It has hauled tons of stuff (literally) without complaint. The years have rolled by too. The battle wagon is now on it’s 15th year of problem free operation.

What is out of style today?

In our last update electric cars were really out of fashion and could be had for a song. Times have changed. Now it is giant truck things with orbiting moons and electric model cars of awesomeness are all the rage.

Sedans and, battle wagons and now mid sized gas powered SUV’s and mini-vans are out of vogue. Used ones may be a good starting point if you need a new ride.

The Best Car

The best car is often the one you already have – but if not – take a look in the unloved areas of the market for safe and reliable transportation.

If you combine a reasonable purchase price with other cost saving measures (e.g. That is One Long Cable!) the savings can be redirect to tuition payments.

Knowing all of the work cycles can help you plan your finances

“You must teach the people to labor with their hands and realize the dignity of work” – Mahatma Gandhi


There are distinct phases of ones work experience. These are surviving, trying, striving, diving, thriving. And being aware of which one you are currently in can help you better plan  your finances to ensure you can still pay for tuition over time.


When you first start working – or start a new job – you are working to survive. It’s a challenge to find the bathroom much less determine where to add value and understand the social norms of the new group. Mistakes are plentiful and humbling experiences occur daily, sometimes hourly.

Accept that this will happen and don’t worry too much about it.


Soon enough you will be part of a team and understand how things work. Here you can add real value. This is when you build some credibility. This is not the time for long vacations. Working extra hours and expecting to be less productive than folks who know the systems well is to be expected. Keep trying. You will get to the next phase.


Eventually, after what seems like a very long time (this can take a year or more) you will be striving. You will know enough to make significant contributions and know to do so without being told or asked. And your successes will actually outnumber your mistakes! Woot!

With striving comes more responsibility. It makes sense to give work to a busy person[1] who can get stuff done. You are now that person.

In the striving phase you are fairly secure but you must continue to work hard.


Inevitably, though,  a simple task will be given to you which has hidden career danger. It seems routine but little do you know that it is difficult, high profile and has huge impact. And you will screw it up.

Here you will be diving. How you behave – not what you contribute- will determine what happens next. Do you point fingers or accept where you made mistakes? For items out of your control do you shared lessons learned with others in the organization? Or do you talk about people behind their backs  and make excuses rather than find a way forward?

You may not be employed at this end of this phase and need a new job. And that is OK.  Either way you should act with integrity, be rationale and search for ways to contribute.  Curiously, taking time away  from the work place makes sense. Your judicious use of leave and finances stored up in the past should now give you some flexibility to get away to get perspective. And it signals to your employers that you this is a bit much. When colleagues are dishing it out they sometimes forget all the stuff you are actually doing for the team. Moreover, your emotions may be so charged at this point that extra activity will actually be detrimental. Take some time.


If you do well in diving – and build people up around you instead of tearing them down – the next phase can be thriving. Here you have the time in organizaiton, have proven yourself to be a team player and have learned some very difficult lessons that make you much more efficient.

A presumably lighter load is now easier to get done. You work harder and find satisfaction in doing the right things the right way.

Successes build up and compound.  Distractions for activity without results will start to appear. Carefully control your fear of missing out and focus on contribution[2] instead. Pulling some of your financial reserves to repair something major you have been ignoring is good to do during this phase. And active community involvement is great here as it helps prevent burn out and boredom – and reminds you of where other folks are in this cycle.

Keep these phases in mind and don’t inflate your life style in good times

Be careful though – these phases bounce around. You could be back diving or surviving without warning – a mistake, a transfer, a new job or simply a change in the economics of your particular field can put you in a different phase over night.

It follows that it makes sense to keep emergency savings, stay in touch with former companies and coworkers and always work hard to provide value. If you are aware of these phases you won’t assume thriving (and the income bumps that sometimes goes with it) will always be the case.  This in turn should help  prevent you from home and car upgrades  to align your lifestyle with your rising – and perhaps temporary – income. Instead, stay the course and realize there will be dips and valleys. Be satisfied to build up reserves and peace of mind. Your goal is to pay tuition, not travel the world. Be satisfied with doing that and then make hay while the sun is shining.


[1] Imagaes, Paul Harizan/Getty. “Why It’s Smart to Ask a Busy Person for Help.” Science of Us. Accessed September 02, 2017.

[2] Mickos, Marten. “Focus on contribution.” School of Herring. November 16, 2015. Accessed September 02, 2017.

If you take the advice in this post your tuition will be both easy to pay and a joy

We often talk about education choice and the financial aspect of paying for tuition year after year. What underlies this – and is critical to understand – is the mind set behind it all. Without you will be in a constant struggle and live a life of deprivation. With it an easy path of increasing quality of life and financial security awaits.


Confessions of a Former Purse Addict

FireCracker is Canada’s youngest retiree shared a perspective on consumption versus building that absolutely nails the mind set you need to both be happy *and*  free up cash for other purposes. Ours is tuition and her is early retirement.  Read her Confessions of a Former Purse Addict and prepare to change your mind and your future.

Control your dope..

In it you will find a detailed biological description of the addiction of consumption and the alternative cure. Read what she says about Dopamine. And then read it twice. And then read it again.

Understanding and breaking this  cycle is the the equivalent of winning the lottery. And unlike lottery winners you will actually be happy and the pay outs never stop.

Join Us

You are now a member of those that produce and make. Welcome to the club. I can’t wait to see what you create, make, do and become.

“…consuming gives you easy highs, but creating gives you BETTER highs. Highs that last forever. – Firecracker, September, 2017

Leverage the Hype Cycle

There is a concept called the hype cycle which essentially describes the maturity of emerging technologies.

Understand the hype cycle

In short when a new technology comes out everyone is very excited and fired up. And they are willing to pay up to get it. For those of use paying tuition and don’t have the resources to benefit from new technology it makes sense. New technology soon has competition and introduce new challenges.

Leverage the Hype Cycle

This is fine and good and indeed presents an opportunity to purchase these items for a discount in the trough of disillusionment. A recent example is electric cars – at first they were high tech, solve important problems and costs more. And they should have as they have huge and positive implications. But soon enough other challenges (cross country trips) temper the excitement – and the pricing. That is when you can move in to benefit from the new technology while not paying top dollar to be the first one in. After schooling is done perhaps you can be that person – but for now, slow down and simply wait.



Five things I learned from reading “A Journal of the Plague Year” that might apply to the novel coronavirus.

We usually keep the frugal holiday gift giving approach of four gifts per person: something you need, something to read, something to eat and something you want.

For my “something to read” item I usually request some book to totally geek out on. One year, I requested, received and thoroughly enjoyed a book called Salt: A world history.

A Journal of the Plague Year

About three years ago I asked for and received a book by Daniel Defoe (better known for his book “Robin Crusoe”)  called “A Journal of the Plaque Year”.  Defoe was born in 1660 in England and his book is written in the dialect of that era.  Because of the old English writing style, it was a slow read and I just finished the small book this past fall. 

Defoe, a journalist, wrote this book in 1722 a full two hundred years before antibiotics were invented. He had access to the stories of those who experienced The Great Plaque of London[1] in 1665-1666, facts in figures in the public record and his own observations of the 1720-1721 Great Plague of Marseille[2]. He admittedly took creative liberties writing the book to write in the first person style that made him famous (and paid) during that time. 

And while I am not comparing Coronavirus to the horror of the middle age plagues where many people  “ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise.” there may be some broad generalizations that are similar in terms of behaviors. 

Five Take Aways

Specifically, five observations stood out from his telling. Hopefully none of them come to pass during our current novel coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Here is my list: 

  1. Londoners generally thought it was the bad air because summer was worse. 
  2. People generally ignored the threat when it was in another borough or even one street over. They only adjusted their behaviors when illness reached their street. 
  3. Constables would bar the ill from leaving their homes.
  4. When the illness rates dropped down, the population would return back to normal patterns or return to town, sparking second waves of transmission.
  5. Social norms and property rights became much more lax than before the plague. Example: “Minister did Visit the Sick at first and for a little while, but it was not to be done”[3]

I found these take aways helpful when I first heard the news of a possible pandemic and it caused us to stay home sooner than many to protect the more vulnerable members of our population.

Be well. 

[1] “Great Plague of London.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, March 16, 2020.

[2] “Great Plague of Marseille.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, March 21, 2020.

[3] Defoe, Daniel, and David J. Johnson. A Journal of the Plague Year. London: Penguin Classics London: , 2003, (First published in 1722)

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