Paying for private school in the DMV area

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

Category: How to pay for it (page 1 of 6)

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.

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.

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.

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.



Automated savings magic

About five years ago our household switched from a regular phone line to an Ooma voice over IP device. Since we already had internet access there would be no additional monthly cost to have a land line in all the wall ports. Admittedly these days we tend to use cell phones but it is nice to have a home line and not very expensive. We spent the $149 on the ooma purchase already so it’s a sunk cost.

Oooma phone device

Our payment information changed so I dutifully logged in to update the records. I was pleasantly surprised that Oooma had been keeping track of all the savings we made with that one time switch and had it prominently displayed on the initial splash page. So far we have saved $2211 on phone bills with this original $149 purchase. A few years ago Ooma added a nominal and growing monthly fee of $3 which has since grown to $7.26 a month for 911 service and some mystery taxes. Lets assume it was 7.25 a month for the lat 5 years or $435 bucks. That is still a savings of $1775 over the five year period. Based on that initial $149 outlay that is a tax free 64% annual return which handily beats the stock market.

This simple move – which we can probably improve on – contributed substantial savings without any further effort. Automated savings can really add up over time.  Even one change can make a difference.

Some examples might include turning down the heat at night, and during the dayskipping a vacation 

or visit a library instead of buying a bunch of books and videos.


What can you do in your household?

Ooma Savings

Do you have a Fitbit? Get paid for your steps!

Get paid to walk!

Today I have walked almost 10,000 steps today at my own pace and made money while doing it. Those 10,000 steps, or almost five miles of movement, were collected while insourcing domestic household chores.

Pedometer steps for the day

The Step to Dollars Experiment

These steps were accumulated solely while doing household chores; this morning I ran five loads of laundry washing over 100 items of clothing instead of sending them to the dry cleaner. And I made lunch instead of eating out. And then I cleaned the house instead of hiring a cleaning service. After that I raked the leaves in the yard on this crisp Washington DC day instead of hiring a lawn service. Finally, I made  a simple home improvement and other odds and ends (got the mail and so forth).

The Numbers

Let’s take a look at the domestic insourcing numbers for the day.

Activity Insourcing cost Outsourcing cost
Laundry $6 (electricity and water, amortized equipment) $500 ($5 a piece)
Lunch $3 (materials) $15 (take out, gas)
Lawn $.01 (cost of rake amortized) $25
Deep cleaning $5 (cost of materials and equipment amortized) $75
Home improvement $0 $112 (online estimate)
Gym membership $0 $60
Blood pressure medications $0 $100 (monthly cost, some of which insurance covers – but someone still pays for it)
Totals $14.01 $887

So I avoided $872 in expenses. And that means I avoided having to earn $1177 dollars before taxes and deductions. And all of this took only 9560 steps as reported on my trusty low cost Ozo fitness pedometer ($100 less than a fitbit for those wondering).

Did I actually get paid?

Using these numbers we can calculate that my pay rate was 12 cents per step ($1177/9650 steps). And all this wandering around took about five hours so my hourly pay rate was $235 an hour.

And while I didn’t actually get a check for doing the work I didn’t have to earn that money either. Once you understand how much of your labor is taxed, calculating the un-taxable work of insourcing the numbers are eye opening. All these things needed to happen – by me or someone I hired.

But wait there is more.

In addition to getting paid, I also got more than the recommended amount of moderate exercise in for the week. And apparently, walking can reduce mortality rates by 20% (although presumably not forever). *And* walking regularly reduces depression rates. That seems priceless to me. Still, we can measure it and mental illness can reduce income by up to $16,000 a year.

And form of mental illness can be somewhat alleviated by hauling laundry up and down some stairs once a week instead of sitting on the computer or watching the big game.

Fear not you can still do this Saturday morning and still watch the Nationals in the world series. Not on cable of course!

Go Nats! And Go You!

Get up and grab a rake or straighten up the living room before the big game. Every little bit helps conserve big funds for that next tuition bill and might even raise your income back at the office. Get paid to walk!

Paying for tuition

There are really only three levers available for tuition expenses.

  1. Increase your income
  2. Decrease your expenses
  3. Lower the cost of the tuition

Example Moves

For example, increasing your income could include something as complex as changing your job. Or it could be a simple as changing paycheck deductions.

And decreasing expenses might involve lowering housing expenses by moving. An easier move is to switch family vacations from expensive air travel to local day trips.

Finally, lowering the cost of tuition can might forgoing a top pick school for a lower cost institution. Or it could be as simple as obtaining financial aide.

Consider All Three Tuition Levers

There are many options to help pay for tuition expenses. For example, you can save 100% on many expenses, use a 529, select a different school in the DMV or get a scholarship.

Be sure you have investigated options in all three categories as a combination of them might be enough to cover tuition expenses.

How to save 100% on any purchase

September is the start of the fall coupon season here in Washington DC. Coupons are mailed in mass to consumers across the region as we stock up for winter.

Many of these discounts , 20% of this week only as one example, are very compelling. And I used to fall for these, well, fall offers. What if I need one later? I sure would regret having to pay full price later on!

It took me years to understand a basic principal I first read about on the Frugalwoods Financial Independence Site. And that approach is to not purchase the item in question at all. This is the quickest and most effective way to save money. And you always save 100%. Do nothing. Say no. Recycle the coupon and go about your business.

Think about it. After all, even 50% off a $100 dollar you bank account balance is lower by $50 dollars.

I have become better (not perfect, but better) at resisting the mad dash of coupons falling from the sky into my mailbox and the internet into my inbox each fall. Brace yourself as more coupons are headed our way as we approach the holidays!

Five Ways You Save!

What I have learned is that by taking the risk of avoiding a sale and perhaps needing to buy that item later at full price is I actually save in five ways.

  1. First, I save the 100% purchase price of the item.a
  2. Second, I often don’t need the item. Ever. I just thought I did when I saw all the money I could “save”.
  3. Third, I save on the shipping, care, upkeep, storage and eventual replacement of items I never buy. This is roughly about 20% of the item for semi-durable goods .
  4. Fourth, I save the taxes I would have paid on the income I needed to earn to purchase the item.
  5. And finally, I save on the ecosystem “stuff” tends to have and all those related purchase for the ecosystem.

The secret life of stuff

I have now observed first hand that many items I purchase appears to have a secret life of it’s own. A laptop needs electricity, software, updates, my time to operate it and eventually replacement. Even a door mat needs water, electricity and detergent for the occasional wash.

The point here is not to do without – just to be ok with just enough. By doing nothing when handed an amazing limited time offer you will often save 120% of the purchase cost and have a simpler life. The funds saved can be redirected to tuition payments.

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