Paying for private school

Tips and tricks for sending your child to private school

Tag: private school k 12 (page 1 of 4)

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.

Don’t complain. Build.

In November of 2016 Mr. Money Mustache (required reading) retweeted a post by Elon Musk that said “Don’t complain. Build”.

Create, design, join or invent a way to make your situation better. Is your local school system mediocre and you can’t afford private school? Get involved and improve it.

Us amateurs work really hard to create something pretty mediocre only to have to do it again. And again. I had to install the disposal in our kitchen three times before I got it right. This is 30 minutes of work for an average plumber. It took me two weekends. I don’t care.  Honey badger doesn’t care either. It works, it has been there 5 years and I saved $300 in labor. Plus, I prevented a plumber from having to do something basic. And I *really* know a lot about disposals now. When it had a problem last month I was able to fix it really quickly

caption2

By JanekpfeiferOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

without a reference manual. I even remembered where the stupid screw that came loose was located. How could I not after spending 20 hours under the sink looking at something with only 3 parts?

Critical thought is an important skill. Identifying what is wrong and how things could be better is important as well. But this must be followed up by action. Repeated attempts, slow progress actions is the grit of making stuff go. Posting a complaint hidden as a comment revealing how insightful you are doesn’t actually do anything.

Don’t complain.

Build.

Increase your food expenses!

Food is  a big portion of household spending. You probably think you want me to cut expenses drastically here as well. Nope.

You have enough income to consider private school so most likely you have a two income household where everyone works in competitive and draining jobs. And now I am asking you to think about cutting costs and to take regularly repeated actions. This takes a lot of energy and a clear mind.

Going for the pancakes instead of an egg white omelet with mushrooms and peppers because the pancakes are a fraction of the cost makes sense right?

Not always. Paying for private school means developing your children to their full potential. And that applies to you as well. Some things make sense to pay more for and actually ending up costing less in the long run.

Pancakes, for example, can cause a temporary spike, and insulin rush, a crash and then a fuzzy fog hours later. We need you to have steady and calm energy all day and then in the evenings, after a long commute, feeling like you could be productive. That way you will have enough energy to do some money saving record keeping after a full day at work. Slow and steady wins this race. Eat whole foods.

You will find your food costs might go up a little but your energy levels become a steady fire once you drop the spikes associated with sugar and ultra refined flours. Soon enough, after a ten hour work day followed up by dinner and dishes, more work will be quite simple and enjoyable. This is an investment in yourself, just like private school is an investment,  and will soon pay for itself many times over as your steady energy enables you to do more.

Don’t worry. You come from a long line of people who worked from dawn until dusk six days a week.  All you need to do is eat like them. Don’t eat anything your great

grandmother didn’t eat. If the dish appears to be traditional eat that – most likely it is mostly vegetables with a protein mixed in and sometimes a whole grain. Do this for a week for each meal and prepared to be amazed.

And when you are outside your dwelling some evening because there is something you need to do to save money and because you eat well you will have the energy to do so. You will invariable notice the soft glow in the windows nearby just sitting around being passively entertained. At first this will be alarming. Eventually you will realize you are playing a game where only a few are even showing up to participate.

 

 

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.

A Tale of Two Dishwashers

Our dishwasher was not functioning well. Repeated repair attempts had extended the life a bit but dirty dishes after each wash was the motivation to finally replace it.

We selected a washer that made sense for us (hard food disposal!) and had decent reviews.

Picture of an awesome Maytag Dishwasher with hard food disposal.

Awesome Maytag Dishwasher with hard food disposal.

There was a fancy one for $598.  Let’s assume we would have it installed for us rather than attempt to get the thing in ourselves.

The Numbers

 

Below are actual quotes from the site we purchased The Awesome Dishwasher (rhymes with West Guy).

 

Fancy Stainless Steel Version – Installed Fancy Stainless Steel Version, DYI
Base price $494 $494
Installation $139 $0
Install Kit $29 $29
Haul Away $15 $0
Totals $677 $523

 

So $154 more for the installed version. That is 30% more for the same functionality.

The Time

This might seem like a waste of time as I am wholly unqualified to install a dishwasher. And despite daily practice my ability to even use one has come into question (hence the hard food disposal). It would take a pro 1 hour. It took me two hours on a Saturday and another two hours on a Sunday. Since we took our time I was able to clean up all the junk under it, test it multiple times for leaks and line it up just right under the cabinet. The previous, professionally installed one, was a miniature leaning tower of Pisa.

And I didn’t have to wait for a contractor and can do it in the morning. 4 hours to save a measly $154. That is only 38 bucks an hour! Based on this calculator that is $79,040.00.

This is looking better already.

But wait – this is tax free money. I don’t have to earn that $154 which would have taken $215 in gross income (before taxes, withdraws, sales taxes and mystery fees). Now we are bumped up to $53 an hour.

The Adjusted Savings

That is better. $53 an hour equates to $110,000 annual salary.

Of course your salary takes priority but if you were going to spend a lazy afternoon with a non-fiction book you can have just as much fun watching a you tube video of how to install a dishwasher.

Change Your Mind Set To Make The Grade

Paying for private school means changing your mind set on seemingly small things. You can do this.

Seven Helpful Links For Private School Parents

Here are some helpful links to sites that provide guidance on how to  pay for private school.

  1. Budgets are sexy! (An entertaining how-to on financial management)
  2.  A Guide for Parents as They Look to Finance a Private School Education
  3. Can Middle-Class Parents Afford Private Schools For Their Kids?
  4. DC School Hub (Washington DC area resources for parents – find something like this in your area)
  5. Budgeting for private school (from an open and sincere parent)
  6. Attended private school – loved it.
  7. Attended private school – and didn’t love it (be open to many viewpoints before deciding what is best for your particular situation)
Old School House Sign - Source: Wiki Commons

Old School House Sign – Source: Wiki Commons

Should I Raid My 529 to Pay for Private Elementary School?

About 529 Plans

 A 529 plan “is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future college costs.” [1]

New Tax Law Expands 529 Use

The recent tax overhaul bill expands parents funding options to pay for private elementary and high school tuition.

Specifically, the new bill enables one to dip into a 529 plan to pay for any private school [1] – not just colleges. For example, if you have a large stash of cash in a 529 saved for college but the realities are that your youngster is struggling at school  this might be worth exploring. After all, if college is at risk because of present challenges a private school might be able to help.

Should I Raid My 529?

Raiding college savings funds to pay for lower school tuition isn’t something to be done lightly. However, it is an option now and one being worth aware of if you are considering private school for your child.

Before doing so it is worth stepping back and considering three things.

  1.  First, carefully monitor and learn about your expenses for a month. Observe your actual expenses not what you think they should be in the future. Can you still save for college or pay for some colleges based on your current situation or with some viable adjustments? And what will happen if the tax law changes again in a few year? Will you still be able to pay?
  2.  Second, with our kids it is easy to panic. Get rationale. Can some less drastic changes at school or at home help with the issues? Are charter schools or other public schools (yes, you have to move) an option? What is the full spectrum of options – and which qualify as good enough?
  3.  And finally, after the the rational exploration in steps one and two (and some meditation), follow your heart. Specifically, what do think you  wish you had did 20 years from now?  Do that and make it work by being the grown up.

If your family determines that private school is for you and you are going to raid the 529 plans to make it happen, immediately become a reader of this blog (paying-for-private-school.com) and the many other excellent financial management blogs out there. We can help.

References

  1. “An Introduction to 529 Plans.” SEC Emblem. December 04, 2017. Accessed December 30, 2017. https://www.sec.gov/reportspubs/investor-publications/investorpubsintro529htm.html.
  2.  Hobbs, Tawnell D. “Losing Students, Private Schools Try to Change.” The Wall Street Journal. December 29, 2017. Accessed December 30, 2017. https://www.wsj.com/articles/losing-students-private-schools-try-to-change-1514557437.
Older posts