Paying for private school in the DMV area

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

Tag: saving money (page 2 of 3)

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.

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.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine …Hundred Dollars

I am a fan of LL. Bean’s washable wool dress pants  as I wear fancy pants to my office job.

LL Bean is known for durable easy care high quality items. Their dress pants are a mix of wool and polyester which results in torrent of financial savings for the office dweller like me. Recently, a relatively new pair had the hem come undone and flapping in the breeze.

Think Before You Toss ‘Em

LL Bean Washable Wool Pants.

LL Bean Washable Wool Pants.

Normally I would have tossed it in the Goodwill bag and gotten a new one. More on that in a minute. First, a little more about these productive pants.

Their secret super power is that you can wash and hang them and they come out looking great without a trip to the dry cleaner. They can be more expensive up front, but as you have already learned sometimes it make sense to pay more up front.

The Savings

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

 

LL Bean Washable Wool Dry Clean Only Pants
Cost of pants $119 $119
Dry cleaning cost per wash 0 $5
Water cost per year $4 0
Number of times worn over 3 years 156 156
Gas cost of driving back and forth 0 1
Dryer costs 0 (we hang these on a dryer rack) 0
Hassle factor Low High
Total cost $124 $899
Cost per wear 80 cents $5.76

 

What? And that is just for one pair of pants. Assuming you wear dress pants 5 days a week the fancy drying clean only pants will cost you $4495 over 3 years. And this is before you consider shirts.

Surprisingly, we have found that doing this ourselves saves time as well. There is no driving and parking needed. And there is rarely a line at our drying rack.

$5000. And time saved. And it is better for the environment.

Back to the unfurling pants. My wife took up the hobby of sowing. She took one look at the unfolded hem on my near new pants and a moment later had them back in order. No need to ditch them.

Another $119 saved that can be added to the $5000 to use for tuition costs.

You can do this.

 

Better put an UGG on it

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

Fight the cold

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

Be an environmentalist *and* save money

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

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

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

Keep going!

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

A simple approach to the holidays

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

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

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

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

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

A Financial Super Power You Can Use: The Snowball Effect

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

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

The Snowball Effect In Practice

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

Small Differences Add Up Over Time

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

An Example

Here is a real life financial snow ball example.

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

Our house comes with a free car every ten years.

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

Now Roll It!

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

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

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

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

What About The Extra Time

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

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

 

What To Look For To Start Your Own Financial Snowball

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you want a $20,000 raise? Learn to use your kitchen table as a financial power tool.

My table saves us money. You can have one too. Chairs are optional but encouraged.

Here is how you use a table to save money; if you eat out at a restaurant get it to go and eat at the table you have at home. That will save you 15-20% on the tip. Ideally you should eat at home most of the time but if you don’t this simple technique saves time and money.

Paying for Private School French Country Kitchen

Paying for Private School French Country Kitchen

Tips add up

Let’s take a look at the numbers. Assume you tip 20% and eat out as a family, three times a week for a total expense of $150 a week. 20% of that cost – or $30 dollars – is spent on the tip. Skip that and in a month you will save $120 while eating the exact same food. In a year that is $1,440 not spent. And you don’t have to wait for the check.

In ten years you will have saved $14,440 in expenses which would have cost over $20,000 in income before taxes to pay for during that time. All that from  thinking differently about your kitchen table.

Keep at it!

Keep reading to collect ten of these money saving techniques and suddenly paying for private school might not seem as daunting.

Sending your kid to private school will save you $1,053,000

Time Magazine reports that private school can save you money by giving you home location flexibility. This in turn can save you $50,000. They are right! Indeed, you can save even *more* money if you take the right steps after moving in.

Small is Beautiful

We live in an OK but not great public school district.  As is typically the case for such school districts, the homes are older and smaller.  Our smaller home costs less to heat and cool. And it costs a lot less to repair. There are less materials needed and they often cost less to replace. Don’t be scared into buying  or renting a brand new place to avoid costs – over time the smaller home will come out way ahead in many ways.

As one of many examples, our current roof cost $3000 to replace back in 2010. For larger homes a roof replacement can be $8,000   to replace with just basic materials. And larger homes are often fancier requiring you to get better materials to fit in. And this leads to the next benefit – keep up with the neighborhood expectations.

Less Pressure To Spend

Keeping up with the Jones is a lot different in our neighborhood. Folks are lot more down to earth. Literally. Hiring a lawn service is considered either 1) a mark of shame or 2) you must be ill and we should step in to help.

People who move here and hire a lawn service seem to eventually shift to mowing it themselves. Every Saturday morning they see countless examples of how do get it done. And the entire street is a tool sharing enterprise. Having auto mechanics and DYI folks as neighbors really helps as well. A a lower cost neighborhood is lower cost on many levels and with more down-home kind of folks we prefer.

The Up Side – More Earnings

And private school raises the odds of your kiddo going to college. You will be used to saving lots of money and shelling out tuition expenses anyway so you are more likely to be set up to pay for it. And that equates to a million an extra income over their career (typically). Start to think across the generations and it starts to get impressive.

And while money isn’t the main driver for a private school it is worth noting that you save a lot more than $53,000 when moving to a lower cost neighborhood and paying for private school.

And lower costs houses are smaller, older and closer to area of employment. Your car costs will go down and with that shorter commute you will be more rested and eventually promoted.

You will save $53,000 on housing expenses and realize $1 million in extra income for each child. That is not a bad deal for providing your children an education that matches your values.

 

Half priced cars ! On sale now! And every day!

An introduction to mispricing

Use the economic concept of mispricing.  to reduce your costs and free up more money for tuition.

Mispricing occurs where sellers out number interested buyers for a particular item and where the item is able to be repriced lower based on that demand imbalance.

The example usually comes up in relation to financial assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate and so on but applies to consumables as well.

An Example: Mispricing in the stock market

Charlie Munger executed this perfectly in the 2009 financial panic as described in an article in Bloomberg News.

“By diving into stocks amid the market panic of 2009, Munger reaped millions in paper profits for Daily Journal. The investment gains, applauded by Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in May, have helped triple Daily Journal’s own share price. While Munger’s specific picks remain a mystery, a bet on Wells Fargo probably fueled the gains, according to shareholders who have heard Munger, 89, discuss the investments at the company’s annual meetings. “Here’s a guy who’s in his mid-80s at the time, sitting around with cash at the Daily Journal for a decade, and all of a sudden hits the bottom perfect,” says Steve Check, an investment manager based in Costa Mesa, Calif., who has attended the publisher’s meetings since 2004.

The stock market profits were first disclosed in a May 2009 Daily Journal regulatory filing under the heading, “Liquidity and Capital Resources.” The section outlined how the publisher was sitting on about $9 million in gains after spending $15.5 million buying common shares over six months through March 31 of that year. The results kept getting better. By the end of September 2009, they had appreciated to almost $48 million.

[1]

The five steps to benefit from mispricing

To execute a mispricing purchase you first must recognize one and then be able to act on it. This requires a number of elements to be in play at the same time:

  1. Patience
  2. Cash
  3. Analysis
  4. Flexibility
  5. Willingness to purchase an unpopular item in scale

We use the mispricing approach for our own benefit on vehicle purchases.

Early on we were striving to get the “best” instead of “good enough”.

Flexibility

So we went with a popular vehicle at the time, a Toyota 4runner. These were popular and expensive and we used the only mispricing technique we knew about at the time which was flexibility. We purchased a new 4Runner from the left over trucks from the previous model year. The $45,000 vehicle only cost us $40,000. We didn’t get the color or exact features we wanted but we saved $5000. Woot! And that popularity was not unfounded. We had the car 14 years and it is still on the road today.

Product is Currently Unpopular

For the next vehicle we got a little better at finding mispricing. The SUV boom was well under way and hatchbacks were unpopular and considered no longer cool. When we actually looked at the features they delivered enough mass and safety features to be safe, better gas mileage and all the functions of a full size SUV (that we needed). They were simply unpopular compared to the monster truck models of the day.

We combined the unpopular feature with the late model technique and got a Subaru Forester for $20,000. This was half the cost of the previous car purchase. Woot! $20,000 saved! These cars have since become popular again as more and more folks figured out the many benefits of these mid sized sport utility vehicles so mispricing affect is largely gone (on this model).  We were in style again, at least for a while.

Cash, Analysis and Patience

For our most recent purchase we added analysis and patience to the mix and to further benefit from mispricing. Many cars are rated by reliability. And they if aren’t rated top tier for reliability they really suffer in the used car market. People don’t want to own something that wasn’t best for reliability when purchasing something used. But when you do the analysis a middle tier rated car is actually more reliable than cars of the past.

We saved $30,000

We combined flexibility, our reliability analysis and the unpopular status of middle tier to watch, wait for and eventually obtain a used Volvo wagon for $12,000 dollars with very low miles. Woot! $30,000 saved! The battle wagon doesn’t have a lot of advertisments 

 

In summary

The market (us buyers and sellers) occasionally misprices goods and servies and assigns artificially high prices to the best and artificially low prices to the runner ups. You can discover and use this mispricing if you conduct the analysis, are flexible, patient and willing to select something currently unpopular (not easy as it sounds) that meets your particular needs. Just do your homework to make sure it is actually mispriced and not low cost for a reason you care about.

What about you? Have you benefited from temporary mispricing conditions?

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-07-25/berkshire-hathaways-charlie-munger-shows-a-golden-touch

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