Editor’s Note: Parents.com has partnered with LearnVest.com to bring you a monthly series of posts about money-related topics related to moms. These guest posts will be shorter, edited versions of longer features from LearnVest.com. The following essay reveals how one mom made the tough decision to whittle her budget in order to send her kids to private school.
When my husband and I were house hunting in 2006, admittedly the last thing on our minds was the quality of our neighborhood school, because we never intended to be living there when our daughter started kindergarten.
Now, six years later, we’re paying five digits a year for our two kids to go to private schools, even though it’s putting a major strain on our finances. We’re a single-earning family, and that sole earner (me) happens to be self-employed in journalism, a field that took a major hit during the recession.
We’re not alone. In 2009-2010, there were more than 5 million American schoolchildren attending private school, according to the Council for American Private Education, which was equal to about 10% of the total number of children enrolled in school in the U.S. Plus, according to CNN, the average annual tuition bill is $22,000 for private schools, across all grades K-12.
Looking back on our own situation, sometimes I wonder how we managed to get here…
We Started Off With a Plan
Our daughter wasn’t even 2 years old in 2006 when my husband and I both quit our jobs. I left my position as a corporate marketing manager to be a stay-at-home mom, and my husband stopped teaching to enroll full-time in graduate school—where he was going to get his doctorate in music education to become a professor—in Urbana, Illinois, a full 700 miles away from where we were currently living in Rochester, N.Y.
I had major concerns about going into this situation with both of us not working. But my husband was awarded a prestigious academic fellowship that came with a $19,000 stipend, we had the option to get student loans and we had some savings as well.
After a lot of talking, and a lot of compromise, we decided we could make it work on a limited income for the time being, but it was going to be very lean.
Our first shock was the high cost of real estate in our new city. In a small college town like Urbana, sellers have you over a barrel when the housing stock is limited and you have no option but to settle there, so we ended up buying a half-built tract house in an “affordable housing” development that also offered a hefty tax incentive. After all, the plan was to move wherever my husband got a job at a university after he graduated in three years…
Where It All Went Wrong
My husband surmised that a typical doctoral program in his field took about three years to complete–two years of coursework and one year writing a dissertation. Then he would hit the academic job market, looking for (and hopefully getting) a position as a professor.
At least, those were our plans. We didn’t anticipate how having a family would impact my husband’s studies. Because we are so far from our support system, he often had to step in and take over for me when I needed to leave the kids at home for some reason, or if I was sick (in the last four years I’ve had three major surgeries). All of that took time away from working on his degree and he fell behind.
A multitude of obstacles (including those mentioned above) have prevented my husband from finishing his schooling. On top of that, his academic advisor left the university, stalling his dissertation until he found a new one. He is slated to graduate in 2013, but the bottom line is, we never expected to still be living in Urbana six years after moving here.
Even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, the holiday shopping season is still upon us.
For the past year, Parents.com has partnered with LearnVest.com to bring you resources on managing your family budget. To help you figure out how much you should spend, how much you can save, and how to utilize your credit score, LearnVest.com brings you these four helpful tools and calculators.
What to Buy When – a month-by-month tool that shows you the best items to buy (at a discount!) each month
The Purchase Appraiser – a rating tool that helps you determine whether purchases you have made (or are consideration) are worth the money
Good Bacteria During Pregnancy May Ward Off Eczema
Babies were less likely to get an itchy skin rash when their mothers took probiotics during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, according to a new study. (via Reuters)
Parents Who Argue Over Money Connected to Overspending by Kids
In a new study, students who specifically responded that “my parents usually argued about finances” were twice as likely to have more than two credit cards than those who said their parents didn’t argue over money, and three times as likely to have a large amount of debt. (via Time)
Texas Schools Begin Tracking Students With Computer Chips in ID Cards
Two schools in San Antonio have begun tracking students using radio-enabled computer chips embedded in their ID cards, allowing administrators to know the precise whereabouts of their charges on campus. (via NBC News)
Why Fertile Women Are More Aloof
According to a new study, ladies who settled down with Mr. Stable over Mr. Steamy are less likely to be sexually attracted to their partner during their most fertile period than women who paired up with sexually-desirable men. (via Time)
Pregnant Mothers on Anti-Depressants Are Putting Babies At Risk, Warn Scientists
Thousands of women who take anti-depressants during pregnancy are endangering their unborn babies, researchers have warned. (via Daily Mail)
Editor’s Note: Parents.com has partnered with LearnVest.com to bring you a monthly series of posts about money topics related to moms. These guest posts will be shorter, edited versions of longer features from LearnVest.com.
Sometimes it can feel like you’re throwing your money down a black hole that happens to be wearing a onesie. But there are ways you can invest money in your child and see a big return, and we’re not just talking about buying savings bonds. While many of the things you want for your children may seem out of reach now, making little investments now can get them where you want them to be while improving your own finances.
1. Give a $20 Allowance for Cleaning Out the Garage
Studies show that giving an allowance can actually lead to lower financial literacy, lower levels of motivation, and aversion to work. We’ve come down on both sides of the issue of paying for chores, but most experts agree that paying children extra cash for tasks that go above and beyond their normal duties will help both you and them reap benefits later. They’ll have solid finances and you won’t need to bail them out or support them.
Get started by using this website for assigning chores and rewards.
2. Pay $12-$60 for a Year of Girl or Boy Scouts
Group activities encourage cooperation, learning, and healthy habits. Girl Scouts is one of — if not the — most affordable activity available for young girls. But there’s another reason to love a membership: Girl Scout members now learn financial literacy skills as well. Badges added to the roster include Money Counts, Money Manager, Philanthropist, Business Owner, Savvy Shopper, Budgeting, Comparison Shopping, and Financing My Dreams. Boy Scouts have similar merit badges in Entrepreneurship, American Business, and Personal Management, which require them to save up for, budget, and plan for a major purchase.
How much you pay for your own kid’s involvement with the Scouts will vary depending on where you live, but even at its highest price, it’s not too bad.
3. Deposit $200 in a 529 Plan
A 529 plan lets you save tax-free for your child’s college education. Because it’s an investment account, money you deposit will grow at about 7% a year through the years. If you deposit just $200 when your child is 5-years-old, your money will have more than doubled by the time she goes to college; she’ll have about $500 to pick up everything she needs. Think about what depositing $200 a month will yield over 18 years!
You might be wondering if it’s even worth saving for college at all, when it’s so expensive. A college education is still the fastest ticket to the American Dream…unless your child is burdened with students loans. According to FinAid.org, gift aid from the government, colleges and universities, and private scholarships pays for only about a third of total college costs. And taking out loans to cover the rest is much more expensive than saving ahead of time. FinAid.org estimates that if, in the years before your child enrolls in college, you save $200 a month for ten years at 7% interest, your child would have almost $35,000. But if you borrow the same amount at 6.8% interest and pay it back over ten years, you’ll be making payments of over $400 a month. $400 versus $200 a month. Which would you choose?
4. Allow $100 as a First Financial Mistake
We all make financial mistakes. But the hope is that we can avoid some of the bigger ones by learning from small ones. Keep this in mind the first time your kid blows $100 on a ridiculous purchase. $100 is a lot, but as our CFP® Sophia Bera points out, better $100 now than $1,000 or $10,000 later!
Take full advantage of this moment by sitting down with your child and asking questions about his mistake. Was the purchase worth it? How could he have avoided the situation? What will he do next time to prepare for contingencies? Consider that $100 you just spent as education for your child. Just resist the urge to jump in and fix things — then the lesson will be lost.
5. Spend 13 Cents More Per Pound for Organic Produce
The site offers “20 things kids need to know to live financially smart lives,” which are 20 money milestones kids should learn; there are four milestones divided in five age groups (3-5, 6-10, 11-13, 14-18, and 18+) with age-appropriate activities. For example, one money milestone for preschoolers is to learn the “difference between things you want and things you need.” To help with this money lesson, a suggested activity is to go shopping with kids and point out basic essentials such as food and clothing compared to optional wish-list items.
Parents can visit each section “to start a dialogue about money and teach kids important lessons about saving, making choices, and avoiding debt.” There are also posters with milestones and activities that can help parents track their kids’ knowledge of money and finances.
Editor’s Note: Parents.com has partnered with LearnVest.com to bring you a monthly series of posts about money topics related to moms. These guest posts will be shorter, edited versions of longer features written by Cheryl Lock, Editor at LearnVest.
Okay, so sending your kid to Camp Millionaire might not actually make him a millionaire, but it’ll get him excited about taking care of his finances. (Which is probably a lot more helpful for his future than making lanyards.)
Still, when we first heard about camps geared toward teaching kids about money, we were skeptical. Isn’t camp supposed to be about fun and games? Will a camp geared toward finance and money really capture the attention of our kids the way other, more traditional ones, do?
Jan Ruskin, Program Manager, says she believes they are filling a much-needed hole. “I doubt there is anyone out there who won’t agree that financial education is important and imperative for our kids,” Ruskin says. “And the earlier and more often they get it, the better.”
To really find out about the camp, we called Kate Parker, mom of 11-year-old Simon, who attended the camp this past spring. Here’s what she had to say about his experience.
What made you want to send your son to the camp in the first place?
I have a 16-year-old son, and I’ve been watching him lately, noticing the things that he doesn’t know. He’s going off on his own soon, and he doesn’t know a lot about money, so I was wishing he had that kind of education. I decided to try starting younger with my other kids. When my youngest is old enough, I plan on sending her as well.
What kind of activities did your kids do?
The week my son went there, there were about 20 or 25 kids total, and each day was geared toward a different financial lesson. They played a lot of games that pertained to particular things about money, like holding a job, the different ways to make money, budgeting, things like that. Each day was different, but everything they did was geared toward making money and how to be smart with it.
Have you seen any changes in Simon since the camp?
He’s only 11, so he’s definitely not ready to get a job yet, but he sure does appreciate his allowance more! And he certainly understands more now about putting money aside for when he wants something–and he always does want something–that is beyond his allowance amount.
He’s saving, and that’s a big difference I see. This is the first time I’ve seen him establish longer-term goals for his money, instead of waiting and hoping for birthday money to pay for something. We talk more about money now, and he understands the concepts. He’s interested in finance in a way that he wasn’t before.
As part of the coverage of the 2012 Presidential election, Yahoo! News has debuted “Remake America,” a webseries profiling six families as they try to reclaim the American dream. Each week, another five-minute episode puts a personal spin on issues like unemployment, foreclosure, and the mounting healthcare costs that are so common in today’s economy. But they’re not going it alone—each family gets help from career gurus, personal-finance experts and medical professionals as they fight to make ends meet. Viewers can connect by sharing their own experiences on dedicated comment threads or voting for which step each family should take next. Check it out below.
Do you think these videos paint an accurate picture of America today? How are these issues affecting your family?
This sweepstakes has ended and the winners have been notified.
Editor’s Note: Due to a link error during the original sweepstakes period, we have fixed the link and decided to extend the sweepstakes. It is now running again between. Fri. 3/30 – Fri. 4/6.
Since Tax Season is upon us, you might be more worried than usual about your finances. To give you peace of mind, Parents.com partnered with LearnVest.com to bring you the best budgeting and family finance solutions through the Baby on Board Bootcamp newsletter, a free newsletter that helps you manage money better over a course of 10 days.
As part of the collaboration, LearnVest is also giving away two (2) free voucher codes to access their online Budgeting Plan for free.
The plan includes: a customized list of how to improve all of your financial red-flags, a 30-minute diagnostic phone consultation with a Certified Financial Planner™, and three months of unlimited email support from the same expert. This helpful plan, valued at $69.00, will help you set realistic budgets and goals and get your financial life back on track.
Be eligible for this giveaway by following these steps:
1- Sign up for the LearnVest Baby on Board Bootcamp newsletter by CLICKING ON THIS LINK ONLY. Sign up between Fri., March 30 – Fri. April 6.
2- After Fri., April 6, LearnVest and Parents.com will choose two (2) random winners from the sign-up list.
3- The two (2) winners will each be presented with one (1) voucher code to redeem on learnvest.com/make-a-plan/budgeting-plan. The voucher codes grant the winners access to the Budgeting Plan without any payment. Winners will have 90 days to redeem the vouchers before they expire.