Author Topic: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us  (Read 19169 times)

FIRE_HELP!

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so we spend on things which, if posted in this forum, would generate a lot of ridicule and animosity

it also which prevents us from having as high a savings rate as possible

90% of the 'excess' spending is really to provide a better life for our children, so they can have advantages that my wife and I did not have growing up

while we realize we could get to our 'number' roughly 5 years earlier if we didn't care about keeping up appearances, I have to admit that it does provide me with a sense of pride sometimes as well as the fact that some of the decisions we make do improve our quality of life (i.e. there is actually value to some non-mustachian purchases and activities)

part of the problem is that, once a non-essential expense is justified, it becomes a slippery slope - where does one draw the line?  much easier to just go completely ascetic in the spirit of pure mustachianism and cut out every 'want' and only spend on 'needs' - but we have a really hard time doing this

does this ring true for anyone else, and if so what are some tips for keeping balance in life?

Fishingmn

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2014, 05:03:14 AM »
I think of it as a MMM continuim.

Those that follow an extremely frugal lifestyle at one end and those that have no clue at the other.

You don't have to be at the extreme level. Pick whatever fits you best. Personally, we are no where near the extreme end. We've been perfectly happy "only" saving 20-25% of our income and planning to retire in our early 50's.

sublime9528

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2014, 05:10:32 AM »
Could you give some examples of things that are excess spending to provide a better life for your children, but would generate ridicule here?  I'm not sure I understand what types of things you're talking about. 

kyanamerinas

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2014, 05:29:27 AM »
the mmm family are not ascetics and would never claim to be. true, it would in some ways be easier to only have what you need but if you don't have to, that's rather extreme and a pretty tough way to live.
to me, mmm is all about making conscious decisions regarding what to spend money on. not just mindlessly following the crowd. and also regularly checking and rechecking your assumptions about what you need vs what you actually 'only' want. you can have what you want. but make sure you actually do want it and all the associated consequences (e.g. spent money, waste, maintenance, etc.), not that you feel expected to have it.

FIRE_HELP!

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2014, 07:22:29 AM »
Could you give some examples of things that are excess spending to provide a better life for your children, but would generate ridicule here?  I'm not sure I understand what types of things you're talking about.

I really hesitate to do so, but here goes:

- private schools for kids (the public schools we are zoned for are not very good based on 'generally accepted measures')
- lessons in sports/music
- club membership that allow kids to participate in certain sports that would not be available to them otherwise (while the parents make use of it too sometimes, it really is mainly for the kids as we wouldn't have joined otherwise)
- enrichment classes/camps
- taking at least one nice vacation a year that gives our kids an ability to see things firsthand and experience a world they would not if they simply stayed at home (i.e. requires airplane travel)

PloddingInsight

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2014, 07:31:56 AM »
I can sympathize with wanting to spend on the kids.  I think the weakest link in your list is travel.  No kid needs to travel and travel does not do much for kids.  If you're looking for something expensive to cut out, try just staying home and learning something new with your kids.  Take them hiking nearby, things like that.

pipercat

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2014, 07:42:54 AM »
Could you give some examples of things that are excess spending to provide a better life for your children, but would generate ridicule here?  I'm not sure I understand what types of things you're talking about.

I really hesitate to do so, but here goes:

- private schools for kids (the public schools we are zoned for are not very good based on 'generally accepted measures')
- lessons in sports/music
- club membership that allow kids to participate in certain sports that would not be available to them otherwise (while the parents make use of it too sometimes, it really is mainly for the kids as we wouldn't have joined otherwise)
- enrichment classes/camps
- taking at least one nice vacation a year that gives our kids an ability to see things firsthand and experience a world they would not if they simply stayed at home (i.e. requires airplane travel)
Even without the specifics, we all know that nonessential spending draws ridicule from this community at times.  We spend similarly to you, and we have just accepted that we are comfortable with a different level of spending than some others. 

The thing that keeps us from completely justifying every nonessential whim is really staying aware of the causes for our expenditures, and figuring out the things on which we are willing to scrimp/ do without.

It also really helps to get on this forum quite a bit.  Some threads and comments leave me feeling like I don't even belong here, but many others simply help me keep my focus.  As long as your spending is really well considered and you are comfortable with your saving rate, I think you are doing fine.

garth

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2014, 07:51:40 AM »
I can sympathize with wanting to spend on the kids.  I think the weakest link in your list is travel.  No kid needs to travel and travel does not do much for kids.

What a ridiculous thing to say.

HappyIntrovert

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2014, 07:52:03 AM »
Could you give some examples of things that are excess spending to provide a better life for your children, but would generate ridicule here?  I'm not sure I understand what types of things you're talking about.

I really hesitate to do so, but here goes:

- private schools for kids (the public schools we are zoned for are not very good based on 'generally accepted measures')
- lessons in sports/music
- club membership that allow kids to participate in certain sports that would not be available to them otherwise (while the parents make use of it too sometimes, it really is mainly for the kids as we wouldn't have joined otherwise)
- enrichment classes/camps
- taking at least one nice vacation a year that gives our kids an ability to see things firsthand and experience a world they would not if they simply stayed at home (i.e. requires airplane travel)

Don't be hard on yourself.  My wife and I have done the same things. I hope to FIRE in my mid 50s, which is fine. I think the younger followers of MMM don't quite get how expensive it can be to do the right things for their kids.  The most important thing a parent does is to give their children a good future. And I'm not talking about them having the latest clothes, gadgets, etc...  Nothing is more important than educating them.

RMD

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2014, 07:54:10 AM »
You have to find your own line.  It's really that simple.  (Simple, not easy!)

The comment above about being conscious about your spending and re-evaluating is important.  Don't do it blindly. 

Everything has a season...you just don't want to be wearing shorts in two feet of snow.

RMD

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2014, 07:59:03 AM »
I can sympathize with wanting to spend on the kids.  I think the weakest link in your list is travel.  No kid needs to travel and travel does not do much for kids.

What a ridiculous thing to say.

Agreed.  We traveled a lot when I was a kid.  Just US and Canada...but I have friends who had never been outside the 6 counties surrounding our tiny farm community.  Travel helped to form who I am today.

iwasjustwondering

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2014, 08:06:42 AM »
If educating our kids and showing them there's a larger world than their own backyard is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Ynari

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2014, 08:14:49 AM »
My only real sugguestion is to look at what you're spending money on, ask WHY (deep motivation why, not just "kids like it" but "kids get X, Y, Z out of it and I think X, Y, Z are worth $Q").  Take a look at the motivation and consider if you could do it at a lower price tag. 

For instance: my family took a lot of relatively inexpensive road trips to distant family, stayed at their houses, and saw the local sights (awesome things like sand dunes, giant telescopes, and science museums).  Foreign travel is much more expensive in most cases, so you really have to consider if your kids are getting the most out of it.  (My family lived in Japan for 2 years on a job assignment.  My younger sister despised it because she was 10 and in middle school and middle schoolers seem to have a hard time appreciating anything.  The other two of us, 16 and 18, had a blast.  Age matters.)  I wouldn't say "Don't ever travel" but I do think foreign travel for no reason other than "enrichment" is throwing a lot of money at something that has cheaper alternatives, like semi-local travel.

And I know moving isn't always the best option, but have you looked at the net cost of moving to a better school district?  Depending on how expensive private school is, you could spend more on rent/house and still come out with more money.

PloddingInsight

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2014, 08:16:03 AM »
I can sympathize with wanting to spend on the kids.  I think the weakest link in your list is travel.  No kid needs to travel and travel does not do much for kids.

What a ridiculous thing to say.

Thanks for your thoughtful contribution to our discussion.

Eric

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #14 on: July 25, 2014, 08:19:11 AM »
Do your kids actually want to be involved in all of those fancy activities?  Or are they just doing it because you want them to?  I hear about so many overscheduled kids that I can't help but think most of these things that are "essential" for kids are benefiting the adults more.  You don't have much detail, so it's hard to tell, but that might be something to consider if you're trying to spend more consciously. 

Zaga

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #15 on: July 25, 2014, 08:21:05 AM »
Another way to get kids to really see that the world is a big place, and that people are people the world round is to be a host family for foreign exchange students.  Best when your kids are in high school I think, because it's usually high school students from other countries looking for a place to stay.

My parents did that several times throughout my childhood, and I really know now that there are people everywhere, and they are ordinary people.

Also, I am really good at understanding strong accents :)

PloddingInsight

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #16 on: July 25, 2014, 08:25:43 AM »
Agreed.  We traveled a lot when I was a kid.  Just US and Canada...but I have friends who had never been outside the 6 counties surrounding our tiny farm community.  Travel helped to form who I am today.

Your friends are living what used to be called "normal life".  Travel, especially air travel, is a new form of conspicuous consumption -- a way wealthy/prospering people set themselves apart from the poor.  I guarantee you there are enough new places, experiences, and people to meet to keep your kids busy, all within a couple hours driving distance from your home.  And also, there's the internet.

resy

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #17 on: July 25, 2014, 08:26:37 AM »
I agree with what most people arr saying about finding your owncomfort level :) My husband and I are pretty frugal and not into establishung status through stuff so that helps. We are just getting started in building up wealth and learning about investing (he is starting a career, i am still choosing one to give you an idea) but we do invest in my son; he recently came back from a camp to a cool wildlife habitat and we pay for expensive martial arts and view these kinds of thinga as imperative as we are from low income and live in a corresponding area so the opportunities are limited, to us it is giving him a better, more rounded chance at the world. I could save him to the local low cost kids club in the neighborhood but he suffers from bullying when he goea there so I choose wisely the environments i set for examplea.

TrulyStashin

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2014, 08:30:07 AM »
One of the key principles of Mustachianism is to refuse to accept "conventional wisdom" at face value.  Instead, we find other, nonconventional ways to meet the same (or equivalent) goals that our consumerist society sets for us.

With that in mind, you could challenge your assumptions:

1) Is the local public school REALLY that weak?  Are there benefits to be gained from public school attendance (more diverse population, for instance) that are being lost by private school attendance?    Private schools tend to be bulwarks of consumerism and showoffy behavior -- one this score, the private school is perhaps failing your kids.

2) Could you move somewhere with a better public school?  If so, would it improve your ability to save/ invest?  What's the ROI?


3) Can you travel with your kids (very valuable, I agree) in a way that is less expensive?  Car instead of airline?  Regional or local instead of national or international?  My parents took us ALL OVER the U.S. when I was growing up but we did it by car and we camped (it helped that Dad was military so we explored the SW when we lived there and the SE when we lived there).   I've followed that model with my kids and from our home in Virginia, we've been as far as Maine, Niagara Falls, Chicago, and Orlando, and all points in between, mostly camping or inexpensive cabins along the way.  There is plenty to see and do within a two-day drive of almost any spot in the U.S. 

matchewed

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #19 on: July 25, 2014, 08:43:10 AM »
I'm confused, is this about your family judging you or your choosing to spend money on these things. If you have honestly taken a good look at the why's of your choices and whole-heartedly agree with them then there really isn't a problem. We may have some difficulty relating but at the very least it will be of your volition and within your values.

RMD

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #20 on: July 25, 2014, 08:50:58 AM »
Agreed.  We traveled a lot when I was a kid.  Just US and Canada...but I have friends who had never been outside the 6 counties surrounding our tiny farm community.  Travel helped to form who I am today.

Your friends are living what used to be called "normal life".  Travel, especially air travel, is a new form of conspicuous consumption -- a way wealthy/prospering people set themselves apart from the poor.  I guarantee you there are enough new places, experiences, and people to meet to keep your kids busy, all within a couple hours driving distance from your home.  And also, there's the internet.

Perhaps my family never lived a "normal life", then.  My great grandfather built bridges for a living and took the family along with him to various sites along the east coast and great plains.  The vast majority of my childhood travel was via car and it still is. 

Cpa Cat

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #21 on: July 25, 2014, 08:52:51 AM »
I think when it comes to kid spending, the biggest thing for me is to ensure they're not overscheduled. In your effort to give them every opportunity that you missed, they may be missing out on the opportunity to learn how to enjoy life without DOING something all of the time.

I never got to go to Summer camp, because we couldn't afford it. But I did spend entire days playing with my friends and getting to know the other neighborhood kids who weren't involved in scheduled activities. I did walk to the library and bring back an entire backpack of books to read every week.

Your kids have:
1. All sports and activities that are available through school.
2. Additional sports that are privately run.
3. Music lessons.
4. Other enrichment lessons.
5. Camps.
6. Travel.

Are you sure that #1 (All sports and activities that are available through school) isn't enough? Are you sure they need additional enrichment classes beyond their private school? Part of why you're paying for private school is to offer them an educational experience beyond that of public schooling - so why is there this need to enrich it even further - and to the extent that you are enriching.

Shouldn't their lives already be enriched through private school + travel? If the private school isn't cutting it, then why are you paying for it? Afterall, if you cut out private school, plenty of enrichment is available in #2 through #6.

Also, having time to just be a kid is pretty enriching in it's own light.

neo von retorch

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #22 on: July 25, 2014, 09:03:29 AM »
The factors that determine if children succeed... according to Paul Tough (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/10/23/how-children-succeed-qa-with-paul-tough/)

grit, curiosity, perseverance, conscientiousness, self-regulation, and optimism

Their ability in specific skills like instruments and sports is not necessarily a factor here. Being the "best" at those things, or being involved in "a lot" of things might contribute to self-esteem and feeling good about themselves... but that can actually be a negative in determining how well they handle further education and adult life. Getting all of those things taken care of by your parents (and their money), even if it's for education might set them up to expect life to be planned and taken care of for them.

On the other hand, if they do end up with at least one or two really good coaches that have a positive impact on them, in teaching them to work hard, persevere, delay gratification and consider how their actions affect everyone else on the team, then they could really pick up some important life skills through those activities.

(I am not a parent and am quite open to hearing the opposing arguments against these ideas!)

We each have anecdotal stories of how we were raised, and I think we're all relatively happy with "who we are" and "how we turned out" but that doesn't mean your particular life story is the right way to raise children. Am I not successful because I did none of the activities being paid for by the OP? I think those activities all enrich someone's world view, ability to interact with others, learn skills and so on. I don't agree that they are required to set a child on a path towards success.

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #23 on: July 25, 2014, 09:04:07 AM »
so we spend on things which, if posted in this forum, would generate a lot of ridicule and animosity

it also which prevents us from having as high a savings rate as possible

90% of the 'excess' spending is really to provide a better life for our children, so they can have advantages that my wife and I did not have growing up

while we realize we could get to our 'number' roughly 5 years earlier if we didn't care about keeping up appearances, I have to admit that it does provide me with a sense of pride sometimes as well as the fact that some of the decisions we make do improve our quality of life (i.e. there is actually value to some non-mustachian purchases and activities)

part of the problem is that, once a non-essential expense is justified, it becomes a slippery slope - where does one draw the line?  much easier to just go completely ascetic in the spirit of pure mustachianism and cut out every 'want' and only spend on 'needs' - but we have a really hard time doing this

does this ring true for anyone else, and if so what are some tips for keeping balance in life?

I try to be mustachian, my husband is not.  So, there is a lot of give and take in our relationship.  And we spend a lot on our kids.  Could we spend less?  Absolutely.  Our kids would survive just fine, but we have the money and it is especially important to my husband.  The thing that stands out to me is the above bolded part about pride.  My husband will probably never be mustachian, but he has no problem driving our 16-yr-old minivan to work where he makes six figures.  He could care less what the neighbors think about our beater cars.  We travel where we want because of us, not how it will make us look.  Our kids do sports or music lessons because that's where their interests lie, not so that we look cool.  We just added a extension of our roof over the patio, so that we could enjoy the yard without the sun and heat, not so that our neighbors would be impressed.   

I guess what I'm trying to say, is that you can look at your motivations for something.  Is it to impress someone else?  Then look at ROI- is there a cheaper way to get the same amount of happiness/enrichment?  We took the kids to Hawaii in the spring, so our vacations this summer have been close to home.  And we are amazed how many awesome places are so close to us!  So many hikes/lakes/national parks, etc. that we haven't done yet. 


begood

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #24 on: July 25, 2014, 09:11:17 AM »
Our kid goes to a private school - a deliberate choice we made. Team sports and music instruction are part of the school day, so we have made it clear that she's doing those instead of afterschool options that we'd have to pay for on top of tuition.

So I tend to agree with Cpa Cat. If you're looking for ways to cut down on expenses, then the outside-of-school activities might be a good place to turn your focus. You'd gain back some of the precious commodity called Time, too. :)

I also agree that you don't have to fly somewhere to make travel an enriching experience. Pick a place within an 8-hour drive in any direction. Get the kids to research fun, free activities in that area. Look at VRBO.com, where you can get a 2-bedroom condo with full kitchen for what you'd pay for a hotel room. We have our best conversations on long car rides.

iamadummy

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #25 on: July 25, 2014, 10:30:26 AM »
would agree about the travel. it might not be necessary and missed by kids.

garth

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #26 on: July 25, 2014, 10:52:32 AM »
I can sympathize with wanting to spend on the kids.  I think the weakest link in your list is travel.  No kid needs to travel and travel does not do much for kids.

What a ridiculous thing to say.

Thanks for your thoughtful contribution to our discussion.

One sweeping generalization deserves another. Only mine was actually true.

neo von retorch

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #27 on: July 25, 2014, 10:56:35 AM »
http://familyonbikes.org/blog/2012/06/ten-things-children-learn-about-life-while-traveling/

Most of the list above apply to just about any experience you might have with family, including relatively local travel (day trips, exploring within a few hours from home). Travel is beneficial to children, though the above blog post is far from scientific. Does anyone have a reference point on how it benefits children, or in particular, how international travel is significantly better than local travel in educating children and preparing them for successful, purpose-driven lives?

CommonCents

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #28 on: July 25, 2014, 11:09:54 AM »
I can sympathize with wanting to spend on the kids.  I think the weakest link in your list is travel.  No kid needs to travel and travel does not do much for kids.

What a ridiculous thing to say.

Interesting, because I saw that list and thought, oh, many mustachians want to travel and see the world - I bet that's the least attacked.  Just goes to show everyone has different values.

OP I grew up living all over the US (and I mean ALL over - I lived in Alaska, California, the midwest and New England).  That said, while it was wonderfully broadening of my mind and horizens...I think foreign travel is another exponential leap in what you can gain.  It's costly to get there usually, but I personally think it's worthwhile.  That said, you don't need to stay at the fanciest of hotels and so forth.

But the biggest expense for you is probably the private school.  With the others, I wonder if you need both the very expensive school and the extracurriculars.  And I agree that you could maybe price out what it would cost to buy/rent in a better school district where you don't feel you need to send your kids to private schools.

MsGrimalkin

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #29 on: July 25, 2014, 12:28:42 PM »
I can sympathize with wanting to spend on the kids.  I think the weakest link in your list is travel.  No kid needs to travel and travel does not do much for kids.

What a ridiculous thing to say.

Thanks for your thoughtful contribution to our discussion.

One sweeping generalization deserves another. Only mine was actually true.

Travel seems to be a "sacred cow" around here.  Shockingly, your kids can grow up just fine without international travel, club sports, and after school activities.  After all, many people would put all 3 items in the "luxury" category.  To the OP, sit down with your kids and find out what's important to them.  You may find they are apathetic towards many of these things and could easily do without them.  I spent 12 years trying to convince my mother weekly private piano lessons were a complete waste of her money.  Then again, private grammar/middle/high school, vacations (most local, 1 int'l), tennis lessons, and public college were completely wasted on me so I guess I'm not a good person to give advice!  : )

1st post- woot woot for me!

JoyBlogette

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #30 on: July 25, 2014, 12:38:23 PM »
Interesting, because I saw that list and thought, oh, many mustachians want to travel and see the world - I bet that's the least attacked.  Just goes to show everyone has different values.
+1 Personally I would value travel over private school.

FrugalZony

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #31 on: July 25, 2014, 06:05:01 PM »
This oddly reminds me of this case study
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/reader-case-study-can-we-have-it-all-but-still-retire-early/
but then I realised the OP had deactived their profile and deleted the initial post....

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #32 on: July 25, 2014, 07:38:42 PM »
What jumps out at me isn't so much that your spending is unreasonable--it's that you explain it by "our family cares what others think of us." That says to me that you aren't buying what you want--you are buying other people's opinion.

Do you really want to spend extra years of your life working to buy people's opinion of you? People who presumably don't share your values?

Undecided

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #33 on: July 25, 2014, 09:17:59 PM »
I can sympathize with wanting to spend on the kids.  I think the weakest link in your list is travel.  No kid needs to travel and travel does not do much for kids.

What a ridiculous thing to say.

Thanks for your thoughtful contribution to our discussion.

He certainly wasn't the only one who thought that.

Goldielocks

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #34 on: July 25, 2014, 09:19:08 PM »
One thought...

Are you spending more or less than other families at your private school ( on extra activities).

We moved to a bluish collar neighborhood ( teachers, firemen, accountants, warehouse managers), and when I finally admitted that only one activity at a time, per kid, was sufficient, it was actually pretty easy as so many kids here and in their school only just barely get that much.  It is so much harder to separate what YOU believed are core values, when it gets mixed up in your children's friends families unquestioning assumptions of what are needed.  It was easier when we said no to a $600 year end, 2 night  overnight camp for my daughter with her class, when other parents did too.

Could there be a bit of that?  If your core values are travel and music lessons only,it loses focus against all the others' behaviors, who are also for sports and camps.

Undecided

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #35 on: July 25, 2014, 09:21:33 PM »
I can sympathize with wanting to spend on the kids.  I think the weakest link in your list is travel.  No kid needs to travel and travel does not do much for kids.

What a ridiculous thing to say.

Thanks for your thoughtful contribution to our discussion.

One sweeping generalization deserves another. Only mine was actually true.

Travel seems to be a "sacred cow" around here.  Shockingly, your kids can grow up just fine without international travel, club sports, and after school activities.  After all, many people would put all 3 items in the "luxury" category.  To the OP, sit down with your kids and find out what's important to them.  You may find they are apathetic towards many of these things and could easily do without them.  I spent 12 years trying to convince my mother weekly private piano lessons were a complete waste of her money.  Then again, private grammar/middle/high school, vacations (most local, 1 int'l), tennis lessons, and public college were completely wasted on me so I guess I'm not a good person to give advice!  : )

1st post- woot woot for me!

I don't think the OP implied kids couldn't grow up "just fine" without those things, but the asses on here who insult any choice to spend on anything they personally have deemed non-essential gets really tiresome. Great, we get it, some people's single greatest priority is getting off the clock ASAP, and they're willing to paint others choices with the powerful brush of superficial analysis to dismiss them. But what's the point of it? Obviously the OP recognizes what s/he's giving up (the extra five years) and thinks it's worth it. That others here essentially feel like they know better is mind boggling.

libertarian4321

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #36 on: July 26, 2014, 12:37:30 AM »
Travel is one sacred cow.

"Private School" may be another, but what the heck, I'll give my two cents.

It seems to be almost taken on faith that "private school" is going to be better than a public school, because, well, the "metrics" show that kids who graduate from expensive private schools, on average, do better on tests than kids who go to public school.

However, these studies often fail to take into account that private schools tend to get kids almost exclusively  from families 1) who give a damn about their kids 2) who are wealthy, educated and successful. Public schools, even the best of them, don't have this luxury- they have to take all comers, and even in wealthy communities, there are going to be messed up families with jacked up kids who will not learn and will pull the scores down.

However, if you take the top 20% of kids at any decent public school, they'll compare very well to even kids in private school.  Kids who go to a decent public school can learn and do very well without spending boat loads of money, as long as they work hard.  You don't need private school, you just need a decent public school (and most public schools in upper middle class areas will do just fine), and parents who give a damn, and the kid will do fine.

Take the $5,000-$20,000 you save every year and invest it.

Final note:  Nothing against private schools.  If you have tons of money and can easily afford private school tuition without breaking a sweat, go for it.  I'm just not sure it's always the wisest allocation of funds for those who are not yet wealthy, and one day hope to be.

libertarian4321

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #37 on: July 26, 2014, 12:53:13 AM »
Could you give some examples of things that are excess spending to provide a better life for your children, but would generate ridicule here?  I'm not sure I understand what types of things you're talking about.

I really hesitate to do so, but here goes:

- private schools for kids (the public schools we are zoned for are not very good based on 'generally accepted measures')
- lessons in sports/music
- club membership that allow kids to participate in certain sports that would not be available to them otherwise (while the parents make use of it too sometimes, it really is mainly for the kids as we wouldn't have joined otherwise)
- enrichment classes/camps
- taking at least one nice vacation a year that gives our kids an ability to see things firsthand and experience a world they would not if they simply stayed at home (i.e. requires airplane travel)

Another comment, about "sports lessons" (and I assume a lot of you would throw in expensive travelling club sports with this).

Were you and your wife great athletes who got, or even just barely missed out on a college athletic scholarship or pro sports career?  Then fine, your kids might have the raw material where expensive lessons/coaching/clubs MIGHT get him that scholarship, and might be worth investing in.

Look at yourself and your wife.  Were you non-athletes?  Were you mediocre HS athletes who never had a shot in Hell at an athletic scholarship?  If so, it's likely your kids ain't going to be stud athletes either, no matter how much you wish for it and no matter how much you pay for coaches, trainers, and the like.

Take a look at your kid.  Make a fair assessment of his skills.  Is this kid really likely to be a top athlete?

Better yet, get someone else to assess your kid, because most parents tend to be completely delusional in assessing the skills of their own kids.

Unless the kid has the "stuff" to get a college scholarship, you are probably just wasting money on expensive sports. 

Nothing against sports, I love sports and played sports.  But you don't need to spend a ton of money on sports to have fun.  Let him play Little League and Pop Warner (inexpensive).  Have the kid Play on your HS team (inexpensive or free).  Have Don't blow huge wads of cash trying to turn your medium sized, nonathletic kid into LeBron James.  It ain't gonna happen.

My brother spent tons of money on "competitive" club teams/coaches/equipment, travel for his kids who were (I'm being charitable here) mediocre athletes.  None of them even played college sports at any level, let alone got a scholarship.  Mostly just wasted money, they would have been fine just playing local sports.

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #38 on: July 26, 2014, 06:12:44 AM »
Your kids sound very busy.

Every kid is different, and you don't share their ages (older kids can be fine with lots of structure) but my kids struggled with "just" 8 hours of school and a bit of homework afterwards. We rearranged our life to do homeschooling partly to free up time.

The change in their perception and imagination was incredible. Schools tend to file off the edges of kids. I like my rather eccentric children, and as they get older I can teach them about the world in ways no standard elementary or high school curricula would ever do.

On travel, finance is one aspect. Environmental impact is another. Also, I think kids get more out of "slow" travel than the typical "fly to X and see all the sights in Y days" vacation. We plan to get to national parks and maybe Canada when they're a bit older and our finances are a bit better.

From the way you describe your lifestyle, travel hacking may be a great way to get international or long-distance travel done cheaply.

mooreprop

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #39 on: July 26, 2014, 06:57:50 AM »
What jumps out at me isn't so much that your spending is unreasonable--it's that you explain it by "our family cares what others think of us." That says to me that you aren't buying what you want--you are buying other people's opinion.

Do you really want to spend extra years of your life working to buy people's opinion of you? People who presumably don't share your values?

I too, believe that you should spend your money on whatever your own values dictate.  However, it should never be because of what others think of you.  I was taught as a child that lots of people who look great (new cars, big houses, expensive travel) are actually in debt and stressed out about it.  My family may not have had a lot, but it was never going to be taken away because we paid cash for everything.  My father retired early with enough savings to support himself.  I feel that it was one of the most important values to share with my children to not care about what others think of you, as long as you are not doing something illegal or immoral. 

Decide on your savings rate with your husband, then spend whatever is left however you see fit.  This may not be the same as your neighbor and that's O.K.  Personally, I moved to a good public school district before my kids started school for two reasons.  One is to save money on private school by making it not necessary and the second is because houses hold their value/appreciate more in areas with good schools.  I did/do take my kids traveling, but we do it as cheaply as possible and make it their project to help plan and find the best deals so it is a learning experience.  They get more out of the trip than if mom and dad planned it and drug them along.  For example, cabins in Yellowstone are affordable, but have to be reserved way in advance.  After booking that, the kids planned for how much gas money it would take to get there and planned for stops on the way to see Mount Rushmore, Little Big Horn, etc.  We spent about 1/3rd of the money our friends did, but I think we had more fun. 

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #40 on: July 26, 2014, 06:58:13 AM »
You say that you care about what others think of you so you make decisions based on how you spend you money based on how you look to some "other" people.

But most of the examples you provided were just things you are doing to give your kids a better life IN YOUR EYES. Whether I agree with you about those things, you haven't demonstrated to me that you are making your decisions to look like hot-stuff to the world. You are someone who thinks you are doing the right things for your kids. How is that a problem?


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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #41 on: July 26, 2014, 08:53:24 AM »
I agree that you should look at what you (and the kids) value and spend on that, but I wouldn't start with "travel" and "private school", I would figure out why you value them.  Maybe it's "exposure to other ways of living/ art/ nature" and "small classes".

Personally I find real value in private school and travel. I think private school AND expensive activities keeps your kids from being exposed to what's already in your community, but if your goal is for them to make $$$, playing golf and tennis might be helpful.

Daleth

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #42 on: July 26, 2014, 09:02:09 AM »
If educating our kids and showing them there's a larger world than their own backyard is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Totally agree. My only quibble about the list of expenditures on kids is, like, how the hell many different sports do they NEED?! All those sports and activities make the kids sound overscheduled to me (downtime and having to make up your own ways to not be bored are good for kids), and I know plenty of people who basically told their kids, after a year or two of trying various sports, "Ok, kid, pick the sport you like best and we'll focus on that."

And perhaps I should point out that a kid who's decent at five sports is not going to get a sports scholarship to college, whereas a kid who picked their one favorite sport and excelled at it just might.

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #43 on: July 30, 2014, 12:06:49 PM »
We seem to be more invested in this conversation than the OP.   Are you still there, Fire_Help?

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #44 on: July 31, 2014, 06:21:39 PM »
I think I'll lean more to the OP's point of view. Having benefitted from private school, I got a substantially better education. More teacher involvement, better high school opportunities to earn college credit, and an overall better environment. My parents gave me the choice, if they were going to shell out the cash I was expected to earn the grades.

I agree with an earlier poster about observing your kids desire to continue there extra curriculars, if they are passionate about it, great, if not you might consider something else. 4-H was a great organization for me and centers around many family activities ( not just livestock).

And to the naysayers on travel... Some of my best childhood memories stem from traveling. We didn't stay in posh hotels but took a small travel trailer. I don't know what was spent, but those are family memories that we all treasure together. I know my parents could FIRE a few years earlier without the expenses but I'm glad they chose to splurge, and having talked to them they are ok with the trade off as well.

My litmus test is to ask the question whether I'll remember it in 5 years. If I will, I don't hold back, I spent a couple k on a month long trip to south east Asia and don't regret a dime. I may have to work an extra 6 months but that experience was worth it.

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #45 on: August 04, 2014, 10:48:52 AM »
Thanks for all of the responses

We thought long and hard about the choices we made, and what we found is that once we were in a certain circle socially (e.g. the private school crowd) the lifestyle creep became an issue.

All of a sudden, certain extracurricular activities became very important and certain lessons became essential - what started out as doing the best for our kids by sending them to private school (because we are not in a good school district for public education) became a gradual change in perspective as to what is considered 'ideal' for kids in terms of enrichment and development.

Btw, I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that some of the changes we made are the most ideal for our kids - but it just begs the question what the right equilibrium is in the grand scheme of things.

So whilst having a ton of consumer debt or flat to low savings rate is obviously falling too far along the spectrum towards frivolous activities for the kids at the expense of financial independence, we came to the conclusion that having a very high (>30%) savings rate at the expense of children's development might be equally foolish.  It's just not worth it to us to 'retire' a years earlier if our we felt that, at the end of our lives, we didn't do all we could to help our children succeed.  This is obviously very subjective, but the reality is we feel our kids do actually have a leg up on life from the extra amount we spend - saving another 10-20% of our income, while giving us a faster retirement, we feel would shortchange their potential.  To each his own.


blackomen

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #46 on: August 04, 2014, 02:21:26 PM »
I don't have kids but I'll throw in my 2 cents: if it comes down to private schools vs. vacations, I'd go with the vacations any day.  While good schools are still better than bad schools, the benefits are often dwarfed by those derived from parental involvement.  On the other hand, vacations are a great way for the family to bond and don't have to be very extravagant to do so.

gimp

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #47 on: August 04, 2014, 03:20:50 PM »
I would disagree with you, blackomen. There are private schools and there are private schools. I wouldn't spend money on a cheap christian private school, which is just a public school with slightly fewer poor kids. Those seem to be common across the country. But elite prep schools? You bet your ass. You don't get anywhere near that sort of education anywhere, including from parental involvement, unless you happen to have advanced degrees in multiple unrelated fields... you overestimate how much direct parental involvement in education matters once you get to the high school level, and underestimate how much peers matter.

On pretty much any metric you would choose to name, apart from getting laid, the best kids from public high schools were far below the best from the hoity-toity fancy-pants private high schools, where I grew up. Sports, competitions, even standardized tests. And absolutely, definitely, academics.

People here like to talk about how great a deal public college is compared to private. They forget two things. One, the best private colleges are essentially free, despite their high sticker price, unless you have enough money that the cost isn't a crisis for you. In that alone, it's clear that they win on cost. Second, it is often true that freshman courses are hardly different in material covered between private and public, with the exception that the good professors teach the same material in a deeper and more rigorous way. However, public schools are far behind on the depth offered in later years and in graduate programs. If your choice is between a meh public school and a meh private school, obviously pick public. If you have the opportunity to learn at the best, go for the best. The best has better people there; the inertia carries that forward.

I was lucky enough to attend one of those stereotypical new england prep schools. I was the token poor kid; yay, scholarships. After that school, college was a breeze. You wouldn't believe the difference in what's offered, and what's expected, between a school like that and the local high school. Now, for elementary school and maybe middle school, I don't see the point - in fact, probably better to go public and not be so sheltered and naive. But when you want to transition from day care (elementary) to education...

Vacations are fleeting, education is forever.

gimp

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #48 on: August 04, 2014, 03:30:52 PM »
Sorry for the double post, but I feel this is very important.

All of those stereotypical "smart kid activities" - violin, piano, math, science, soccer, latin, whatever. All excellent things. There's a reason parents push their kids so hard to do them, especially parents to whom education is important - and that is often immigrants, especially Asian, Russian, and so on.

But in a word, answer this: what is the end goal?

"College."

These activities are awesome, but... they're not awesome if they're being undertaken for the wrong reason. Why piano and not electric guitar? Electric guitar will drop panties, but piano looks better on a college application. The parents who force their kids to do these things are almost never, ever forcing them to do it so that they grow up to become better people, better adults. They just want their kid to turn 18, get into Harvard, and fuck off from home. Done. Child: raised. Accomplishment: major. "Yes, uncle, my son just got into Harvard!" As long as the kid doesn't flunk out, the rest isn't a big deal. ("Would sure be nice if I could tell our family you were a lawyer, though.")

By all means, force your kids to excel in school, and on the field or gym or pool, and pick up a couple other extra-curriculars too. But expose them to a whole host of possibilities when they're younger and let them focus on what they prefer as they get older. If they're more into programming than chemistry... fine. Electric guitar? Here's an amp, here's a futon that's easy to wash, here's a box of condoms. Basketball? Go ahead, as long as you're healthy and fit.

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All of a sudden, certain extracurricular activities became very important and certain lessons became essential

Yeah, they do, if your goal is to get the kids into college. Too many people conflate "get into college" with "be a better person." It may lead to that, but it's no guarantee. No path is considered evil if it gets you higher up the mountain, closer to enlightenment.

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Re: It's unfortunate that our family cares about what others think of us
« Reply #49 on: August 04, 2014, 04:16:50 PM »
I can sympathize with wanting to spend on the kids.  I think the weakest link in your list is travel.  No kid needs to travel and travel does not do much for kids.  If you're looking for something expensive to cut out, try just staying home and learning something new with your kids.  Take them hiking nearby, things like that.

Hmm - I put travel above club memberships (I'm not even sure what that means, like country club memberships?) and sports lessons.  My daughter LOVES traveling and we get a lot out of it.  We don't do a whole lot of airplane travel, but my daughter has had a passport since age 6. Most of our travel is sightseeing within the US, but does make it easier that we are living in our fourth state in 12 years.  Heck, she had a blast going to the mudpit State Park in Arkansas  where you can dig for diamonds.   

To the OP, have you ever asked you kids if they want all this, are they overscheduled?   Do they get a chance to just be kids and go play in the creek, swing on trees, catch tadpoles?  Which by the way is one of my 12 year old  daughter's favorite activities.  Not trying to be critical, we have done private school in the past and try to do one or two enrichment camps a year, but kids do need a chance to just be kids.