Author Topic: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?  (Read 2908 times)

LinLin

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The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« on: November 27, 2017, 01:31:12 PM »
Hello, Mustachians! I've been reading the MMM blog for a few months now, and just the other day DH and I made the final payment on a $9,300 credit card debt. I can't believe we managed to do that in under three months, especially since, as a longtime freelancer, I've pretty much never had a regular income. (It's been anywhere from $30k to $108k over the past 20 years.) We're now on to the HELOC, and then the mortgage.

I wrote MMM a letter listing all the things we did to make this happen, including selling lots of stuff (arcade machine, tools, etc.), ditching life insurance, cutting food costs and more. I'd be happy to post here if anyone wants to see the (big) list.

We're on a roll, but there are two things I can't figure out how to save on:

1. Our 8-year-old son's Montessori school, which we all LOVE -- he started there after I utterly failed at homeschooling (twice). After some research, I decided Montessori is the next best thing, and the boy is flourishing there. We chose the school in January 2017, before we started on the mustachian way, and it's a 20 minute drive each way. Yes, that's a LOT of gas. (We tried him at a Montessori that was only a few minutes away but weren't happy there.)

Right now we're paying 50% tuition (so $450/month), as I applied for financial aid after I ended up in the ER last spring and was stuck with a gigantic bill. I'm dreading next fall semester, when the price will go back up to $900/month. I could apply for financial aid again, but technically we won't need it, so I hate to do it.

My husband will be teaching one of their after-school clubs starting in a couple weeks, with parents paying him $90 for a 10-week class. Hopefully he gets a good-sized group, and I would deduct that right from his tuition on our balance sheet.

To at least defray driving costs, I posted to the school's memberhub looking for someone local to carpool with, but got no takers...looks like we're the furthest in this direction out of all the students.

I'm willing to try new things and I'm definitely not afraid to be a little wacky, so if anyone has suggestions for decreasing the costs, I'd love to hear them. However, we are not willing to go to another school...I won't get into any more detail (there's so much), but we've done our research and this is the best pace for our boy. We'd like to stay put.

2. The boy's ballet and hip hop classes, which cost something like $1,500-$2,000 per year, and that's before costumes, show tickets, etc. (It does include special classes like summer intensives.) He's been dancing for 3.5 years and we're so happy that we found a ballet school that has a big focus on boy dancers. (Also lucky for us, it's just a few minutes away.)

One thought there is to ask for a barter arrangement...I'm a professional copywriter, so maybe they could use that, and I have other skills as well: Design, baking, marketing, and cleaning are things I love to do. I know they'd hate to lose a boy ballet dancer, so maybe I have a shot, but for some reason I feel reluctant to ask.

Any suggestions? Even the wackiest will be considered, even if I don't end up taking them. Thank you so much!

 

I'm a red panda

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2017, 01:44:03 PM »
At the ballet studio I attended, almost every boy was scholarshipped for doing chores- even the youngest ones.  It was basically a "we need boy dancers, but they can't come free" arrangement. The youngest boys cleaned mirrors, the oldest did set construction type things.  I wouldn't hesitate to ask!

LinLin

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2017, 02:04:35 PM »
That's so interesting! My kid is 8 so he's only there for class, but what I see of the older boys (and girls) in the pre-professional program is that they do homework for their online homeschooling between classes. I don't think this studio has the set-up/requirement for kids to help out, but I'll ask...and/or volunteer myself. I don't know why I'm willing to try so many money-saving things but I feel super-reluctant to ask for a barter. Maybe I don't want them to think we're poor, or if they say no I fear things will become awkward.

Thanks for the suggestion!

spjulep

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2017, 07:06:37 PM »
How many more years of these expenses will you have? I think it makes a difference if you are doing this for a couple more years that you feel are formative for him, or for the next 10 years. For example, when he goes to the next level of school, can he attend a public school and participate in community activities?

It doesn't sound like you're willing to give up either expense - can you focus on making your income higher/more reliable? Or sidegigs. Your value as a professional is probably higher than what someone would give you as a barter, but you can try of course. The worst they can say is no.

Grogounet

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2017, 02:53:08 AM »
I agree with the above and unsure of your question: You're not really wanting to decrease the costs in any cases.
Saying this, you could move and rent closer to school to save and even sell your car (s)

spicykissa

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2017, 05:27:00 AM »
I would love to see your list!

It sounds like these are expenses you have thought a lot about, and truly value, which is great. Two thoughts:

Is there a way to better optimize your vehicle to save on gas? (By which I mean to say, is it a giant SUV or something else stupid?) If dance is really your son's "thing", you could perhaps focus on it for gifts--ask family/friends to chip in on costumes or tickets for birthdays and Christmas, that kind of thing. This saves you $$ and keeps junk from accumulating in your house, keeps your family less materialistic, etc, etc.

If you are worried about a "barter" arrangement for free classes being awkward, perhaps frame it as actually becoming an employee of the studio (for 4 hours a week or whatever). It is standard practice in my experience for gyms and pools to allow families of employees to attend classes for free/reduced rate, since the hourly pay is low and there are no other benefits. You would also get a very tiny paycheck!

Cubert

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2017, 05:49:39 AM »
It really depends on what's important to you. If you're worried about your child's ability to cope with new surroundings and people, then staying at his current school makes sense. We're fortunate to live in a city with good public schools, so I won't preach or anything here. You've got to do what's best for your child!

As for the pricey dance lessons. Man. I don't think my parents spent more than a few hundred bucks a year for the two years I took drum lessons in high school. I should've practiced more, in retrospect. I'm hoping to get my kids into free activities they can master without expense. All about trade offs - we choose early retirement (which will allow me time to help the kids improve their tennis game, and biking/hiking skills)

KBecks

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2017, 06:02:29 AM »
You are not planning on having additional children, right?   

We were priced out of Montessori preschool when the school announced a 13% tuition increase after our first year and I was pregnant with our third.  I realized that over time the fees would not be sustainable, so we looked for other schools and found something suitable closer to home.

The choices are tough.  You should probably work on increasing your income if you are unwilling to change your expenses, so perhaps look at how you can maximize your freelance work income.

LinLin

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2017, 11:12:31 AM »
Thanks so much for all the insights!

A couple people mentioned upping my income. That would actually be very, very easy...but what I love since we started the mustachian journey just 2.5 months ago is that for the first time, after 20 years of full-time freelancing, I no longer feel that nagging need to always be hustling. My usual MO was to take on as much work as possible, even if it was, say, 13 assignments in a month, which was very stressful. Oh yeah, and then spend all the money trying to destress. :) It's so great seeing that we could live on just my husband's income if we had to, because of all the cost-cutting we've been doing. I've never felt so stress-free, my anxiety problems are gone, and I even feel healthy for the first time in a year. (I had mono a year ago and have been dealing with the aftermath—and bills—since.)

I know, that's a LONG way to say that right now, I prefer to focus on cutting back than earning more, even though I know that I could easily earn more, and that if I were to barter my services for dance classes, the studio would definitely come out ay ahead. :)

SpicyKissa, since you asked, I attached my list of what we've done to cut expenses so far. And great point about reframing the "barter" as an "employee" situation. That does feel a lot better, and would perhaps have the side benefit of getting me out of the home office once in awhile.

Also a good point on considering how many more years the kiddo will be in school, and how many kids we'll have. I'm almost 49, so we're one and done...and if he decides to sty with ballet, eventually he'd probably be in the online homeschooling program all the older dancers do...which I believe is free. Kbecks, I've always goggled at the Montessori families with multiple kids in the school. Man, that's gotta be expensive. I can't imagine paying, say, $3,000 per month for elementary school tuition.

Thanks again for all your suggestions! I love hearing so many insights I hadn't thought of myself.

goatmom

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2017, 02:38:19 PM »
How committed is he to dance?  8 year olds change their minds often and he might decide he likes something else much better.  And something less expensive.  If he loves dance - have you considered Irish Step Dancing?  I found the fees much lower.  If your son loves the school and you love it too - I would not mess with that if you can swing it.  Priceless.

LinLin

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2017, 04:09:24 PM »
Hi, goatmom! Well, let's just say he's been doing it since he was 5 1/2 and he's about to turn 9. He actually tried Irish step dancing classes a couple years ago and didn't like it. And ballroom. :) We do love the school, but I'm looking to cut expenses everywhere I can, so I'll likely ask the owner if I can work there a few hours per week in exchange for classes.

LeRainDrop

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2017, 01:16:05 PM »
Right now we're paying 50% tuition (so $450/month), as I applied for financial aid after I ended up in the ER last spring and was stuck with a gigantic bill. I'm dreading next fall semester, when the price will go back up to $900/month. I could apply for financial aid again, but technically we won't need it, so I hate to do it.

I would apply for financial aid again anyway.  Lots of private schools have a great deal of funding available for financial aid/scholarships, and that money is going to be given out to some kids or others.  If the school does its math and determines that, under their criteria, you no longer qualify for the aid, then they will tell you that.  But there is a possibility that they'll decide your situation warrants some.  You personally do not have access to the financials of the whole pool of student families seeking aid, but the school does, and they will be in a better position than you to see if you should get some of their dollars.

MrsPete

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2017, 06:18:58 PM »
School:  We started our kids in private school, and we agreed that every year at "re-up time" we'd sit down and ask ourselves, "Is this worth the financial sacrifice?  Is this the best choice we can make for our children?"  Eventually we came to the point that we said, "No, no longer worth the sacrifice."  We left at exactly the right point for our oldest child (she was pushed harder academically and had more opportunities in public school), but I wonder if we should've left our younger child is the smaller, more comforting atmosphere another year. 

Just today I was talking to a co-worker whose child will begin kindergarten next year.  Like so many parents, she subconsciously was thinking of her child's entire education -- she felt that she needed to decide not only about kindergarten but also middle school and beyond.  After we talked, I think she felt relieved to have realized that she really only has to make a decision about kindergarten right now. 

Dance: Does he dance because dance is "his thing", his passion, and he loves it above all else ... or does he dance because kids ought to be in activities?  If you just want him to be involved in a couple activities, soccer is cheaper (and doesn't last all year), scouts and church youth group are very inexpensive. 

If dance is "his thing", consider allowing him to take fewer classes -- keep his toes in it, but don't take multiple classes every week.  Skip summer classes. 

Personally, when my oldest started hearing that her friends were taking dance, I went to talk to the people and I was VERY turned off by the high prices and recital outfits and associated costs.  But she wanted to do it.  I ended up taking her to gymnastics instead.  It gave her what she wanted:  a group activity that has some commonalities with dance, but (at the lower ages) I could buy used leotards, and there were no recitals.  She was 100% happy, and she grew tired of it anyway. 



LinLin

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2017, 02:26:45 PM »
LeRainDrop, that is a VERY good point. I have such a resistance to being seen as a mooch or a piker that I'll go too far in the opposite direction and deprive my family of money that should have been ours. (Ask me sometime about the karate dojo story: In short, I spent $800 to be a "nice person.") I should just apply and see what happens.

MrsPete, yes, it is definitely "his thing." He even choreographs dances in his head in the car and then asks me to play the song we were listening to at home so he can show me. But for school, I totally agree...we should revisit the commitment before each new school year. I do tend to change my mind like the wind, which is why he's already been in TWO schools and TWO stints of homeschooling in the last 4 years, but that doesn't mean we can't analyze our decision every year.

Thanks to you both!

Goldielocks

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2017, 04:10:51 PM »
If you are talking about having dance first and centermost, with homeschooling again when he is older, adn this is non-negotiable, then...

You need to treat this like you are training an olympic athlete.  It's doable, if you have the income, just requires prioritization and discipline on your budget.  (My SIL is going through this with two girls right now..)
First, move into a much smaller place (e.g., apartment) in walking distance to the studio if you can  -- the driving time alone for the ballet classes is what hits hard, much more so than a 20 minute drive to the school.....

Create a budget:
Your budget would have categories such as:

Rent / house costs
Groceries
Utilities
Cell phones (need smart phones because of all the driving /waiting/ away from home times)
Homeschool costs (after age 11?)  Montessori until then.
School supplies and fees
Clothing for family (minimal)
Transportation (one car and bus passes?)
Gas, insurance for car
Ballet Instruction / school
Ballet private instruction lessons
Ballet Choreographer
Ballet recitals
Ballet costumes and makeup
Ballet uniforms and shoes (thank god no pointe shoes for you at $300 per month!)
Ballet competitions / exams
Ballet travel to competitions and auditions (starting around age 10)
Ballet summer school
Ballet meals on the go as you live 15 hours a week at the ballet school
Christmas and birthday gifts with a Ballet focus (Merry christmas, here are your new tights)
Vacations centered around Ballet summer camp and auditions, otherwise stay cations.
Savings 20%   (Start here)
Money remaining for entertainment and family activities

Carrie

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #15 on: November 30, 2017, 04:54:15 PM »
I love the idea of bartering any and all of your talents for a reduction in tuition, both at school and dance. Do they need someone to copy edit the newsletter or put together marketing materials? Do they need someone to substitute teach at the school? I see absolutely nothing wrong with approaching both with a list of how you can make their lives easier in exchange for a discount.
Or, work more jobs and acknowledge that working that extra 20 hours or whatever is worth it to give your child these awesome opportunities.

(Full disclosure: I just became lunch lady- I make the most delicious lunches at our Montessori school for an almost total break in tuition. I love it.)

better late

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #16 on: November 30, 2017, 05:29:53 PM »
 Of all the spending we did when our kids were young, thei spending on  Montessori education was the most valuable. I would pay those tuition bills again in a heartbeat.

Bicycle_B

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Re: The two sticking points: Private school + dance. Suggestions?
« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2017, 09:53:05 PM »
+1 Goldielocks.

Given the values you express, and the evident passion for dance, it sounds like you are focusing on things that do matter to your family.  One view of the Mustache Way is to spend wisely on key goals and not spend on the unimportant.  You might be getting in the right zone already - your own schedule de-stressed, family thriving, values met.  Just make sure your financial progress is acceptable too and then do what you do.  These are the good times!