We’ve had some set backs, which is an inevitable part of the getting out of debt process.
Our latest two: our W2 had to be corrected, so instead of getting a rather substantial return last month, it will have to wait until the end of this month. The second issue is the Air Force is supposed to pay a large chunk towards our student loans every year. We submitted the paperwork for it SIX months ago. It has still not gone through, which means until that happens we have to continue to make our own payments, which we hadn’t anticipated because we thought it would all go through much sooner than it has. It’s a bummer, but not the end of the world, of course.
Word to the wise: the government isn’t quite what you would say customer service oriented. I know, some branches do better than others. But the Air Force, ironically, often operates with sloth-like speed and it can be frustrating, to say the least.
One issue that has come up lately for us is the matter of lessons for our kids. When we sat down and revised our budget last year, we decided we’d spend about $120 a month on kids activities. Turns out, this is small change around these parts. Piano lessons are at least twice that for three kids (at least where we live). Add to that sports and dance, well, it’s quite bill to foot.
Our boys did soccer last fall and Amalia has been enrolled in dance since the beginning of the year. They’re not going to do piano until this next fall, when Joseph will be getting a raise and we can “afford” the lessons (when can you ever afford these things??).
We decided to not do sports this winter because of the baby and all, but kept Amalia in dance. We ended up switching dance studios because the dance studio she was attending was going to have their year end recital on a Sunday. As part of our religious Sabbath observance, we don’t participate in that sort of thing on Sundays.
So, we switched studios and the tution was slightly less ($71 instead of $78). But then, after she began, I found out that the recital and costume fees for the end of the year recital would be $250. Let me say that again. $250, so our sweet little Mali can twirl around on a stage for a total of four minutes. I nearly hyperventilated when I found that out.
Joseph and discussed the issue at length and decided that we’d move forward and just have her do the recital, despite the outrageous fees (I mean come on, I know dance stuff is expensive, but one outfit cost $97!! the freakin’ costume better be made out of gold thread), because we had moved her for the specific reason of participating in a recital (she cried when we told her she wouldn’t be able to do the recital when she was at her old studio). We bit the bullet, paid the fees, and decided after she finishes the year & does the recital we’ll have better perspective as to whether or not that was a wise choice.
This has left me to ponder the question of: when you’re getting out of debt, and you have a little wiggle room (like we do), do you completely eliminate lessons and all extra-curricular activities? We’re trying to take the middle road approach and have our kids do a few things. We believe that these things are important (especially piano, when we get to that). But there comes a point where you’ve just got to say, nope, sorry, we can’t do that.
As a kid, I took dance lessons for one year and then my mom didn’t want to pay for lessons anymore, so that was that. I suppose I want my girls to take dance, from an early age for as long as they want (maybe I’m making up for my “deprived” childhood), but it has caused me to think with more empathy towards my mom’s decision.
A reader recently made this comment on my living on one income post. Courtney writes:
Hi! Well, we live basically on 1 income. My husband is an elementary school teacher and I am a photographer (I have good months and not so good months). We are struggling big time right now and I wish I could say we have a good plan of action and an end in sight but we don’t. Almost 2 years ago, we had no more savings to dip into to help us out with our mortgage so we put our house on the market and waited 7 months after 65 showings and only 1 offer and less than a month from foreclosure we sold our house (didn’t make anything on it but at least it was out from under us). We moved in with my in-laws next month will be 1 year since we’ve been here and we are still paying the minimums on our credit cards. We live very frugal…obviously no mortgage or utilities right now but we try to save in whatever ways we can on everything else. We do spend quite a bit on groceries but that is because we buy mostly organic fruits and veggies, grass fed beef, get raw milk and free range/cage free eggs from a farm, etc. We also put our children’s (5 and 3 years old) education before debt. They attend a Waldorf school which is where we want them to go throughout their education. We have tried the dave ramsey budget (actually we paid off $24,000 before we had children and it took only 14 months!) but it seems with 1 income that doens’t even cover our monthly bills, that are just in a hole and I’ve tried budgeting for an irregular income but it just doesn’t seem to flow. Any advice or words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated!
My initial reaction was: duh! Cut the private school and stop buying organic (as much as I love organic food, that has got to be on the lower priority list when money is tight). But, then I thought about our own situation, and how I was unwilling to just pull Amalia out of dance despite the rip off recital fees.
The thing is, once you’re a parent, you want the best for your kids. You want them to have what you didn’t have. So you’ll make financial decisions primarily based on emotion, that don’t entirely make good financial sense. And, then there’s the fact that when you have kids you have to stop putting a price tag on everything, or you wouldn’t do anything.
Anway, I’d love to know what you think.
Growing up, did your parents pay for piano or dance lessons, or private school? Did you think it was worth it?
If you have kids, what’s your approach?
Where’s the line on kid’s activities, especially when money is tight?