Frugal Tuesdays: What to do about kid’s lessons/sports/piano when getting out of debt

frugal tuesdays kids lessons So, it’s been awhile since I’ve talked about our debt.

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?


  1. Danielle
    on March 13, 2014 at 8:44 am said:

    Thanks for being so open and honest with your family’s situation! It’s been a huge blessing for me to stumble across your blog. We also have a ton of debt and a less than stellar income. Our 8 year old thrives on playing sports. All. Day. Long. To pull him completely from sports programs to save money is something we just won’t do. There have been a few times that for the sake of finances, have only allowed him one team sport for the year. That’s really hard, but a compromise for our family when needed. Mom and dad spend less money, our little guy gets to choose a sport, all the while learning that sometimes we can’t have it all. Fortunately, most extra curricular activities usually give discounts or scholarships. Even if they aren’t advertised, it doesn’t hurt to ask. He played soccer on a scholarship last year, and that saved us the $200 (seriously, how much could that jersey possibly cost?!). I think it’s definitely ok to decide what you will and will NOT sacrifice as a family.

  2. Kelli
    on March 6, 2014 at 1:05 am said:

    When I was young, my mother paid for 10 years of dance lessons for me (from ages 5-15), plus a few years of girl scouts, school trips, etc. And I really have no idea how she did it. My parents divorced when I was 8, so she was a struggling single parent working a couple of jobs. Looking back now, I am completely amazed that she was able to pay for as much extra-curricular stuff as she did. Every year, I was in at least 4-5 different dance classes so there were costs for the lessons, shoes and leotards and tights, not to mention the all costumes. I never really thought about it until you said it here – all that money for less than 5 minutes on stage. My classes seemed to have an extraordinary amount of handmade costumes (pieces put together, not hand beaded 🙂 ) and now I’m so glad. I always felt amazing in the expensive glittery bought costumes, but what a waste in so many ways….. I like the idea mentioned earlier about loaning costumes – that seems like a great way for children to have fancy expensive costumes without the exorbitant costs.

    And in adulthood, I wished I’d had piano lessons at some point in there ~ so I’m learning it now. I guess that’s one bright spot – if you instill the love of learning in your children now, they can always get to things later on that you might not be able to afford or even just have time for now. I know everything is more easily learned in childhood, but we all have finite resources, so as trite as it sounds, keep doing what you can and the rest will all come as it’s meant to. xo

    • Janae Wise
      on March 6, 2014 at 8:05 am said:

      “When I was young, my mother paid for 10 years of dance lessons for me (from ages 5-15), plus a few years of girl scouts, school trips, etc. And I really have no idea how she did it. My parents divorced when I was 8, so she was a struggling single parent working a couple of jobs.”
      Wow! You don’t realize until your an adult how much of a sacrifice our parents went through for us. What a mom you had for her to work so hard so you could have all of those opportunities.

      I LOVE that you’re learning the piano now. That is on my “to do” list–haha. I hope to get to it sometime within the next decade. I regret not learning how to play the piano so much, I am making it an absolute, non-negotiable for all of our kids. They have to take lessons for a bare minimum of two or three years, or until they can play most songs decently. I don’t care if they’re concert pianists, but I do want them to have that skill. Playing piano is especially important in our faith, where many people use that skill as part of our meetings.

      “I guess that’s one bright spot – if you instill the love of learning in your children now, they can always get to things later on that you might not be able to afford or even just have time for now. I know everything is more easily learned in childhood, but we all have finite resources, so as trite as it sounds, keep doing what you can and the rest will all come as it’s meant to.”
      Great advice, Kelli. Thank you.

  3. Emma
    on March 5, 2014 at 1:05 pm said:

    I’m sorry to hear about your financial struggles Janae. Sending lots of hope and courage your way.
    This is such an interesting issue and one I ponder as I come from a very privileged background. I wonder, would I have “turned out” the same if I didn’t have all those opportunities? What do I want to give my kids? I went to private school and then private boarding school so yes, pretty pricey. Sport was compulsory and I loved it. Growing up me and my brothers did music, dance and extra-curricular sport too. I also had extra maths tuition.
    I’m extremely grateful for all that I was given but I can’t help but think that some of those things I didn’t get much out of. Me and my brothers were never very enthusiastic about our music lessons for example and definitely didn’t really enjoy them let alone benefit from them in any other way.
    I’m sure there must be a way to get your kids into activities for free. Do you have brownies/cubs stateside? I loved being part of the brownies growing up and it taught me a lot! I don’t know what your schools are like but here state-funded schools are pretty dire unless you happen to live in the right area. Hopefully that’s not the case with you.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm said:

      “I went to private school and then private boarding school so yes, pretty pricey. Sport was compulsory and I loved it. Growing up me and my brothers did music, dance and extra-curricular sport too. I also had extra maths tuition.”
      Wow! I thought people like you only existed in movies. 🙂

      Seriously, I’ve known very few people who were private schooled. Here in the U.S. it’s quite expensive. Charter schools are a more common option these days, which is an alternative to public and private schools (kind of a blend of the two). My husband & I both grew up VERY middle class. Our kids will have it better than we did, if we can manage to get out of our debt (primarily student loans & we should be debt free within a 1-2 years), since my husband does have a decent job as an attorney, but we do have a big family so we have to stretch our dollars to make things work (which is why we buy in bulk 😉 ).

      We have cub scouts, and girl scouts. My boys will do cub scouts and I’m not sure about our girls yet. But hearing you had a positive experience with brownies is good to know.
      And my kids are really lucky to go to an awesome public school. Some public schools here can be pretty bad, mostly due to crime & poverty, not the teachers themselves.

      • Emma
        on March 6, 2014 at 4:39 pm said:

        I’m in a very fortunate position and definitely should be more grateful for that.
        I guess having such a big family means you do have to be extra careful with spending. What you lack in money I’m sure you make up for with love though! 🙂
        Glad to hear you’ve got your kids in a good public school. Some here can be brilliant too but it’s luck of the draw really. X

  4. Kristi
    on March 5, 2014 at 10:08 am said:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Sharalyn and Tia. I also agree with Rebecca’s thoughts.
    One of my friends spends over $10,000/year on her two daughters to be in competition dance – and that is after the discounts she receives for volunteering at the studio, and all the fundraisers the studio holds. After a certain age/level, there aren’t a lot of options to NOT be in the competitive group if you go to a studio, unless you do rec center type lessons.
    Lucky for us, our school district/township has a wonderful “community ed” program and I participated in random craft classes, golf lessons and basketball.
    Amelia has participated in the cross country running program through community ed, and this fall she and Garrett will do it since he’ll be in kindergarten, and is excited about running. For us, it’s the best option for our kids to try things without a lot of money flying out the door. Cross country is $50 for 10 weeks and 5 meets. Totally worth it to me.
    We did have Amelia in violin lessons through the Suzuki school, but she was too young and was really struggling. We are planning on signing them both up for music lessons once Garrett goes to first grade. They both express interest and I am willing to find money in the budget for music lessons, or things that will benefit them for a lifetime. I don’t know that we will go back to Suzuki, though. Garrett wants to play the drums and guitar and Amelia wants to play the piano or violin. I’ll make them choose one to start, next year ….. 🙂
    I actually looked into Waldorf and Montessori schools for the kids and was SHOCKED at the tuition rates, especially Waldorf. Based on what I know about both, I am perfectly capable of teaching my children with those methods. We live in a Waldorf/Montessori home anyway. My kids love to learn and we foster their creativity. My husband strongly believes that children *need* to learn how to operate within society while they’re still young, and as long as we live in a highly rated public school system, our children will attend it. He’s a police officer and sees WAY too many bad examples in the world….. For us, we’d rather save money each month for college, have money now to encourage our children to learn while they’re home with us, and in turn, foster them to find THEIR passion, not ours.
    Well, that was a rambling comment………….. 🙂

  5. Sabrina
    on March 4, 2014 at 10:30 pm said:

    I am often thinking about kids’ activities (you’ll see why), so this post really resonated with me. My kids are 7, 4 and 2. The 2 yr old has nothing yet, because I not quite that committed to activities. However, my 4 yr old has 3-day-a-week preschool and a weekly music class. My 7 yr old has weekly piano lessons, ballet / tap once a week, and Irish dance twice a week. With all those lessons going on, we’re spending a lot of time and money on activities, and I have a love / hate relationship with it. My daughter’s Irish dance class is a 45 minute drive one way and she goes twice a week. Irish dance is also competitive so we have costs and travel associated with competitions. That being said, it was 100% my daughter’s idea and desire to learn Irish dance (I blame Angelina Ballerina) and she absolutely loves it. She also has caught on to it rather quickly. Her other 2 lessons are very local and short and not nearly so expensive, so I don’t really worry too much about them (we also have a thing about all our kids taking some piano lessons). I have seen my daughter’s confidence and athletic ability increase exponentially because of these classes, and most especially Irish dance. I can’t stand driving there twice a week and it’s hard on her younger brothers, who have to be dragged along. However, when I see that benefit it has had on her, it is a chore and expense I feel is worth it.

    For my son, we probably didn’t need to pay for preschool. However, I had just spent 2 years participating in co-op preschools and really not loving the experience. I have loved the freedom of dropping him off 3 days a week and he’s never had a bad day there. He loves his teacher and all his friends. I cringe to write the check, but it’s been a really great experience for all of us. Also, he absolutely loves music and his music class gives him some early lessons that he also really enjoys.

    Even though I feel stretched thin with money and time from all these activities at times, I think we are doing the right thing for them. However, if we absolutely didn’t have the resources to do them, they’d be just fine too. It’s such a personal thing and I think every family has to figure out the best balance for their family. It’s hard to figure that out though. I honestly dread my Mondays and Wednesdays because of how crazy the days are, but the I do see the positive results from them, and if it stops working for us, we’ll just pare down. There is always that option.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 5, 2014 at 5:46 am said:

      Wow! You do have a lot going on. But it sounds like you’ve really put a lot of thought into each of these choices and it that for the time being it’s a good fit.

      The Irish dance thing is awesome, especially if she loves it. I was on a dance time my first year of college (a really low-key, anyone could join sort of thing). There was girl on it that was an Irish dancer, and boy was she good! She had been practiciting since she was very young, and it had paid off. Things like that, I think really do require years of training to get the sort of expertise needed to compete and be any good at it. Which I guess, is my dilemma. I don’t think kids should just do whatever they want, but I also don’t think they should be pressured into doing activities that they hate either. A balance, perhaps? Like I said in response to a previous comment, if it were up to kids they’d watch movies, play video games, and eat junk food all day. They’re not entirely incapable of making good choices, but what kid is going to ask for more chores, ask to practice the piano, willingly ask to do things that aren’t always easy, or that come natural. Some kids may, but the majority no. I think there’s a lot of value in teaching kids how to master skills, to gain qualities like discipline, self-control, and to become good at something. This of course, doesn’t always cost money, but in the case of your daughter & her Irish dance lessons, money is a factor, & it sounds like this is something worthwhile despite the time & financial sacrifice.

      I love preschool! And I’m with you about the convenience thing. I guess maybe it’s because I have several children all close together, but he thought of doing a co-op preschool, while a nice/warm/fuzzy idea, has mostly just stressed me out, which is why I’ve never participated. My kids have all gone to public preschools, but I also paid for them to go to a once a week, 1-2 hour reading class taught by a stay-at-home mom who used to be an elementary ed teacher. It’s such a crucial period in their life where they’re so open to learning and preschool is exciting and fun for them (at least it was for all 3 of my older kids). They can gain a lot of important life skills, and I think it makes transitioning to kindergarten the next year that much easier. Anyway, I don’t blame you for paying for preschool. I think if you have the money, it’s totally worth it. And can I be honest? I always looked forward to a little break during the day. And I could never come up with all the cute crafts, fun activities, songs/music that they do in preschool. Though I love reading to my kids, and helping them learn to read, early childhood education is not my fortay.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing Sabrina! Sounds like your kids are lucky to have you.


  6. Traci
    on March 4, 2014 at 6:44 pm said:

    I have one of my girls in the local university dance program. It’s taught by dance students and costs considerably less than other dance classes. Plus, they loan the costumes each year, so no expense for that! Not sure if that’s an option where you are, but it might be worth looking into.

  7. Sharalyn
    on March 4, 2014 at 6:25 pm said:

    I traumatized over this when our children were young and we were on a tight, tight budget (and there are sooooo many more activities for kids now, I’m sure the trauma is even worse!) Then when I prayerfully considered the topic as a whole I realized that my children would live long and full lives if they never took a single lesson or went to preschool. Sure there are some great and fun things about these various activities, but not really anything that I/we could not provide in some form in our home quite adequately. We took every opportunity to expose them to music, books, museums, zoos, sports in the back yard/park, and church/community activities. The goal being to teach them how to learn (in their own style) and how much FUN it is to learn. Most especially until they were at least 8 years old. Past the age of 8, the aforementioned activities continued (most at low or no cost through the library system and community programs) plus there were piano lessons, school band, summer school camps, and lots of school sports. They tried many different things and are today lifelong learners. Put side-by-side with kids who had lots of paid “lessons”, I don’t think you could pick out who did and who didn’t. Even if they come to a sport/dance etc at a later time than other kids in the group, my observation was that maturation leveled the field quite rapidly. They acquired the new skills at age 9 exponentially faster than they would have at at 6.
    Decisions that involve our kids are definitely more emotional. We want to do what is best for them and provide them every opportunity. Try to remove the emotion, consider alternatives, and remember your goals. Being debt free is also a worthy goal that will provide your children opportunities and blessings that you cannot even yet conceive.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 4, 2014 at 7:00 pm said:

      What a thoughtful response! Thank you. And it means so much coming from you–you did such an awesome job with your kids. I know they say parents can’t take all the credit for kids turning out well, but I think you had something to do with your children being so well-rounded and just great people.

      The three things I feel strongly about: music (piano–which I don’t really play so not an option for me to teach them), scouts (which are low cost, but do have some fees associated), and sports or dance. My current conflict with Mali is I’m not sure the costs involved are worth it. Jory’s girls have been in dance since they were 3 and I think they both love it. So far Mali really likes it, so I’d like to encourage her, but the money! Oh it’s ridiculous. And though we live in a metro area, it’s not like I have a ton of options since it takes 20-30 or more minutes to get anywhere.

      “They acquired the new skills at age 9 exponentially faster than they would have at at 6.”
      That’s why we figured we’d start piano at 8 or 9 for our boys. We may begin earlier with Amalia because she’s very bright and curious and wants to do it. But again, the money! If we lived in Utah I’m sure we could find plenty of people teaching out of their homes, but it’s not like that here in San Antonio. I’m keeping my eyes and ears open, hopefully I can find someone reasonable by next fall.

      I’m a big believer in reading, exploring, playing, all of those things that are free. But, like I said, there are those few things that I feel like are really important.

      Anyway, thanks so much for your wonderful response. You’re a wonderful example, and I love all your kids.

  8. Tia
    on March 4, 2014 at 5:16 pm said:

    My parents put my in zero activities as a child, except for a few years of Camp Fire. I did no organized sports until 8th grade, and no instruments until middle school band. I was lonely (I am an only child), but the freedom was great. In my opinion, 90% of kid activities are parent driven, whether the kid wants to do it or not. They are overpriced and lead kids to be overscheduled. I plan on enrolling my son in zero activities unless he expresses an interest.

    My lack of activities certainly didn’t hold me back. I was an honors student, a nationally ranked high school athlete, and I’m a successful adult. I say cut the activities and enjoy more time letting kids be kids. However, if you really want them, maybe try bartering? You have A LOT of great skills to barter!

    • Tia
      on March 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm said:

      Ha…but clearly typing was a class I could have used 🙂 my=me.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 4, 2014 at 7:05 pm said:

      I was a Campfire girl too! (for just one year)

      I agree about most kids activities being parent driven. I think if it was up to kids to choose, would they choose to practice piano or play? Play, of course. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have parent driven activities because many positive and beneficial things can be learned from the discipline it takes to learn a skill that is not easy to master. And most kids, when push comes to shove, are just not going to stick with a skill/hobby that takes time, discipline, & hard work to master, if the choice were left completely up to them.

      Sounds like you’re a great example of someone who had great success with a very open schedule. And the bartering–great idea!

  9. Cadry
    on March 4, 2014 at 3:44 pm said:

    Have you looked at your local rec center? I use our rec center regularly, and they have all kinds of facilities for kids at low or no cost. They have a swimming pool, free weekly skate nights, and more, in addition to some paid activities like various craft and theatre classes. It could be a way of stretching your dollars for activities a little further.

    When I was a kid, I had several activities. I took tap, ballet, and jazz classes. Then on other nights I went to Awanas through a local church and Campfire Girls (similar to Scouts). I really valued and enjoyed those experiences, but I’m glad I wasn’t overloaded with activities. I think it’s good for kids to also have time for free play, just for the fun of it. I’m not a parent, but it seems like parents have a lot of pressure to get their kids in lots of activities early so that they’re as good as everyone else. As much as I appreciated scheduled time, I also liked creating my own adventures.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 4, 2014 at 7:08 pm said:

      Oh the rec center! In our new location the nearest is a YMCA & it’s about 22 minutes away, which to be honest, is just too much driving at this point in my life with a small baby. We used to live in a place that had several awesome rec centers. But, since we’re in the military, we’ll be moving in about a year, so there may be a good chance odds will be better in our new location. I think community centers are amazing assets to the community and am sad that we don’t have that here.

      Did you like your dance classes? Did you think it was worth it?

      • Cadry
        on March 5, 2014 at 5:39 pm said:

        I loved my dance classes, and they ended up being really useful in my life. I did swing choir in junior high and high school and a lot of musical theatre in high school and college. Having those dance skills behind me made me better at auditioning, rehearsing, and performing. I continued with dance in a completely recreational way by taking modern dance and ballroom dancing in college. Then in LA I regularly danced with a theatre dance group. I’m in no way of professional level calibre, but doing it as a child definitely set up a love of dance and a feeling of confidence around it.

        Plus, I think it’s a fun way to move your body and get some exercise. I know in bigger cities there are dance classes for people my age who want to dance for fun, but in my small town there aren’t really options for the kind of dance I’d like to do.

        • Janae Wise
          on March 6, 2014 at 8:07 am said:

          “Plus, I think it’s a fun way to move your body and get some exercise.”
          Completely agree. It’s a fun AND beautiful way to move your body. I hope my girls can learn to love the joy and beauty of movement.

  10. Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine
    on March 4, 2014 at 2:58 pm said:

    My parents spent an astronomically ridiculous amount of money on me going up. I started dance at age 3 and then was swept into the competitive dance world. Competitions, hours and hours of practice, hotels, travel, makeup, costumes, workshops, insane tuition fees. For 13 years! Was it worth it…no, now that I look back. I left that world because of all the emotional abuse and torment I underwent but also my family just could not pay for it anymore. Blood, tears, stress. It was my whole life and theirs and I feel guilty about always pushing to stay in the company when so many times we would get so close to leaving, but I just couldn’t change my life and stop.

    • Janae Wise
      on March 4, 2014 at 3:40 pm said:

      Oh my goodness! Wow, that’s enough for me to take Mali out of dance right now…

      It is so much time and money isn’t it? That said though, I’d like to believe that my girls can be in the dance world without having the extreme experiences you had. Do you think you would have had a better experience had it been more of a hobby, rather than a competitive sport? Ah, I know the dance world can be a nasty, unforgiving place, but I’d like to believe it’s not all bad…

      Thanks for sharing your story–I’m sure your experience as a dancer has helped your yoga practice, one benefit, at least, right?

      • Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine
        on March 6, 2014 at 2:24 pm said:

        Yes, once it becomes part of your life and all you do is eat sleep go to school and dance, you walk that fine line. But it was also the studio I went to. Some companies were like families, but our studio was cliquey and horrible. But I was so pulled in and I just could not leave.
        If your girls love to dance let them! But definitely keep it as a hobby. We wasted all that money and time for nothing. I did not go on to pursue dance in college and I would never want it to be a career and even if I did, so few actually make it.
        And yes! Yoga totally came so easy to me because of my background, so I will be grateful for that. And I would also never trade some of the experiences I had all those years and the rewards that it did have. Performing in Madison Square Garden during Half-time at a Knicks game? That is something about .0001% of the population will ever experience!
        (Hmm, one day I will have to write a post about my dance career on the blog!)

  11. Allison
    on March 4, 2014 at 1:41 pm said:

    I would say you may have to pick a few that are very important to you. You don’t have to balance sports, music, scouts, and every other activity under the sun all in one school year.

    Growing up we generally had one lesson/activity at a time so we’d focus on those for a bit. Every summer I had swimming (an invaluable skill in my personal opinion), my sister and I could try different sports (like gymnastics and tennis), and I had piano lessons for two years.

    For me the piano lessons were the best. I found them a bit frustrating at the time, but they taught me to learn music at a fairly early age beyond just playing the recording in music class. While I didn’t stick with piano it led to a love of instruments and learning to play. Once you know one instrument it is easier to pick up another.

    Any activity could be THE activity that sticks with kids or be a precursor to a lifelong love of sports, music, or the outdoors. I think lessons are definitely worth the money even if it makes things tight for a while. Asking around for used equipment helps too (no need to pay a lot for tennis rackets or balls when someone in your family probably has some collecting dust or if someone is looking to get rid of a hefty piano after a grandparent passed away). Ask around and you never know what you can find for cheap!

    • Janae Wise
      on March 4, 2014 at 2:25 pm said:

      Hi Allison!

      “You don’t have to balance sports, music, scouts, and every other activity under the sun all in one school year.”
      So true. I need to remind myself that.

      For my boys, scouts is a priority, even before sports. For my girls, I want them to do girl scouts, but since I don’t have much experience with that, I’m not sure it’s on my priority list.

      I agree about the piano. I feel so strongly about it because though some of my siblings play and had lessons, I was the runt of the group and by that point my parents had burned out, so I didn’t get lessons. I regret that. I want my kids to have that talent, because as you point out, it’s easier to learn other instruments, and does translate to improvement in other areas.

      And great point about asking around and looking for used stuff. It’s ridiculous how much people pay for some of this new equipment, when as you said, there are a lot of garages, attics, and storage units collecting this stuff!

  12. Stephanie Draper
    on March 4, 2014 at 1:25 pm said:

    Since Justin is in his first year of teaching and we are trying to sell off the condo we are in a bit of a financial rut. We’ve decided to use tax refunds and his math teaching bonus and summer school money to help pay off all our credit cards and the van by the end of the summer. Then we have to start paying off more student loans though, since they are sort of just on hold currently aside from still gathering interest… Sigh. We promised the girls they could join dance. Its not even that pricey, but I don’t know when that will happen at this point. Plus being in school til 3 and then going to dance class seems a bit much! On the other hand I have decided to pull Sophie from Headstart preschool next year and put her into one that will cost me $60/month for 3 days/week instead of free for 4, but it seems like it will be a better fit… Parenting just never ends. It is one huge confusing puzzle. Oh and its like when I was talking abt ways to get out of debt with a friend recently and I said how we were wanting to get a newer (used) piano and she, being a pianist like Justin, said that to her a piano would fall under a need (reasonably priced of course) and wouldn’t wait til debts were paid off. Its a different road for everyone and sooooo confusing!

    • Janae Wise
      on March 4, 2014 at 2:20 pm said:

      “Its a different road for everyone and sooooo confusing!” & “Parenting just never ends. It is one huge confusing puzzle.”
      You hit the nail on the head!

      I think I’m figuring out now that my parents did exactly what Joseph & I are doing–just sort of stumbling along, hoping and praying we’re not going to mess up too bad. Of course, ultimately the most important things are what we teach them, the values we help instill in them, which doesn’t cost money. But, there’s no way around the fact that it is a big messy world out there and sifting through what’s worthwhile and what’s not, while contemplating if fits into a tight budget, is, as you point out, a little overwhelming at times.

      About Headstart, I think you know this, but all three of my older ones went to public preschool. Hyrum & Asher went to Headstart (this was when we were in law school), and Amalia went to pre-K, here in Texas which was 5 days a week in the morning and in my opinion, a lot better than Headstart. That said, I’m glad that all 3 of them went. They learned how to interact with all sorts of kids, and saw, even at a young age, how lucky they are, as many of their peers were severely economically disadvantaged. I think preschool is even more important than kindergarten in some ways, so whatever you do, I think your kids will benefit.

      And I forgot how great Justin is on the piano! He was the BEST primary pianist ever. I loved his vibrancy.

      I also think a piano is a necessity, which is funny because I hardly play! I just like knowing it’s in my house and hope that my kids will all learn to love it through lessons and time.

      Hang in there with the student loan business. It’s a rough road, but you’ve got to have hope that it will end at some point, with lots of hard work and determination, and good choices.