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$36,000 a Year for Private School and Other Reasonable, Ridiculous Ways to Spend

by Shawanda Greene

The week started off terribly for me, and I’m still not feeling very well. However, I heard something yesterday that disgusted me so much, I have to release it in the form of a substandard blog post before it kills me.

This’ll be quick. I gotta get back to feeling sorry for myself.

So, I’m listening to the Can I Afford It? segment of the Suze Orman Show episode when this guy calls in to ask if he can afford to send his daughter to a $36,000 a year private school. “How old is this daughter?” She’s four-fricking-years old – that’s how old.

However, the guy could afford it. His household’s monthly take home pay was $25,000. Only about half of that went to expenses. When you’re saving 50% of your income, it’s hard to argue you’re being irresponsible with money. Being a woman of logic, I calmed down once I acknowledged this fact.

But this got me to thinking about how many times I’ve heard people use their kids as an excuse to waste money on something they can’t afford. People with kids love to play the I-only-want-the-best-for-my-child card to by luxury items they can’t afford. Kids are used to justify everything from expensive houses to luxury vehicles to exclusive private schools. I’ve even heard people say they won’t subject their kids to generic cereal. Come on, man.

It’s natural to want the best for someone you love. Especially those you’re responsible for taking care of. But many of the products and services people spend money on command a substantial premium for a marginal benefit.

For instance, I have relatively white teeth. (They are. What do ya want me to say?) Occasionally, I’ll use an over-the-counter whitening kit to make my smile brighter. I probably won’t spend more than $45 on it.

One day, I asked my dental hygienist if I should try a professional whitening kit. She broke it down to me like this. On a whiteness scale of 1 to 10, my teeth are an 8. The professional whitening kit would get me to a 10, but it’d come with a price tag of over $500. That’s 11 times more than the at-home kit that yielded good results. To me, the minor improvement wasn’t worth the additional cost.

It’s this type of analysis that convinces me not to blow money on practically worthless foolishness.

Once something is good enough, you really need to consider the value derived from the next dollar you spend. This applies not only to your loved ones, but to yourself.

This post was featured in the Festival of Frugality #307 over at Frugal Family Life.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

bergiepowers October 28, 2011 at 8:17 PM

Very good point. Probably better for a kid to eat generic cereal and learn the value and freedom of a financially healthy life!

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Shawanda November 8, 2011 at 6:08 AM

Makes perfect sense to me!

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Face & Fitness December 1, 2011 at 2:21 PM

I feel this same way about a lot of things. Like a mattress: the initial few hundred you spend on a good mattress makes a HUGE difference when you compare it to a cheap-o, uncomfortable mattress that makes your back hurt.

But after you reach that basic "threshold," more money only provides a small incremental improvement — just like your teeth whitening.

As far as paying for schools, I'd say you get the most bang-for-your-buck based on how old the child is. You'll get the highest return sending your kid to Harvard. You'll get the second-highest return sending your kid to a prestigious high school like Philips Exeter Academy or Andover Academy. You'll get the third highest-return sending your kid to a great middle school, which will prep him/her for a great high school. You'll probably get the lowest return at the kindergarten level.

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Shawanda December 4, 2011 at 12:01 PM

I figured you wouldn't get a good return on your investment by paying tens of thousands of dollars for a 4-year old's private school education. Even at the college level, when my currently non-existent children decide which college to attend, I'll remind them the difference in cost of attendance for an in-state university compared to a pricey private university will get deducted from any future down payment assistance for a home or their inheritance.

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Financial Samurai May 24, 2012 at 2:42 AM

$25,000 a month… should be able to afford!

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