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Class Trip - Ugh, No Idea What to Do

April 13th, 2015 at 03:07 pm

A class trip, overnight, for 4th graders; I guess it depends on the kid, right? My kid, I have mentioned, is a very anxious not-yet-10-year-old. Seriously - she is taking her piano lesson right now and she said "you're not allowed to leave!" which she knows I don't do anyway. When she has soccer practice I like to run around the track, but this also makes her super nervous ("what if something happens to you?" she asks me).

She is about 4 sessions into therapy for anxiety, and it's going really well.

OK, so the trip is basically this:
2.5 hour drive to a national preserve
spend 4 hours doing activities and eating lunch
1 hour drive to where they'll be staying (in the summer it's a camp)
overnight
1 hour drive back to the national preserve
1 hour activities
2.5 hour drive back to school

A lot of driving. Did I mention that there isn't cellphone service at the national preserve. She wants me to be max 25 minutes away from her at all times (I have no idea why it's 25 minutes) which is not possible. There is absolutely nothing closer than an hour. Parents are not allowed to go (the chaperones are three teachers and the Principal).

She doesn't want to stay overnight no matter what. She is torn about going on the first day. It's a school day, and my initial thought was that she should do as much of the trip as possible. But I am also worried that if she tries to call/text and it doesn't go through all day she'll freak out and undo the work she's put into the therapy so far.

So... what do I do?

I've offered two options:
1. She can go and do the first day and I will pick her up after dinner (1.5 hour drive) and I'll take her home; on Friday she can help in the Kindergarten class.
2. Skip the whole thing. If that's what she decides, I may take her up to Ghost Ranch which is only an hour away and there are cool education programs (I think Thursday is a hike then lunch then archery). It's the former home of Georgia O'Keeffe. That isn't free, and it's not inexpensive, but I'm ok with it since it's a pretty cool program. We'd bring our paints, too.

Just to add another layer on this: the forecast on Friday is snow and rain. I was thinking I could get a room near the camp and F could spend the night there and I could take her back in the morning, but that is $$ and I don't want to drive home in the snowy rain.

Oh - and another thing. There's another mother that thinks her child is just too young for this. She was going to keep her home from the whole thing, and she can help out with the little kids (we both had the same idea). She and I talked, and if I pick up F at the end of Thursday, she would let her daughter go and I could take her home, too. (If they both don't go, then maybe the three of us go to Ghost Ranch).

The other parents are fine with the trip, or if not fine, their kids want to go.

So, what do you think? You can blast me for terrible parenting; I won't feel bad!

Tuition Assistance Part 2

February 27th, 2015 at 01:15 pm

I spoke to the Director of Finance up at school about tuition assistance. He asked me to come in, which I guess is a good sign. It meant that event though we ended up getting no assistance, there was at least some hope.

What he told me was that we didn't get anything because of the large amount of equity of our houses. We have one house that we live in, but the other one (in Ireland) is our retirement savings. We have IRAs but no 401k's or pensions.

He said that if he were me, he'd write an appeal (he said it could be just an email; that it didn't have to be a formal letter). He said we needed to explain a few things:
- the Irish house is retirement savings (not a second home) and that it's rented year-round.
- the tax situation (Irish capital gains is 33% - so the value of the house is not what our equity actually is); plus the exchange rate is lower than when we did our tuition assistance paperwork
- Expenses mean we don't make anything on the rental of the home (we'd really like to sell, but the exchange rate is not great right now but we are hoping to sell the house and buy something somewhere else where we'll make money from the rent)

He said that we may get something if we do this, and we need to get the info back to him by Monday morning.

I already drafted the email!

No Tuition Assistance

February 26th, 2015 at 06:35 pm

Ugh ugh ugh. The financial guy up at school pulled me aside today to tell me that we received nothing, zero, zip, zilch in tuition assistance. He asked if I had a few minutes to talk, but I was picking up F and she's really nervous if I'm not waiting where I'm supposed to be.

We're going to talk tomorrow instead. He mentioned that we could appeal.

I want to talk to him about a few things:
- did my health insurance count as income? (it is included on my W2 because I'm self employed and that's the way the IRS has to have it)
- I had to enter my husband's side income twice in the online system; was it counted twice?
- the income we get from the Dublin house is completely wiped out by the mortgage on the house, but that doesn't show on our taxes; we pay tax on the entire amount
- if we don't get any tuition assistance can they at least waive the $250 convenience fee for paying monthly rather than pre-paying the entire amount

I took a look at our budget, and our school savings, and I think we can make this work if we scrimp even more. We have about $150 to make up.

Tuition Assistance

February 12th, 2015 at 03:44 pm

When F started private school I did a spreadsheet (ha! of course!) that showed money inflowing and outflowing for tuition all the way to 12th grade. I used the amount of actual tuition, not including tuition assistance, plus an increase each year.

We've been really fortunate to receive tuition assistance each year, and I think we'll get something this year as well. But I just spoke to the school's finance guy and he said that the place that analyzes our financial situation said that the parent contribution should be more this year.

I'm not sure if this is partly because of the fact that I have to take health insurance as income, which makes it look like our income is higher. And because the cost for health insurance was higher this year it looked like I had a bigger income. I talked to him about this, so we'll see. This year, our health insurance costs have gone up even more, so next year will be worse.

D did get a raise this year, but it was eaten up mostly with taxes and cost of living increases. It was about a 1% raise. He now makes $45k.

According to my spreadsheet, if we don't get tuition assistance, our tuition savings will be depleted when F starts 7th grade. This includes money in and out, and continued savings. It could be worse... we will own our house (if all goes as planned) by the end of 7th grade. So if we can cover those 9 months or so we can use the money we've been paying to the mortgage to cover tuition.

I am starting to think that due to the terrible school system here (it's statewide) this is a pretty expensive place to live.

F loves the school, and we love the school, and we'll do what we have to do to make this work. I'm still worried and need to sit down with our budget and see where we can make adjustments. I don't want to mess with savings, but we may have to.

October Recap

November 2nd, 2014 at 07:54 am

Income = 6599 (this includes paychecks, snowflakes, gifts - all incoming money)
Expenses = 4422
Savings = 1254

Compared to last year:
Income increase by about 4%
Expenses increased by 8%
Savings increased by 11%

I'm feeling pretty good about this... The increase in expenses is due to the new tires that we had to buy for D's car, so not too worried about that.

Our ratios are exactly 30% wants, 50% needs and 20% savings. I should point out, though, that F's tuition is in the wants category, even though in my mind that's really a need. Her tuition represents 9.76% of our budget, so maybe it's more like 20% wants, 60% needs and 20% savings. This is why it's so crucial for us to get the mortgage paid off (that way we can put tuition into "needs" where it belongs and still be at the 30/50/20 ratio.

The Teacher Thing Again

March 26th, 2014 at 10:29 am

F started the week with her new teacher, and so far she's not thrilled. I think the new teacher is really nice (and nice goes a long way for me, better than really mean!). But F says she's not challenging enough.

The spelling words were "too easy" and there weren't enough (used to be 15 per week, now 10). F actually made me call her friend's mom to make sure that they had the same words; she was convinced that she somehow got the easy word list. (There is a small group of them who get challenge words rather than the regular words, but I think this week the whole class has the same list).

Soooo... I had to talk to the teacher this morning who looked shocked that F thought the words were too easy. I didn't tell her that F was screaming at me on Monday: "Purpose! Who doesn't know how to spell purpose?!! And injustice! We had that word in second grade!"

She yells with me, but with the teacher she's completely non-confrontational. Actually, I spoke to the teacher specifically because yesterday in school she'd asked F if the words were too hard, and F was too shy to say the opposite. I asked her what she did say, and she told me "Mommy, I just stood there. I didn't say anything, because I didn't want to hurt her feelings."

I told F we should see how the words are next week, and then maybe have another discussion.

I suspect that maybe it's easier for the teacher, being new, to just have one list of words. But my husband makes this point: we don't pay all this money for a private school to have it be easy for the teacher; we pay for things to be somewhat individualized and we go to this school specifically so that our daughter is challenged.

Got Tuition Assistance!

March 3rd, 2014 at 03:29 pm

We are so relieved! We heard from the school that we are getting about 17% off of tuition. Also, when you have tuition assistance, you get the after school classes for half off (F will probably want to do Geography Club again in the Fall). And... we can choose the monthly payment option without having to pay a convenience fee.

I wrote a very short thank you email. Should I write a note, too?

There is an annual gala to benefit tuition assistance. We didn't go last year, but this year it's much more casual (theme is Western), and tickets are massively reduced for people on tuition assistance so that everyone can go. The year before was a bit of a shock (I couldn't believe that things were being auctioned off for thousands of dollars). But I'm glad because that's where our tuition assistance money comes from!

I think we'll go this year. The ticket price will come out of our dining out budget. Just have to check with my close friend to see if she can babysit for the evening.

Cleaning/Decluttering Calendar

January 27th, 2014 at 03:24 pm

On the Cleaning Calendar for this week: purge medicine cabinets, clean paper stack.

Haven't tackled the paper stack yet (but it doesn't look toooo bad). Later in the week.

But I just did the medicine cabinet. D had four expired medications in there! And there was some Lactaid. It doesn't matter how much Lactaid I eat, cow dairy still doesn't agree. So I put that near D's sink to see if he wants it. And we had some ten-year-old hippy sinus drops; in the trash. There was nothing weird or old in F's medicine cabinet.

On the monthly list are: take magazines to the library and wipe the tile in F's shower. Both easy tasks. Will probably do F's tile tonight since it's bath night.

The other thing we do at the beginning of the month is pay tuition. And because it's February, we also pay our deposit for next year. I have money in our Tuition account, so it's not a big deal; it's just scary watching it plummet so much in one month.

I need to find out if we got any tuition assistance and, if so, how much. Will report back.

No Tuition Increase = Very Good Mood!!

January 24th, 2014 at 06:38 pm

Just got an email from F's school - they are NOT increasing tuition this year! They usually go up a little each year.

That doesn't mean that we'll get the same amount in tuition assistance, so I'm not changing my spreadsheet yet, but I am pretty relieved that even if we get less tuition assistance, it won't be as big of a problem if the overall tuition doesn't go up. Phew!

We receive our re-enrollment contract next Monday, so we'll find out if we got tuition assistance (and if so, how much) then. Fingers crossed.

Tuition Assistance

November 17th, 2013 at 10:21 am

Last week the issue of socio-economic diversity came up at F's school. One of the parents of a girl in F's class made a public comment (in a school-wide meeting) that she works hard for her money (? she doesn't work) and was not in favor of tuition assistance because she was concerned that the level of education would suffer.

I was personally insulted, and pretty upset. We get 15% of our tuition reduced. It is means tested, and I was told that we should apply if we made less than $100k (we were making $70k and now make about $80k). I was thrilled to get some help!

I know there are people that make less than we do, and they get more assistance, but I have no idea who they are, and they don't know who we are. You know why I don't know? Because you can't tell! I mean you can tell who is RICH, really RICH. But aside from that, the kids all dress pretty much the same, and they're all bright (you have to apply to the school). You can't tell by color or race or color whether or not they're on tuition assistance.

And my daughter is at the top of her class academically (and both my husband and I have masters degrees), so I have no idea what this mother was talking about.

Then there is the idea of what is "poor." We have close friends that know we're on tuition assistance; their daughter is also in F's class. Their lifestyle doesn't seem that different from ours, and the husband wants to take another job with a $30k pay cut (yikes!) so his wife was worried about a drastic change in their lifestyle and was curious about tuition assistance.

I told her that the financial guy at school told me to apply if we made less than $100k and she looked disappointed. "Oh, it'll still be way above that." With a $30k pay cut? Wow! I kind of thought they weren't making much more than we were.

Anyway, it just shows you can't tell. Someone may have a nice car that they have a big loan on, or they may have a less expensive car but own it outright. We have a nice house, because I designed and helped build it myself; we owe $80k on it while our friends' $1 million house is fully mortgaged. We have friends that have really expensive clothes, a new Honda Fit and their kids have tons of toys, but they just declared bankruptcy.

So... my message to this mom is "you don't know." And you probably shouldn't go on about things you know nothing about.

I haven't talked to her since the comment (it was last Monday) and probably won't reference it at all. I don't even want to look at her; when I think about her, I just get angry.

Our Budget Priorities - Tuition

July 2nd, 2013 at 06:33 pm

I just worked out that 15% of our spending is for tuition to F's school (and this takes into account the financial aid we receive). I am probably opening up a can of worms discussing this, but I am ok with paying for school. The public schools where we live are not good (there are a few ok elementary schools and everyone asks for a transfer). There are other reasons I won't go into. Trust me - for us and for F, her school is worth every penny.

Anyway, the problem is not paying this tuition, it's being able to save with this large fixed bill as part of our budget. We've done so much to tighten up in other areas in order to save.

We could probably do more.

Our other huge expense is the trip we make to England every other year. If we don't go, F doesn't get to see her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins. And D doesn't get to see his parents, sister, nephews and niece. I earmark money each month for this expense, and we use the profit (which is not that much) from the rent on our house in Ireland when we are over there so we just have to buy plane tickets (I gather as many credit card travel points as I can to offset the cost).

I feel like rather than some formula, spending is really individual. We buy private school and trips to see D's family because those are priorities for us. And we do without other things some people would think are priorities.

Do you have non-negotiable expenses like this?