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Blog: Simplify Your Life
Frugal Living 101 -- Raising Children Part 3

Last week, I shared some tips for saving money while raising kids -- here are a few more suggestions:

  • ask for free tutoring (if your kids are struggling with their studies, you might pay $20 an hour for a private tutor -- but many districts offer free afterschool tutoring sessions with teachers, all you have to do is ask -- also check with your public library or community center for both in-person and online tutoring programs for kids who live in the surrounding neighborhoods -- if you are military, your kids can get free access to help at Tutor.com -- and hundreds of thousands of students are eligible for free tutoring under the federal No Child Left Behind law, but less than 15% of them are taking advantage of the program -- there are lots of options out there, but you have to be persistent to hunt them down)
  • take advantage of online classes (trying to help kids get a leg-up for college and the job world has become a multi-million dollar industry in this country -- but even if you're frustrated with the quality of the schools in your area, there's no reason to have to pay for private tuition -- more and more online public schools are popping up, offering free virtual courses in everything from the three R's to advanced physics and speaking Chinese -- these are a great supplement for the child who wants to take special class outside of his normal curriculum, or who just needs a little help getting caught up on a particular subject -- and many universities offer non-credit courses through the internet to anyone who wishes to download the class materials)
  • a better private school option (a lot of people are, quite rightly, disappointed in the quality of education their kids are getting at the local public school -- they want to have more say in their children's curriculum, they're tired of being at the mercy of moronic school boards who are too concerned with their own agendas to worry about teaching kids -- private tuition is just too much for most families to swing, but there's another option available in charter schools -- also known as "schools of choice," these are public schools with public funding, so there are no tuition expenses -- charter schools are meant to be legally and financially autonomous, without fees, religious affiliation, or selective student admissions -- they are run by their own school boards and are free from some of the regulations and statutes that might apply to other public schools -- in return for this freedom, the school is held accountable for producing certain results, as set forth in its charter -- these kinds of schools may be founded by teachers, parents, activists, non-profit groups, universities, or some government entities -- if you're looking for a schooling option that allows more parental involvement without tying you to a lot of expense or a particular religious affiliation, this might be the solution)
  • limit their activities (a lot of what makes raising offspring so expensive is a well-meaning parent's attempts at giving that child evertyhing he or she never had -- you want your kid to have every possible opportunity, so you sign her up for soccer, band, ballet, Girl Scouts, softball, 4-H, Spanish club, swim team, debate, and baton twirling -- not only is your schedule so crazy that no one has time to breathe, but you're now broke from all the added costs! -- every activity comes with a price tag, whether it's for uniforms, annual dues, equipment, field trips, or just going out for ice cream after each game -- an easy way to teach your child good time management skills and frugality is to limit the number of activities -- each semester, allow your child to pick just a few activities -- maybe one sport, one academic club, and one civic group -- or you might even go so far as to ask what their ONE favorite activity is and focus all your efforts solely on that -- you'll definitely spend less on group participation, and your child will learn how to prioritize)
  • find alternatives to fees (sometimes, your child is going to want to participate in activities that really stretch your budget, possibly even to the point of breaking -- that doesn't mean you have to say "no," but something's got to give -- talk to your kids about what's really important to them, and suggest that they might choose to trade their birthday and holiday gifts for the cost of that activity -- ask grandparents and other relatives to sponsor camp fees, equipment, and uniforms in lieu of the more typical annual gifts and it's a win-win for everyone -- many times, you can also reduce expenses by participating in fundraising or volunteering efforts for that specific activity -- you might have a car wash or work a concession stand or sell raffle tickets to cut down on costs -- look for creative opportunities to partner with your community -- when I was in high school, band members handed out food samples at the local grocery store to earn "credits" toward an upcoming trip, and the store donated money to the band to cover our travel expenses)
  • prioritize sales campaigns (I understand that school budgets are suffering, and that fundraising has taken the place of government dollars in many districts -- but kids shouldn't have to put all their other activities aside in order to bring in revenues for the district -- my friends' children seem to be in a constant state of selling something -- candy, calendars, Girl Scout cookies, coupon books, gift wrap, candles, scratch-off cards, you name it -- unfortunately, it's mostly parents and family members who end up buying all this stuff, so that's sort of defeating the purpose of trying to defray costs -- and in most instances, the school is only getting a fraction of the sale -- so why not just ask people to write the whole check directly to the school? -- not to mention the fact that there are only so many hours in a day, and if every weekend is taken up with a fundraising event, you're kid is probably involved in too many activities -- support one or two really good fundraisers a year, ones where you know the school is getting all of the money, and let the rest go)
  • get involved (so many of the decisions that affect a parent's wallet are made at PTA and school board meetings, amongst team coaches and troop leaders, even by neighborhood groups -- so if you have a problem with what you're being asked to pay for, take on a leadership role and start shaping policy -- you might disagree with the fact that your child's teacher insists you supply her with paper towels, ziploc bags, disinfectant, and copy paper -- or you may think it's ludicrous that cafeterias are restricting what kids can bring in a packed lunch, requiring them to eat the more expensive food served by the school -- don't just sit at home and bitch, join the committee that deals with this issue and try to bring about change -- or if there is no committee, form one -- when parents abdicate power over to teachers and administrators, they aren't doing their children's educations or their bank accounts any favors)
  • go easy on the school pictures (of course you want to keep a record of your child's progress through life, but that doesn't mean you need to break the bank every time school pictures are taken -- some districts are now scheduling multiple photo sessions each year, as well as picture-taking for different sports, clubs, and extracurricular activities -- first off, there's no law that says you HAVE to buy the school photo at all -- there's nothing stopping you from taking your child's portrait yourself and having copies made for all the families at a much reduced rate -- or rather than paying the higher price-tag for in-school pics, you can take your child to Target or J.C. Penney or one of the other department store studios for a free sitting and a super-affordable pack of prints -- you might also ask if you can help out on school picture day, as many districts provide those who volunteer with reduced-price or free photo packages -- if you do intend to buy a package, plan your strategy in advance and buy no more copies than you absolutely have to, or you'll end up with a drawer full of extras every year -- figure out exactly who needs a snapshot of your little darling and what size would be most appropriate -- most folks are entirely happy with wallet-sized pics, so don't get talked into lots of upgrades and extras and big 8 x 10's -- and just remember, much as everyone on the planet loves your child, they don't all need a picture every year -- save the prints for those who are really going to treasure them)
  • avoid the cafeteria (the price of school lunch continues to rise, as the quality circles the drain -- it's healthier and less expensive to pack that mid-day meal yourself, as long as you don't resort to "convenience foods -- giving your kid leftovers, a sandwich, homemade soup, or even cut veggies and hummus can cost you as little as $1.35 per meal -- but buying snack-packs, single serving containers of pre-packaged foods, and microwave meals is at least as expensive if not more than the cafeteria lunch)

read the original post of this blog

posted on: 9/13/2011 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips

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Simplify Your Life

by Ramona Creel

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About Ramona:

I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!

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