Sunday, May 3, 2015

Why "Pricey" Does Not Scare Me Off

Even though Spring has barely spread across Madison, Wisconsin, parents galore are finalizing summer activities for school aged children.  Our planning (okay, confession, my planning - I am quite Type A) began in late January.  Options were considered, Facebook queries posted to gather information from parents with older kids and thus more experience.  Key programs were selected and then successfully reserved, securing the days and times I would be available to work at my legal practice.  In the end we went with Madison Swim Camp (where they currently take lessons) for two afternoons a week, as well as all day Fridays at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center.  Just recently I took time to seek out introductory sports activities for the kids, again seeking input from others.

What struck me the most were the repeated refrains along the lines "try XYZ, but I know they are pricey."  Why the fixation on "pricey?"  Being frugal does not translate to gravitating towards the opposite of "pricey", which would be cheap.  In fact, I avoid cheap.  Cheap usually means it does not cost much money, but that the product is not all that great either.  No, for me I am happy to pay, and pay well for quality products.  And in any area of my life that willingness is for the care and education of my children.  

Expensive is not the litmus test for me.  To be frugal is not to always go with the least expensive path. I look at several factors:

  • location -- how close is it to work/home -- keeping travel time to a minimum is key
  • interest -- are my kids "into" the program or subject matter
  • 2 for 1 -- can both children attend?  One drop-off/pick-up is far more efficient than taxing two kids all over the city for programs
Finally, as a business owner myself, rarely do I find myself shocked at the price of kid programs. They cost money to run. Factored into the cost will be: cost of space, pay for teachers, marketing, and insurance just to name a few.  What shocks me the most is how inexpensive some programs are, leaving to ask "is it subsidized by another source". If not, then I fear it is too cheap, promising more than it will deliver.

Since becoming a parent nearly 7 years ago, my husband and I realize that that cost of caring for a child on a full-time basis (i.e. five days a week for about 8 hours a day) is roughly $1,000 per month, per kid.  From our years using a nanny to paying tuition for a child care center, that is what it cost. And we assume the cost will stay the same, if not increase, with the exception of time in a public school.  And there the cost is simply subsidized by tax dollars.  When you approach summer planning this way, things may actually look less expensive.  

To be as efficient as possible, we are only purchasing summer programming we know we will use. That decision ruled out any all-day, five day a week programs.  My work slows down in the summer months, there are tons of fun things to do and explore, we vacation, and in my opinion, kids need some days to sleep until their eyes flutter open rather than be pried awake by a parent rushing to get in the car.

My point to all of this?  Don't let pricey scare you off.  Pricey may just be the ticket to an efficient and frugal choice.

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