Choosing and Navigating Public Schools (So You Can Save Money)

Educating children can be challenging no matter where they go to school or how they learn. School quality can vary. And my experiences may be much different than yours — both as a parent and as a student back in the ’60s and ’70s during the somewhat chaotic years of desegregation . Whatever your circumstances, hopefully these thoughts can give you insights into choosing and navigating your children’s school situation:

The Long-Term Cost of Private School (with Spreadsheet)

Choosing a free public school over a private school can save parents about $9,518 per year (the average private school tuition per year, according to the Private School Review) or more — as the cost can be significantly higher in certain parts of the country (a good high school in my area costs $20,000 per year).

Parents make a lot of decisions for their children, hoping to make the best choice, not only for the child’s current circumstances but also for the child’s future and the family’s well-being. For example, when I was growing up, I knew a boy who attended a public school while his twin brother attended a private one; the parents wanted their children to develop unique identities and made this unusual (to me) choice. As for my husband and me, we chose to send our children to public schools. The schools in our area are good ones and we liked the idea of saving money on education.

I’ve put together an Excel spreadsheet that can allow parents to run the numbers and let you know how much private school tuition could impact a personal balance sheet.

Dinner Ideas to Help You Spend Less, Invest More

A major expense for most households is food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that families of four (with young children) might spend as little as $568.40 or as much as $1,112.70 monthly on food at home, depending on whether they are thrifty or liberal in their spending. Those who are short on dinner ideas may eat out more and spend more on food.

A friend recently told me that she spends about $1,200 monthly to feed two grown adults and five teens and young twentysomethings at home. I also spend a lot when my sons are home visiting.

I’ve found that it takes creative, sustained effort to spend less (time and money) on meals. As my life changes, with kids entering and leaving the house, I’m constantly experimenting with ways to eat better and spend less. Here are dinner ideas that have worked for me:

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