Back to School

The NFB has a very topical back to school video for we parents who are looking forward to the resumption of classes.

Nightmare at School is an interesting view on starting high school (which was traumatic for me at least).

Who hasn’t felt apprehensive at the thought of starting high school? This is the central theme of this short animated film. Playing on imagination and humour, the director offers viewers a thought-provoking piece dealing with the transition that young people between the ages of 10 and 13 experience. Inspired by the work of Escher and Magritte, Catherine Arcand has created a graphically rich film through optical illusions and trompe-l’oeil effects. Her style aptly illustrates the theme of perceptions and is perfectly suited to conveying the dream world into which the film takes us. A film without words.

Nightmare at School, Catherine Arcand, provided by the National Film Board of Canada


Dude! It’s Back to School Time!

Written many years ago (2009) when I had 2 kids in High School and 1 in University. The shear volume of money spent and trips to get ready for school was withering.

School (aka Skule) starts soon and thus it means back to school sales are in full swing (in fact they are almost over, I can find a lot of Halloween Candy right now, but we can talk about that later).

Back to school is a huge drain on most families funds (any family with kids from age 5 to 21, at least), and the things that “need” to be bought keeps expanding and adding up.

What kind of expenses, you ask?

  • Paper,pens, pencils,  OK we needed paper when I was a kid, so that isn’t too bad.
  • Student Fee $20
  • Yearbook $35
  • Lab fees for science courses
  • Athletic fees
  • Gym fees
  • New clothes ($100-$300 per child)
  • New athletic shoes
  • Binders, yes, we used those too.
  • Ink for your computer’s printer, OK now we are in a new world. ($50 for sure)
  • A new printer, because last year’s printers jets are clogged. ($50 at least)
  • Bus passes, yes, I have to pay for my kids busing to school (that’s about $130 a month)
  • A new computer because the kids’ computer is really crappy (OK that is optional but if your child is going off to University you are going to be paying this for sure). Maybe they need a home computer and a laptop as well?
  • Furniture if your child is moving into a house at University (that is not furnished)
  • Cost of dropping your child off at school (that ain’t cheap if you have a run of over 500 kms)
  • Meal plan costs, lunch costs, etc.,
  • Book costs for University students
  • Cell phone costs

You get the picture, this explains why September is actually the biggest spending month of my fiscal year.

More rants will follow about this subject, but please feel free to add more expenses I may have missed as comments too!


The High Cost of Active Kids

Written back in 2009 when I had very active kids playing competitive sports!

I’ve written about this before, but I figured I’d rehash this topic, because the high cost of active kids are not dropping in any way shape or form.

For the 2008 basketball season my estimate was that the total cost of one of my daughters playing for a competitive team with travel, registration and team fees cost was about $1500 or so (that may be a little high).

Friends that have children that play competitive hockey are outlaying upwards of $5-10,000 a year in total costs, and higher in some situations. Figure Skating is a surprisingly very expensive sport for kids (costume costs, competition costs and coaching costs are enormous), as well. Other sports like Soccer, Football, Baseball and Volleyball I am sure cannot be that cheap either (I don’t have exact figures for those sports so I won’t comment, if anyone has any, please feel free to add them to the comments here).

Even with the  high cost of active kids their physical exertion is helping society to a certain extent by:

  • Instilling a sense of team and community pride.
  • Keeping our kids occupied (and thus not out spray painting our neighbours fences (hopefully))
  • Showing the value of physical fitness

Yes, it does sound like I am blowing my own horn, so I’ll stop there, but I think organized sports or activities is a good thing for kids. You should donate to your Boys & Girls Clubs because they are helping underprivileged kids stay active (and hopefully out of trouble).

What do people do who can’t afford this stuff? I know Canadian Tire runs a program to help out and locally in Ottawa there are a few community groups that are trying to help as well, but I am sure that is just not enough.

If you want to help out in your community and you have the extra money, maybe find a family that needs this kind of help, and offer to sponsor a kid for a year, your investment might pay back huge dividends in the long run.

Why the High Cost of Active Kids ?

Most sports fees are so expensive for many reaons, but some I know of are:

  • Very high insurance premiums since NO organized sport dare not have liability coverage.
  • Maintenance of fields, parks, gyms and rental of these facilities.
  • Fees to officials (not a very large cost, but still a cost).
  • Profit (yes some hockey leagues are run as FOR profit institutions).

When did Recreation become a big business?


Student Debt (Epilogue)

Is there a right way to deal with the question of whether a parent should pay for a child’s post secondary education or whether the child should be left to pay for a University Education (and left with a large debt load in student loans)?

I think that is a pedagogical question since most of the times the parents financial situation is what dictates how much parents can help their children who want to get a post secondary education. I find it rare that parents who can help their children with their post secondary education, don’t help out in some fashion or another. I do know of some children who have refused help from their parents, out of pride or other reasons, but that is a rarity as well.

Some of the comments I have received have been very interesting, and I want to thank all of my reader’s who contributed (and those who de-lurked for me as well).

  • A large number of comments agreed with my opening statement that it is very rare that parents who can help, choose not to help out their children who choose to try to get a University Education, it usually comes down to whether the parent is in a position to help or not.
  • Michael James commented:

    I plan to pay for the basic necessities for my kids initially, and am hoping that they earn enough to take over by the end. I’m not paying for any extras, though. Meal plan, residence, books, and tuition are necessities.

    I think that point of view is a healthy view point, and fair. The extras he comments on, I think are part of the “College Lifestyle”, but then again, should a parent be expected to pay for them?

  • Trent commented:

    And I would say emphatically, if the student in question never had a job during high school, then I think you would be doing a great disservice to them by allowing them to wait until they graduate college before punching their first clock.

    Which is very much the “Christian Work Ethic” espoused by many parents and grandparents. I think I agree with that comment as well.

    As a personal aside, I worked delivering Telephone Books one summer, loading trucks another summer and had a paper route from age 13, so on those days at University when I thought, I am going to chuck this whole thing and get a “real” job, I just remembered heaving bundles of Penthouse into the back of Grumman delivery trucks in 30 Celsius heat, and it was amazing how well it motivated me.

  • Nerd Money Commented:

    I think one possible solution in terms of funding is that you loan out any funds you’ve set aside for their education. Set it up like a government funded loan where there’s no interest while they’re in school and then a modest interest rate payable to “The Bank of Mom and Dad” six months after graduation.

    Interesting concept, that I don’t know if I agree, but it is another way to teach the value of the money spent on the education (remember the infamous Singing Horse parable for possible pay back solutions).

  • Steward’s of Wealth had another perspective:

    We don’t have kids. But one thing that we will teach them is how money works. One of our goals is to teach them how to invest. Hopefully, by the time they get to college, they’ll already have assets paying for tuition.

    Didn’t really say if they were going to help or not, and unless my kids find a penny stock to invest their funds, it’s less likely they’ll be able to pay off their tuition, but a worthwhile learning experience, although what happens if they invest badly (like I would have)?

  • Nancy (aka Money Coach)’s comments really hit home for me:

    I was driven, got the A’s but it wasn’t nearly the experience it could have been if I had been funded. Then I graduated with a debt that took 10 long years to pay off, and significantly hampered my ability to get ahead (and most readers know the effect of compound interest = opportunity cost for me).

    I read that and understand more what the costs of Student Loans can do to newly graduated students.

  • Amy (my de-lurker) comments were again very good:

    I graduated with a BA in 2003 with very little debt. I worked like crazy every summer (maybe taking 2-3 days for a camping excursion with friends every summer but that was it). I also worked most Saturdays during the school year. Seeing as I attended a Christian university here in Ontario, my earnings didn’t stretch as far as I would have liked, so I applied for DadSAP:) My parents were in a position to help me out, and I’m very grateful for that. I gave all I could towards my education and my parents paid the rest.

    DadSAP == The Bank of Mom and Dad, but it’s the same idea. Any child who works hard and realizes that as the oldest they need to help their parents because their brothers and sisters will want help too, is ok by me!

  • Another interesting comment I got from an acquaintance who has many kids (more than 7 I believe) who told her kids, “You are going to University, Your Parents aren’t going to be able to Help, but You are going”. I think if kids are aware of the ground rules early, they are more likely to figure out what they need to do early on as well.

Thanks to all commenters and readers, this was an excellent bit of research for me to understand how other folks view this dilemma. I am lucky to have gotten my scholastic ride for free (as it were), and hope to help my kids as much we can.


Hidden School Costs

I have written about this one, but I continue to be unhappy with the situation that I currently find myself in, in terms of hidden school costs. I don’t really mind too many of the charges, since in most situations I am either paying for my child’s extra curricular activities or I am paying for convenience (i.e. a hot lunch program), and I don’t even mind too much some of the “user fees” imposed (for wood in shop classes and such).

I do however have a problem with the $179.25 I pay a month to bus my kids to school. So here are the facts:

  • All 3 of my children attend schools that are not easily within walking distance of my house (one is about 3 KM from the house, and the High School my two older daughters attend is about 14 KM from the house).
  • Due to board rules there is no free busing offered to my kids (there is busing in some situations, but due to rules, we are not eligible for them).
  • I do claim the bus passes I buy on my taxes (so I do get money back from this).

The price of these bus passes is almost enough to buy a used car. I have talked to my School Board trustee and my local MPP about this, and while they are sympathetic nothing much will be done about this.

My two oldest attend a school much farther away, because my oldest’s program is there (she is in a specialized program) and it was easier to have my middle daughter there as well (so yes, you could discount my bitching by 1 child if you wished). Next month my youngest will go back to biking to school as well (whether she wants to or not!!!).

I can afford this (it hurts, but I can) and the tax rebate softened the blow a great deal too, but how do people who can’t afford this deal with these costs? I think the simple answer is they don’t have the options I have I guess.

Always talk nicely to the Police Officer

Off topic, but still in a financial vein, always remember that when you are stopped by a Police officer for speeding and you KNOW you are speeding, be polite, apologetic, and contrite. Tomorrow, I will explain more.


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