One of the toughest parenting decisions is choosing the best education choice for your children. While some people associate that with choosing a good college, parents with young children starting school realize that it starts a lot earlier. If you have young children starting school or in in elementary school, you may have dealt with or are dealing with this very same question. Should you choose private school or move to a better school district?
My husband and I were faced with this very same question. In fact, this is the inspiration for starting the SavvyDollar blog. But let me back up to the beginning. Don't worry, I will be brief.
Our story is similar to many young couples that purchased a home before they had children in school. We purchased a home based on our current situation. We chose a home in an okay neighborhood that had a good commute to our current jobs, had plenty of restaurants, grocery stores, a gym and many other amenities nearby. At the time it seemed like a good choice, and we loved the convenience.
When we purchased our home, our daughter was only a year old, so “mapping out greatschools rating” on Zillow was not a factor in choosing a home. The thought of schools had crossed our mind, but not enough to sway our decision at the time. Our choice in a home worked out great until my daughter turned four and we had another child on the way.
Making the Choice to Move to a Better School District
We were so comfortable with our current home that the thought of having to move was overwhelming. Still it was hard to overlook the local school ratings and the lower percentage of high school graduates moving on to college. In addition, our neighbors that already had children in the school system were confirming the same. Our neighborhood school district had deteriorated a bit over time. Classes were crowded, media center was dated, and funding for extra curricular activities was limited.
Now like many other couples that are faced with the decision of having to move, our first instinct was to look for other options. We first chose to look at private schools in the area. We thought if we put the kids in private school, we could continue to enjoy our low mortgage and stay in our home. At first it seemed plausible with one child. But when we added in the cost of sending two kids to private school the math changed. It was obvious that private school on top of our mortgage was not going to be affordable. We realized that a more expensive home in a good school district would still come out financially better than putting two kids in a good private school for 12 years each.
More reasons to Move to Good School District
Get on Zillow and compare the cost of homes, and you will quickly see that homes in good school districts generally cost more then those that are not. However, over time they appreciate more in cost and hold their values better in declining markets. So while it was hard to stomach the thought of our mortgage going from $1500 a month to $2700 a month, in the long run we knew it would make financial sense.
But it was not all about finances and the actual school. The home in the better school district also meant that we the parents would be surrounded by other parents with a common goal. Parents that move to good school districts are focused on ensuring their kids are on track to getting into a good college. I am a firm believer in the fact that educating your kids between right and wrong starts in the home. However, having good influences around both academically and socially makes it easier to ensure your kids make the right decisions.
The Financial Challenge
Now even though the decision to move made more sense financially over the long run, there was still the immediate issue of having to deal with the increased mortgage. After all, we were still going to need to come up with an extra $1200 a month. Ouch!
By practicing a common sense approach to spending money, and not carrying balances on credit cards, we were able to meet our monthly expenses. We followed the approach of trying to not live beyond our means. While that was fine, we were not contributing any money to our savings account. The move had changed our financial situation so that instead of having a little extra each month to save, we were now living paycheck to paycheck. It got me thinking, we have to do better than this. I started reading personal finance blogs, and discovered a wealth of information. We were not alone in this dilemma of needing to balance financial goals with life goals. I learned a lot, but still had not formulated a plan. One day in my reading, I came across this gem of a quote:
“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” — John Maxwell
Yes I am a sucker for a good quote. But this one actually got me to the idea of starting this blog. I have listened to countless podcast and read lots of articles on personal finance blogs. One thing that became clear to me is that there is no magic bullet. Everyone's financial situation is different. However, the basic concept is the same. Spend less than you earn. You to need to set goals that work for you and your family, and then stick to them.
Basically it comes down to making money, saving (investing) money, and using your time wisely. I plan to use this blog to share Savvy financial tips and ideas that are working for my family. Plus I hope to get feedback from you the readers.
Did you go through a similar decision of having to choose private school or move to a better school district? Would love to hear your experiences.