Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Cost of Overscheduling our Kids

As I was contemplating ideas for the Financial Tip this week I came across an article on KSL News titled “Are we overscheduling our kids?” by Nadine Wimmer.  At first I didn’t expect it to have anything to do with finances, but was interested in the topic as this is a discussion my wife and I have on a regular basis (we both feel strongly that we want our kids to enjoy their childhood and not be overscheduled).  When I got into the article, though, I found it has very strong financial undertones. 


The story follows the Nelson family – mom, dad and six children.  “The Nelsons' daily routine gets them heading out the door for 6:45 a.m. cheerleading practice. At 7:30, the trip to different schools for different kids begins, which includes a range of AP classes, pre-college classes and preschool.


“Add in full-time work for mom and dad on different days.


“After school, several kids take soccer, one has concert choir, one has dance classes, one has sewing classes. They're even trying to get the baby of the family signed up for swimming lessons.”


The Nelson’s don’t share how much they are spending on all those lessons (but it’s got to be a few hundred dollars for all those different lessons), but share some additional costs:

·         $720 a month in gas running around to all the different lessons and to work

·         $80 a month in snacks and drinks at the gas station

·         $240 a month on fast food (it’s difficult to cook at home when you are running around so much)

Three of the children had this to say about the schedule:

"It's really stressful at times." – Breann

"It's really overwhelming." – Hannah

"It's just frustrating because I need help with my homework and my mom is usually at work or running people somewhere." – Chloe

We lived in Korea for a year and saw some of those children starting at 5:30 in the morning and being scheduled for one thing after another (school, Tae-Kwon-Do, after school English, math and science classes, then a few hours of homework each night).  Many of them were sad and stressed out, and really just wanted more time at home.

If you find that your budget is strapped or you don’t have enough time as a family, take a look at your schedule.  Are there some things you can cut?  Looking back on my childhood some of my fondest memories are of simple things we did as a family – going camping, going to the zoo, having a family movie night with popcorn, or doing any number of other simple things.  We took swimming lessons in the summer, but we would all go together and got to enjoy that time as a family. 

The Nelson family could probably easily cut their gas bill in half and cut way back on the amount spent on snacks, drinks and fast food.

Read the full article here:

Ryan H. Law, M.S., AFC

Department of Personal Financial Planning

Office for Financial Success Director

University of Missouri Center on Economic Education Director


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