BACK TO SCHOOL…As seasons go, this one has become my ‘frienemy’. One part of me laments the end of summer and the outdoor freedom my kids (and I) have during the warm months. One part of me is happy to get everyone back on their schedule and off my freakin back (smile). Around this time, extra hands (i.e. teachers & coaches) are greatly appreciated so that I can dive into my work. And yet another part of me is nervous for the expenses that loom.
CASH IS PRECIOUS. Several years back, both PapaBear and I left established companies to work, live and breath for ourselves. PapaBear was at JP Morgan and I, most recently, worked for the designer Zac Posen. These days, we love the autonomous lifestyle we’ve carved out which allows us to ‘flow’, yet the cushion is gone. There is no paid for insurance or expense accounts, and definitely no steady check to depend on come rain or shine. You know how it is, our shoulders are heavy with the financial responsibilities of being entrepreneurs.
Money is literally flying out of our hands! Private schools are obnoxiously expensive, tutors are essentially another tuition, clothing, books, computers, healthy food and activities all add up quickly.
Here’s how I cut my expenses:
1. CHILDREN’S CLOTHING + ACCESSORIES
I know it’s not as hip as H&M or Target. It simply doesn’t have the cache. But if you have a good sense of your own style, you can grab great items for all ages and work it! My 2-13 year olds love this place and come out with cool seasonal items for practically nothing. School uniforms, casual, coats, (although not so great for dress-up). Try something new!
2. ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS (that feel like or are private)
I went to one of those ‘exclusive, fancy, tony upper east-side’ schools that my own dad teased me for attending. We wore fancy uniforms, received a fancy education and had unlimited fancy resources and contact. When I had my own children, I started researching alternatives to the obvious. Here are a few good one’s in the NY area that I lovingly call, ‘a different kind of perfect’.
*East Village Coop (East Village, NYC)
Parents play a big role in the running of the school, in exchange for substantially lowered tuition. Small classrooms, awesome families, and a relaxed way to ease your way into our zany school system.
*PS 130 Hernando De Soto School (ChinaTown, NYC)
Pre-K – 5th. If you can get into the Gifted & Talented program, it’s a total score. Plus, your child will have the bonus of speaking Mandarin (mine did and rocked it!) Upon graduation, all the ‘tony-upper-east-side schools she was considering, accepted her. It’s a wrap.
*Macademy School of Science & Technology (Crown Heights, Brooklyn)
Pre-K – 8th. Converted brownstones, faculty and teachers with 2nd degrees, and a serious academic program. This school, minus the facilities (no gym, science lab, cafeteria) rivals the top private school in academic focus. Students are focused on success and in LOVE with the process of learning.
3. LEARNING / PLAY SPACES
It’s arguably the best children’s learning / play space in the NY area + the membership is peanuts compared to others in NYC. Bigger, brighter (gorgeous yellow exterior), and simply doper, we go for hours each week. My kids love it! ($85, 1 year, 2 parents & 4 children). Even if you live in Manhattan, it’s worth the travel…and Prospect Park is close enough. Make it a day-trip!
In-house dining. We do 90% of our eating at home, from snacks to meals. It usually taste’s better, it’s always healthier and it saved us thousands of dollars. Go to Trader Joe’s, or your less expensive equivalent, and load up for 1.5 weeks minimum. Shop in bulk. Keep as much in the freezer as possible & only bring out what you need daily. Make it fun! In my house, everyone gets involved, cooks and even shops. Health + food is a family commitment and project - whenever possible!
*Organic fresh spinach or kale (sautéed w/ garlic & salt)
*Organic frozen corn off cob (sautéed with organic butter & seasonings)
*Organic ground meet (made into mini burgers, no bun)
*Mahi Mahi / frozen (under the broiler w/ olive oil & spices)
*Sole / frozen (under the broiler w/ olive oil & spices)
*Organic chicken tenders (sautéed with cherry tomatoes, olive oil & spices)
*Organic couscous, brown rice, quinoa, cornbread
*Organic cheddar cheese
*Sea weed crisps w/ wasabi
*French Toast (frozen)
*Organic Avocados, blackberries, apricots, pears, grapes, cherries…
*Flourless chocolate cake
*Lambic peach beer
5. ECONOMY TRAVEL
Don’t be afraid to load up a car a drive to your favorite places. We’ve traveled as far as 18 hrs with all 6 of us buckled-up. It’s quality family time and fractions of the price of airplane tickets. Take a trip down south to visit family, head to the mountains for some spiritual revelations…where ever, just go! Sometimes we stop at inexpensive hotels, for cat-naps. But if you’re like me and you go hard most of the time, you’ll appreciate the serenity of night driving. The entire experience could quite be the start of your metamorphosis.
6. SIMPLIFIED BEAUTY
I never sacrifice on quality. I only use organic, natural and often raw beauty products. However, long gone are the days when my cabinet are filled with pricy, indulgent products. 90% of what I use on my skin & hair is also used on my entire family. It saves me time and money now that I’m not purchasing different items for different people. Natural, simple + healthy is a great way I alleviated big-boudoir-bills. Our line, GEORGIA, is a great family line. Try us! We get it, Beauty Is Simple.
7. SHARED GADGETS…this one just came to me, literally. (Dell just laced me w/ 2 new computers for the family!)
In this life we live, gadgets are gold. They represent great wealth – of knowledge and of coin. We purchase and just months later, if we can afford it, we upgrade. Some of us have 5+ gadgets in our home – per person. Crazy. Big bucks are spent making our lives fluid and connected. Here’s the trick. In Crown Heights, in the real world, where I live – sharing is caring. Every single gadget is shared*. We flow between tablets, desktops, laptops and smartphones. Dell just made that a bit easier for my ‘party of 6′. In the mail today arrived our new XPS 13 & Inspiron 14oz Ultrabooks. They fit in just perfectly! And guess who wants to spend the rest of the day together?? The Teen is all over me…and my XPS.
(*except my phone)