This week I am sharing 10 more ways that our family saves money on household expenses. #1 & #2 focused on additional ways to save money while shopping. #3 & #4 showed two ways that our family saves money on hair care.
Today we will be talking about two ways to save money on school expenses and kids activities.
#5- We pass on school photos and sports pictures
I kind of feel that the idea of going to a professional photography studio or having portraits taken at school is a bit outdated. Now that I own a good quality digital camera- I can shoot off dozens (or hundreds) of shots and choose the one that best captures my child (or at least one where they are looking at the camera and smiling!) When I buy school photos, I usually have to purchase the package up front, before I even know whether or not the kids took a good shot. Even at a professional photography studio, in my experience, they typically only take five to ten shots per child (although they do have pretty cool props and backgrounds!). And don't even get me started about trying to get all six (and the dog!) to look at the camera and smile for our family holiday photo- that can literally take hundreds of shots!
The other thing that I love about using my digital camera is having the ability to touch up the photos (goodbye red-eye!), and then order the prints online. I prefer Shutterfly– I have used them for years now, and have always received great quality prints. Shutterfly offers great print plans- I buy the prepaid plan for 4 x6 prints and pay just 9 cents a photo. And when I do my own home version of “school pictures” (I am waiting for my maple tree to hit that perfect peak of fall color in the next week or so, to use as my background), I buy Shutterfly's portrait plan, which is a package of 8 x10's 5×7's and wallets that I order and give to grandparents and aunts and uncles.
I feel the same way about sports photos, dance recital photos, etc. I just use my camera to take great shots of my kids, and buy them from Shutterfly instead.
Exceptions to this rule? Of course! I still buy the school class photo- it is usually only $5 each, and I put them in my child's scrapbook after the school year is over. I know that the kids will enjoy looking back to remember their friends from grade school when they get older. And if we are on vacation, and a photographer snaps a photo of our family (such as in front of Cinderella's castle at Disney)- I will often buy that too. While these types of photos are usually crazy-expensive- they capture a special moment, one that I want to hang on to!
#6- Get creative on thank you gifts for teachers and coaches
I think teachers and coaches deserve the best gifts… after all of the hard work and effort that they put in with our children, I think they should all be thanked by receiving something really fabulous, like a trip to the spa! However, it is just not in my budget to deliver that kind of gift to 6 teachers, 4 teacher's aides, 5 soccer coaches, 1 gymnastics teacher, 3 Daisy scout troop leaders, 1 dance teacher, and 1 chess teacher.
At our school, the class Moms usually ask for parents to voluntarily contribute money to a class gift, and often parents for our various sports teams and activities will do the same thing for the coaches and instructors. I always like to contribute to these because I think that the pooled funds with other parents can buy a much nicer gift (and I especially think it is great when they purchase gift cards so the recipient can pick something that he or she would like). But I also like to do a little something extra to show how much I value what that teacher or coach has done for my child- and the hard part is to find a nice gift for each person that collectively doesn't cost alot of money.
I think the most important thing to give are my words (and my child's words) of appreciation. Whether I am giving an expensive bottle of wine, or a small plate of home-baked holiday cookies, I think what is noticed the most and appreciated the most, is the written note that accompanies the gift. Because what I am trying to tell each person with my gift and my words, is how much I value what they have done for my child this year, and nothing conveys that better than putting that down on paper. I think of the gift as a small accompaniment to that note- so I try to get creative. In my family, baking holiday cookies is a long-standing tradition, so I bake dozens and dozens of extra cookies that I can give as holiday gifts. Last year I made up packages of homemade hot chocolate mix as gifts. This year I plan to try my hand at creating personalized glass-etched bowls.
I think the key is to make each gift personal and from your heart. It is not the size of the price tag that matters here.