by Nancy Rechtman
If you are of a certain age, you might remember starting a savings account while you were in grade school, receiving a little passbook, depositing a dollar a week into your account and thinking that it was amazing that you'd have an entire $52.00 plus interest at the end of the year. It was a small fortune to a grade-school child at the time. And after four years, the total was more than $200.00! One could only dream about all the things that could be bought with that kind of money.
Fast forward to today. I would like to save. Really, I would. But those of you who have children will relate to why I can't seem to manage to even get a dollar into the bank on a weekly basis. I'm not even referring to food, shelter, clothing, dance lessons, music lessons, gymnastics, sports, Scouts, fund-raisers, orthodontic devices, band - including uniform and instrument costs, tutoring, driving lessons, cars, or college tuition and associated expenses. Those costs alone would explain the reason I can't manage to replace the 30-year-old carpet in my home or repair the meteor-sized holes in my decks. No, I am referring to field trips. In the past, they were jaunts that might, at most, take you away from school for the day, cost your parents $10 or $15, and you'd be home by the end of the day. You might go to a museum, a play or some history-worthy spot that in some way was actually related to learning.
Today, field trips have become super-sized, the same way that everything else in our lives has become overblown and overdone. A field trip today is almost an obligatory overnighter, involving meals, hotel costs, snack and souvenir money, and, of course, transportation to a city that is not the one you live in. We have had a few one-day trips that were to amusement parks - but even if we didn't end up paying for hotels, the entrance fees and other costs still amounted to close to a week's paycheck. In middle school, my children were supposed to go on a 2-day trip to the coast. I almost fell over when I received the itinerary with the cost of the trip - it was more than a week in the Bahamas would have cost. It was explained to me that my children would be on the move every second of the trip, with tours of multiple locations, meals, etc. If it's Tuesday it must be …Charleston?
Aside from the afore-mentioned trips, the kids have taken trips to Tennessee, Williamsburg, VA, Barrier Island and Columbia through school. Some trips have had more educational value than others, as you might imagine. The amusement park, I suppose, can be justified by discussing economics and the fact that what would normally be a 50-cent drink or a $4 sandwich, instead requires at least $20 in hand. The Scouts have gone to New York and Florida, aside from more local trips. Band has taken my kids to Myrtle Beach for several days. Youth groups are taking them skiing this winter - if global warming doesn't turn the ski slopes into balmy beaches in mid-February.
Let's discuss one of the ski trips. Youth group funds supposedly are making this trip "almost free" for the parents. Accommodations are covered, along with meals while they are there. And the ski lift is covered. Great, I thought. We only have to pay for food on the way there and back, along with ski lessons. And ski rental. And the ski bib, gloves, hat, thermal undergarments and sunglasses. Multiply that by two children. And, once again, the cost that started out as "almost free" has boomeranged into almost another house payment.
It's great that our kids have all these opportunities these days. I suppose I'm envious of all the fun they get to have and the fact that they get to be on the road as often as they are, as compared to when I grew up. But in their minds, none of these things count as actual vacations, so those are still expected as well. Which might explain why my savings account and credit cards are heading in opposite - and wrong - directions.
So I will try to make a resolution for the New Year. I'm going to take a dollar each week and put it into my savings account. At the end of the year I might even have enough money to pay for the snacks for one of these field trips.
Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at email@example.com.
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