Nickels and Dimes

Is it just me, or are all parents in America getting nickeled and dimed to death?

I just went through my check book and over the last month, my family has spent an additional $363 in unbudgeted items for my kids. This figure includes money spent on class projects, class parties, baseball banners, silent auction donations, field trip costs, ministry donations, church events and more.

As “good” as all these things are, at some point I’m going to have close the check book and just say, “No, we’re not paying for that. We’re going to have to sit this one out.” It doesn’t take much to break a family budget when you’ve got three kids still at home.

What I’m seeing with many organizations fighting budget cuts and lack of funding, is an assumption that they can continue the same programming and events by passing the burden of cost onto the participants. They do it in such a way, that it’s difficult not to comply. For example: I signed my son up for baseball, but didn’t plan on the extra $50 for a banner, silent auction donation and opening day fundraiser. If I choose not to pay, then the burden falls to our team mates. My child also goes to public school, but I didn’t plan on spending $36 for a field trip that happens during school hours. If I choose not to pay, then he’s given a packet of tedious homework to do instead of getting to experience the trip.

So what is a parent to do? I could stand up, and make a fuss, and refuse to do my part, but I’m not that brave. Instead, I’d like to start an underground movement that would hopefully take the world by storm. It’s a new way of rethinking things with the goal of saving us all a little extra cash. It’ll help us step away from the mind set of doing things bigger and better and push us to get back to the basics. Here are some crazy ideas to get it started:

  • Let kids create their own team banner and skip the end of game snack. Savings: $50
  • Cut the cost of the field trip from $36 to $15 by going to the mission that’s 40 miles closer to home this year. Savings: $21
  • Bring a sack lunch to Big Bear ski trip. Savings: $10
  • Build a California Mission out of recycled goods and scrap paper. Savings: $50
  • Plan a movie night with the youth group at church instead of going bowling. Savings $20

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Let’s get rid of the idea that the basics are boring. We need to learn that fun doesn’t always cost money, and bigger isn’t always better. Really, if you think hard, any great experience you’ve had, happened because of the people you were with, and not the surroundings, or money you spent making it happen.

As a ministry planner, I’m committed to not nickel and dime my families to death by asking them to fund our events. Instead, I’m going to get creative and provide an environment that will allow for tons of fun, excitement and learning on a shoestring budget. If I can’t do it with what I’ve been given by God, through budgets and supplies, then I won’t do it at all.







Many of these items used to cost much less, if not be totally free, but with every organizations shrinking budget, the cost of doing business is getting shifted more and more to the participants.