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How to Save Money on Private School Costs

Updated on January 8, 2018
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


Private school costs run from $4,000 at year for low cost Catholic elementary schools to $12,000 to $20,000 for mainstream private religious high school programs. Then there are elite schools like Sidwell Friends and boarding schools that exceed $45,000 a year. The high cost of private schools explains why home schooling is on the rise as an alternative. However, there are options for reducing the cost of private school attendance.

Private school is an excellent choice for parents dissatisfied with the academics or safety in local schools.
Private school is an excellent choice for parents dissatisfied with the academics or safety in local schools. | Source

Ways to Reduce Private School Costs

Sending children to private school can be a matter of personal conscience, academics, safety or encouraging particular talents. However, given the burden of parents to pay both school taxes and private school costs, anything that can save money on private school costs is beyond measure.

  • Pack lunches for your children. The lunches at private school are typically more expensive than those in public school due to lower volume. Packing a lunch for your child could save $5 a day, saving $900 by the end of the year.
  • Set up a used uniform clothing store within the school. Clothing donations should be tax deductible since it is to benefit the school. Sales of used uniforms go to the school. Let National Junior Honors Society or National Honors Society members help with sales as part of their volunteering.
  • Visit children's clothing consignment shops around the school. Many of them end up with used uniforms and sell them marked down because of lower demand.
  • Learn which retailers have discount uniform shopping days. Then buy both the current uniform set and next size up uniforms for your child on that day. They'll grow into it eventually.
  • Uniform shoes can be expensive. However, schools don't mandate exotic shoes unavailable anywhere but the uniform store. Find out the brand and make of the uniform shoes. Then visit online retailers. I've found uniform shoes for my children through Amazon at a comparable cost to the uniform store, but with a full range of sizes, unlike the uniform store which never has narrow or wide sizes available.
  • If you are outfitting a young boy, buy extra pairs of pants. You can turn them into shorts when he wears the knees out.
  • Parents should schedule their lives to avoid using before and after school care. Schools can reduce the cost of care by hiring education majors or retired teachers to provide supervision.
  • Encourage extracurricular activities that don’t cost a lot, both in the school and for your children. Cheaper activities include chess, languages, math and science clubs and choir. Lower cost sports include track, soccer, tai chi, karate and yoga. This is in contrast to expensive activities like football, cheerleading, band, orchestra and any activity dependent on extensive travel.
  • Manage uniform costs on a family basis by buying two or three winter and summer sets. Schools can reduce parental costs by rarely changing uniforms and not printing new spirit shirts every year.
  • Encourage local field trips over long distance trips. Take trips within the state before rushing across the country. For example, an eight grade class could travel to their state capital instead of Washington DC. Students could learn as much or more traveling to DC as far fewer students able to afford a trip to Europe. Instead of assuming that one must travel abroad to learn the language, locate immigrant communities who speak that language in your own area or region.
  • Find volunteer assistant coaches and extracurricular club leads over paid extracurricular help.
  • Gather together several parents with vans or SUVs instead of renting a bus to take a dozen kids on a field trip.
  • Ask parents and supporters for tickets and passes to the museum instead of rushing out to buy them. You may score free tickets and save parents enough money to attend along with the class.
  • Strengthen rules on cleanliness and picking up after yourself. This reduces clean up by teachers after class and facilities staff after school.
  • Apply for scholarships for K-12 private schools like the Children's Scholarship Fund, A Better Chance and Florida’s Step Up for Students.
  • Coverdell Education Savings Accounts or CESA can be used to pay for private K-12 schooling, as well as college. However, 529 savings plan funds cannot be used for elementary and secondary schooling costs.
  • Relatives can pay for private school costs as a way to assist the family without running into annual gifting limits by the IRS as long as the check is written to the school, not the parents. This is why an estimated 40% of private school tuition costs are paid by grandparents.


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