The Cost of Seniors

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No, I’m not talking about those seniors aged sixty-five or over. Although without a proper health care or long-term care plan that could be expensive too. I’m talking about high school seniors, which our family happens to have two of.

My seventeen-year-old twin son and daughter’s high school days are numbers. We are certainly on the back nine of their high school careers, with roughly sixteen weeks to go, but still have many major decisions, and costs ahead of us.

I’m glad to see that Senioritis hasn’t set in quite yet, but with springtime and longer days closing in we will do our best to the kids focused over the remaining weeks of the high school careers.

It’s something I’ve always preached to them over the years, sure it might sound a bit cliché, or maybe even like the old coach, but I’ve reminded them about giving their best effort, and finishing strong. You just never know who’s watching.

seniors throwing caps

Then there’s still plenty of local scholarship money up for grabs too. I’d hate for the last leg of a long well run race to cost them the opportunity at free money.

So, with simple screaming and yelling reminders I hope to get my message across and reminder them just how expensive their senior year is.

Senior Year Costs

Admittedly some of these costs are by choice, and clearly fall in the wants category and not needs. So, it’s not a list of money we are spending and complain, but just to give you an idea of the extra ordinary costs we are incurring this year with have two seniors.

Senior Photos – $150 X two – The classic cap and gown photo, taken last summer. It’s a great keep sake, something we have shared with grandparents, (part of their Christmas gift) and family.

Senior Trip – $200 x two – A three-day get away with their friends skiing, snowboard, tubing, etc.

Yearbook – $115.75 x two – Both my wife and I still have our high school yearbooks almost thirty years later.

Cap and Gown $33 x two – no way around this one. We’d like them to attend the graduation ceremony.

Prom – $Unknown – They both have plans to attend. My daughter has her date lined up, but just can’t anticipate full cost yet. Dress shopping is scheduled shortly.

Graduation Party – $Unknown – We are planning a backyard party for them. We are in the early planning stages.  What I can is I have some work cut out for me in terms of yard work. Every year coming out of the winter there is always plenty to do. It might not cost me money, just my time.

College – $ 10,000 X 2 – This is still an estimate per semester as my son has not made a final decision on a college. That’s not including travel or moving in costs.

So, that’s a grand total of $20,997.5 and counting. Ouch. All costs that we didn’t have last year. Considering that tuition cost will continue for the next four years and we will have the potential to add a third tuition in the twin’s senior year we got some belt-tightening to do.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

The $1000 to $1500 in expenses are onetime costs that can be cash flowed, the $20K in tuition costs is something altogether different. We will really need a plan to tackle this expense to remain debt free and avoid dipping into loans to cover the expense. Here’s what we’ve laid out so far.

Talking to the College – We have already begun to talk to the school to make them aware of our situation.

They we will have twins in school and possible a third child attending at the same time. It doesn’t hurt to ask. The goal is to see if any additional help is available above the financial aid and scholarships.

AP / College credits – Even in their senior year, the twins are taking several AP and college level classes. This has a potential to transfer and earn them college credit. It also knocks our prerequisites classes and allows them to focus on their major. Not to mention the cost savings.

Scholarships / Grants – They have already begun the process of applying. Local scholarships are due this week. They will continue to apply during their entire college careers.

Four years – We do not want any long-term college student. Four years is the maximum for a bachelor degree. Extending their stay will cost more money and delays pursuing a career.

Working – Whether it’s during the school year or over summer breaks we expect that our children will work and save money to help pay for things.

Living Below our Mean – We did this for a stretch of 50 months once. Averaging a $2000 per month debt repayment.  That’s $24K a year.  That comes with some sacrifice, like minimum travel, but it will be worth it in the end.

That’s our plan right now. Enjoy the remaining time our twins have in high school and continue to guide them into college. Helping them make the best money decision possible, and hope they make the best out of their college experience.

Is there any senior year cost that surprise you? How would you tackle cash flowing college?

33 thoughts on “The Cost of Seniors”

  1. I really wish I’d gone to a college that accepted all of my AP/IB high school credits. I would say to go to the best school for your buck–it’s all about getting an education to find a job at the end of the day.

    • Just had that conversation with my son. We spoke about a high priced school and an okay computer science program. We’ve eliminated from consideration.

  2. I went to a high school that was affiliated with a college and we were able to take classes and have the credits transfer over. I probably could have graduated a semester early but I enjoyed college life too much to leave =) Besides colleges, do your kids have any idea what they will be studying?

  3. It sounds like an exciting time for your family! I think it’s great that you are all planning ahead so well and won’t be surprised by any costs.

    I had actually forgotten about senior pictures – around here many people hire a professional and do an entire photo shoot. That could add up. I guess I need to find a friend that can take great pictures, as we’ll have a senior next year.

    • It’s certainly shaping up that way Amanda. Lots of big decisions and memory makers.

      So actually go the professional photographer route too. There photos were done at the school and will be use for their yearbook as well.

  4. AP/College in School credits are a must. I was lucky enough to enter college with about 20 credits. I was able to finish up college in 3 years and save the $20k!

    I applied that savings by doing a Master’s degree and only had to take a small student loan out (15k) which I paid off within the next year.

    If I was to go back, I’d take more AP courses, consider starting a business/blog on the side, or consider Community College.

    Thanks for the share Brian. Have a good one

    • Thanks Erik. AP courses weren’t even on my radar when I was in HS. Both my son and daughter have a number of AP and college classes under their belts, that will hopefully transfer.

  5. I’m actually a little surprised that yearbooks still exist! Like most of the things you listed, they’re clearly “wants”. But creating and preserving memories is important, and it seems like you have a very balanced approach to do so.

    Good luck with the screaming, er. simple reminders. 🙂 I’m sure all of those local scholarships can really add up and be big help.

  6. Having a high school senior sure is expensive, and more so when you have two! I don’t know if they realize how much you’re investing in their memories and their future, but I’m sure they’ll appreciate it in the years to come. I hope they both have an amazing time!

  7. You are way nicer parents than we are! The senior ski trip and the prom are both on our senior. She actually borrowed a dress – so that’s a huge expense avoided. (Does you daughter have friends who graduated last year and might want to do the same?) You’ve got great strategies in place to see yourselves through the next few years without dipping into debt. That 4th year will be a real challenge with your other son going into post-secondary. (Does he have a paper route? Those low-paying jobs add up savings over a few years.) All the best!

    • I’m not sure if we’re nicer. 🙂

      She does have older friends who have graduated. She is an incredibility thrifty clothes shopper. So we’ll see.

      Paper routes? What that? All those jobs (I had one when I was a teen) are now done by adults. He’s eye a few things for this summer.

  8. I’m most surprised about the cost of the yearbook! Oh there’s going to be a lot of excitement in your household this spring. Good luck with all the decisions, logistics, and costs. I hope you and your wife enjoy this portion of the journey.

  9. Wow, I didn’t know high school graduation was this expensive. My kids are young and it is good to know that it isn’t cheap 🙂 It looks like every line item has premium gold plated pricing.

    You are being a great dad by encouraging your kids to apply for scholarships.

  10. Great post Brian! As you know, we are right there with you – but we have one graduating from college and one from high school. A little different, but many of the same costs. We’re off to a grad school interview tomorrow. We should know about both of them by April 1st.

  11. That is a ton of money going out the door. I had no idea Senior year was so expensive.

    I didn’t go on my Senior trip. My parents told me if I wanted to go I had to pay for it. Since I wasn’t that enthusiastic to go I saved the money although honestly I have no idea what I spent it on. Probably something dumb and not worth it.

    • It certainly is Rob, but one of those catch 22s. Some of the things are about building memories, senior trip, prom, and once they are over their no way to recreate. So if our kids would like to attend we’d like to make that happen for them.

  12. 2 things… #1 My dad did a 5 year program, where you get a bachelors, and then your senior electives are year 1 grad classes and you leave with a masters too! While ‘out in 4’, is the ideal, let your kids know if a program like this would be ok in your book. Even of you pay for the 4, and the last 1 is up to them. Starting the job search with a Masters in certain fields can be a big advantage.
    #2 I had to take a math and foreign language placement test. I wasn’t prepared and with some studying would have done better on the Spanish, so I had to take 3 semesters. I could have placed out of the level 1. Asking the school about the ability to place out of general education classes can be a big help. Then have the kids take it before the summer sun gets too tempting.
    Last thought, my sister spent over $1000 on prom, just to help you avoid sticker shock.
    I got my dress for <$100, with $25 for alterations. I got my nails done, but mom did my hair. We didn't do a limo, and mom took my friends and I to our family cabin for after prom (we weren't the drinking party crowd, more like the sit around the campfire toasting marshmallows kids), instead of everyone going to the beach and renting hotel rooms. Good luck!

    • Thanks for the tips. I don’t expect any big prop expenses. The prom is held the night before graduation, so no long weekend of trips and partying.

  13. Interesting, yearbook prices have inflated a heck of a lot faster than cap and gown prices since the late 80s. And it sounds like the price of the senior photos hasn’t changed at all.

    • We went with a base package on the photos. You could easily spend hundreds if not a thousand dollars on different packages if you wanted too.

  14. As a former high school counselor and college counselor and teacher, I’ve been a amazed at the college decisions folks make that cost them tons more for college than they need to pay.

    Y’all are thinking right in how y’all are approaching things.

    Keep on with the good stuff Brian and all the best to you and yours.

  15. Great article! I like how you have broken the expenses down into their pieces. This seems like sch a great pragmatic way to start to analyze each one individually and look for opportunities to minimize the debt impact of college. It doesn’t have to be the foregone conclusion that it costs what the price tag states.

  16. Great post! Some of these are things I didn’t even remember from my own HS days so hadn’t thought about when my son finished HS last year.

    I am always grateful that my son is as frugally-minded as his dad – he paid $0 for his senior pictures, and has always chosen sale clothing for dances/prom – although he and his girlfriend do get new matching Converse for proms 🙂

    He went to a very large school, and has a group of close friends that, like him, prefer to pay their own way, which has been much easier on me, ha. Due to the school’s size they mostly chose not to buy yearbooks or attend the official parties – I think that would have been very different in a smaller school.

    One thing I heard a lot about but didn’t apply to my kiddo – those of us with slightly younger students should check whether PSEO classes are available (or the equivalent – taking college classes as a high school student for both HS and college credit). I know several students who completed nearly two years of college for free before they graduated high school.

    Brian, I love that you have the perspective of both a boy and a girl – I’ve gotten comments from coworkers that “if he was a girl” his senior year would’ve been much spendier, but in reality my son’s girlfriend is even thriftier than he is 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment. We are in a large HS. 2K students. Not sure how the school size affected their spending decisions. It has opened their eyes to a wide variety of different financial personalities

      Both kids are taking college credits for language. We just received there grades from the local college. Between this and AP credits they should both be a semester ahead.

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