Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Graduation on a Budget

The time that all homeschoolers look forward to with both trepidation and excitement has finally arrived at our house. Our oldest daughter is graduating from our homeschool this June! We are thrilled to be able to honor her achievement, but when we looked at our finances, we’re not so thrilled.

How can we celebrate in style, with all of her friends and the few family members who are trekking in from out of state without going bankrupt? First of all, let’s take a look at the accessories and see how many are actually vital for our party of the year: senior pictures, invitations, announcements, name cards, postage to mail invitations and announcements, memory albums, cap, gown, tassel, diploma, fancy cover for diploma, printed programs for ceremony, honor medallions, pins, honor cords, embosser for transcript . . . Yikes!

We are doing this all on our own, not with any group affiliation. On the down side, that means that we’re doing all the planning. On the upside, we’re not paying fees and sitting through a ten-minute power point presentation for each of the twenty other graduates that we don’t know personally. Many factors went into our decision, and each family has different needs and desires. Take a look at what the homeschool groups in your area offer, talk it over with your spouse and your senior, and then decide what you’ll be doing.

This is what we’re doing. We’re holding the ceremony and the party at our house. God has blessed us with a large home, a good-sized yard, and an aboveground pool. We’re praying hard for good weather! My daughter is rather casual, so we’re having a short, but meaningful graduation ceremony, and then, we’ll party.

Here’s how I plan to save money on all the accoutrements. My sister-in-law is a photographer, so she’s doing the senior portraits for free; we just have to pay for whatever we want printed. Instead of traditional invitations, announcements, and name cards, we’ll look for a Snapfish coupon (other websites and retailers have similar deals) and have photo announcements made. I’ll put a computer-generated sticker on the back with the event details for locals who will be invited to the ceremony. Otherwise, I’ll put address labels on the back and mail them as postcards (also saving money on postage). Since we’re focusing more on the party than on the ceremony, we’ll skip the printed programs.

So far, the most cost-effective place that I’ve found to purchase a cap, gown, tassel, and diploma is from the Home School Legal Defense Association (www.hslda.org). For members, the cost of those four items is just $45—personalized. Another website with more options is www.homeschooldiploma.com.

For the party food, I’m comparing prices between Aldi and Sam’s Club. We’ll do burgers and hotdogs on the grill, with whatever chips are on sale. My younger daughter is excited about making and decorating her sister’s cake. I will probably buy generic plates, cups, and napkins in my daughter’s favorite colors as opposed to expensive, graduation-themed ones.

That’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it. We’re celebrating our daughter’s graduation (and 16th birthday, but that’s a story for another time), and we’re not breaking the bank to do it. 

This post appears over at Heart of the Matter Online today. Be sure to check out all of the other great articles!

Q4U: If you're close to graduating one of your kids, what are your plans?