At 14, I decided that I really wanted tap lessons. To put it in some context, I’d been dancing since I was 4, did tap for a year when I was 6 but had stuck with ballet since then.
Problem #1: With only 1 year of tap lessons, and those 7 years previously, I’d be stuck in with the 8 and 9 year olds.
Problem #2: My parents couldn’t afford any more dance lessons. In retrospect I’m shocked and grateful and embarrassed that I got as many as I did.
So I talked to my favorite dance teacher, Miss P., and asked her how much private tap lessons would cost. We discovered that if I used the money I earned that summer I could afford 20 minutes of private instruction once a week. (Yep, couldn’t afford 30, but could afford 20.)
While I didn’t become a prodigy and that was my last year of tap lessons, I made excellent progress between that fall and the spring recital. Certainly better than I would have made with the 8-year-olds.
There were a number of factors, but I think the biggest one was that I took the lessons seriously. I wanted to learn and it was my money on the line. I’ve never liked wasting money and I’m very prone to buyer’s remorse.
This was money from my first “real” job working at the ballet studio’s summer dance camp (I was 13 at the time, so technically I wasn’t employed…it was a gift). I feel like some may have also come from the job I started that spring.
So I took the lessons quite seriously. Sometimes Miss P would throw in a few more minutes out of generosity, but I knew that I had to make the most of the short time I had.
As we grow older, we are often earning more and spending more by default. So we forget how serious it is to spend an entire summer’s earnings on one cherished object. But I think it’s a valuable lesson we can teach our kids.
Whether or not her parents can afford it, I think it’s sometimes a good idea to have a teen pay her own way. She has to really want what she’s getting and I think she’s likely to get more out of the experience or object.
2 years later, it was the same story when I needed a new violin. My grandfather chipped in 25%, but the other 75% was from my warehouse job. Again, I loved “Albert” for many years and still do, though I’m not practicing as much as I used to.
I think it’s slightly different when it comes to college. Is it even feasible with tuition prices? I don’t think so. It’s hard for an 18-year-old to afford that much. On the other hand, there’s a lot of scholarship money out there and I “paid” more than half my way by getting scholarships and then keeping up the grades for them (higher than 3.6 to keep the most important one).
That probably made me appreciate college more than someone whose parents didn’t have to worry about money at all. I don’t think I appreciated it less than those with loans (maybe more than some with loans), but possibly less than those who actually pay their entire way. I never met people of the latter type, so I’m not sure.
For things other than college, particularly for those which can be experienced or learned, I think it’s valuable to make the teen pay sometimes. I’m grateful to my parents for all the lessons and things they did pay for. I’m shocked when I think of the cost.
But I’m also grateful that they encouraged me to pursue the things I wanted (tap lessons, violin) on my own dime.
What did you have to pay for yourself as a teen? Do you think you valued it more?