Where I live, the cost of living is really quite low. Greenwood, Indiana has good and affordable housing, low taxes, and some of the best schools in the state.
But while the cost of living is low, the cost of doing is another story. All around us, we see the “affluenza” typical of a major metropolitan suburb. We compete with other suburbs for prestige, and that competition comes with a price.
A few weeks ago I was surprised to find my younger son’s rec basketball coach stocking the shelves at Kroger. By day, the guy is a research scientist for Eli Lilly & Co. pharmaceuticals; a prestigious, well-paying job. But he confessed that the cost of his son’s travel baseball team had driven him to put in extra hours at the grocery store on weekends. The cost just to be on the team was more than $2,000, and each weekend of tournament travel cost anywhere from $200 to $500.
It’s not just baseball, and it’s not just sports. Whatever activity a child chooses here– soccer, basketball, football, marching band, dance, theatre, show choir (which we hadn’t even heard of before moving here) — the cost can easily run to $2,500 per year or more when you count participation fees, uniforms, lessons, travel, and various miscellaneous expenses.
It’s easy to lose perspective — do you know how many Compassion kids you can sponsor with $2500? — and it’s hard not to assimilate to this cultural norm. In our family, we’ve decided to set a budget for our boys’ activities each year. (And I can tell you the total for both kids is significantly less than $2,500.) We also consider the cost in terms of time and togetherness. Even if an activity is financially affordable, we won’t do it if it takes anyone out of family dinners or church participation on a regular basis.
Cost of living is important, but beware also of the cost of doing.