How to afford a gifted child


You want to do what’s best for your children but when you find out that your kids are exceptionally smart with an IQ to match Albert Einstein’s or have a sporting talent on a par with rugby star Bryan Habana’s, you may want to pull out all the stops to ensure that they can get the best education and sports coaching in the country.

However, top private education and coaching can cost thousands of rands and if you’re not careful, paying for your children, however smart, to have the best sports equipment or subscribing to super-powered brain teaser games could land you in financial trouble.

A study by Sanlam conducted in 2016 among mothers with children aged between 3 and 15 shows that some parents go so far as to hold down two jobs to put children through private schooling. While this may sound like a solution, it may result in you only worrying about meeting current financial demands and not saving for the future.

And the future, particularly one with a bright child, can be very pricy. According to Sanlam, a BCom degree at one of South Africa’s top universities can cost between R30 000 to R62 500 per year (2016). Assuming an 8% increase on fees per year, a child starting Grade 1 in 2017 will enrol in university in 2029 paying a minimum of R81 600 per year. This excludes residence fees, meals, books and other administration costs.

Reducing the costs of education

While the temptation to get your gifted child “everything of the best” may be great, it’s essential not to put the family under financial stress. First weigh what you can afford and give “the best” out of that. While private schools that promote and uplift gifted pupils can certainly be considered, it’s vital to ensure that you can afford it.

“Private school compared to public school can be a big difference in cost. Government schools can cost anything from R500, as some are subsidised, to R1 000 per month on average but private schools can cost between R6 500 to R9 000 per month which can get quite costly,” points out Floris Slabbert, head of distribution for South Africa at Ecsponent Financial Investment Services.

Sometimes the first choice school may be far away from home. “An alternative to this is to rather look for schools closer to you or move closer to the school to cut the transportation costs,” says John Manyike, head of financial education at Old Mutual.

If you can’t afford private school, consider the next best government school that you can afford. These schools may even be able to help you further if you are struggling financially. “Many government schools offer school fee exemptions to parents who cannot afford to pay their full school fees monthly,” says Manyike.

Cutting back on luxuries

To afford some of the costs that come with having a gifted child, Slabbert recommends cutting back on luxuries. “Cut back on eating out and buying fast food. Internet usage and DStv can be reduced by downgrading to a cheaper package. Spend more quality time with your kids,” he says.

He adds that you can also look at your monthly food costs and apply a simple formula. “Downgrading to a less expensive bread brand can save R8 a day – R8 x 21 working days, let’s exclude weekends for this, gives you close to R200 which can go toward a study policy. It’s something small, but every little bit helps.”

If you do have your heart set on a special toy that can enhance your child’s cognitive skills, for instance, Slabbert says there is no shame in asking others to help with the costs on special days like birthdays and Christmas.

Ultimately, having a gifted child doesn’t mean that you should put yourself under pressure to keep up with the neighbours.

“Dress your children according to what you can afford and don’t open clothing store accounts if you cannot afford to pay the total monthly fee. If you cannot buy it cash, then you shouldn’t buy it at all,” says Manyike.

And if it’s your children putting pressure on you to buy the latest sports gear and tech, just say “no”.

“It is much wiser to teach your children about budgeting, pocket money and financial restraints than to give in to their demands for new things. If there is a pair of takkies they are desperate for, sit down with them and work out a financial plan to save the money. Once the money is saved and the takkies are bought you can be sure your child will have a much higher appreciation for that item,” adds Manyike.

Tips for parents

City Press rounded up some parents of gifted children to find out how they cope with their kid’s educational and sporting needs. Here’s what they had to say: 

NATALIE KUKARD HAS A DAUGHTER AGED 6: Kukard keeps her daughter active. “Luckily we qualify for a 75% discount through Discovery at the gym. I often keep down the costs of my daughter’s art supplies by going on a nature hike and collecting pinecones and sticks etc, to create with.” 

DANYA JORDAAN HAS A SON AGED 7: Jordaan keeps her costs down through homeschooling. “We are currently keeping what would have been public school fees aside and using that for his monthly needs. Some months there are more expenses than others, but by homeschooling we cut down on a lot of it. In the months where we have surplus funds, we stock up on educational toys, etc.” 

NADIA DE WEERDT HAS A DAUGHTER AGED 11 AND A SON AGED 19: “We made a list of things they want or would like to have and a list of absolutely necessary expenses. The first order of business is to decide which [need] trumps all the rest. List the needs in order of importance, and shop around to see what combination would be most cost effective. If it is not in your budget, see where you can trim your budget or find alternative forms of extra income.” 

BECCY STONES HAS THREE CHILDREN AGED 8, 11 AND 14: “I give my children pocket money and require them to use it to buy their equipment. They research costs themselves, which teaches budgeting. Often they choose not to buy, or run out of energy for the project in the research phase, which saves me money.” 

PHILIPA JANE FARLEY HAS TWO CHILDREN AGED 4 AND 5: “In terms of electronics, both of mine have Samsung hand-me-down tablets that work just fine. They share my old laptop. They don’t care that they’re ‘used’. These children would rather have your time and attention than stuff.” 

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