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Friday, February 13, 2009

The Real-World Cost of Getting a GED: About $1000

The Real-World Cost of Getting a GED:  About $1000Everyone has probably heard that people who don't graduate from high school don't make as much money over the course of their work life as those who did finish school. I knew that, I was aware of what I was giving up, and I quit school anyway. I was young, and infatuated with someone, and in the haze of what I thought was "true love" school seemed inconsequential. I never officially withdrew from school, I just decided one day that I wasn't going back. I figured that it didn't really make any difference, but as it turns out, quitting school cost me in more ways than I could have conceived.

The person I was dating never encouraged me to go back to school, and I was just along for the ride. I ended up getting a few dead-end jobs, first as an assistant at a dog grooming salon, then as an attendant at a car wash, then as a waitress at a Waffle House. All of these jobs brought in money, true enough, but none brought in enough to even pay half of the bills. I felt cheated and unfulfilled.

Then, I learned that I was expecting a baby. I was 21, and work immediately took a back seat to making sure I had a happy, healthy baby. My fiance (now my husband) and I discussed it at length, and we decided that I would stay home and take care of the baby and the household. It would have been cost-prohibitive for me to return to work at that point, because child-care expenses, fuel, and other costs would have consumed my entire paycheck.

When my oldest entered school, I took stock of my life. I decided that when my other daughter was old enough to start school, that I would go back to work. First, I needed a high-school diploma. I looked into GED classes at the high school in my town, and I was told that the prep course would cost $100, and to take the exam for my GED would cost $50. I signed up, and started classes the next Monday.

Studying for my GED wasn't without its costs after the initial investment. I had to pay for gas to get back and forth between home and the school, and my husband and I also had to pay for a babysitter five evenings a week. If he had been able to take care of them, that would have saved us a lot of money, but his job was dependent on him working evenings and it wasn't possible for him to take the kids along. All in all, we probably spent $1000 so I could get my GED.

  • Child care cost us $30 per day, five days a week.

  • I spent an average of $10 per day on gas.

  • The GED prep course cost $100.

  • The exam (which thankfully I passed on my first try) set us back $50.

For me, quitting high school was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. When I think back to what else my family could have had with that $1000, I think that:

  • We could have taken a family vacation to the Florida Keys. I've been there before and I'd love to return.

  • I would have had the money to have some work done on my car. If I would have put that money into my vehicle, it would probably be fully restored by now.

  • My girls would have been able to go to summer camp, which they have wanted to do for about two years.

  • We'd have a big-screen TV and home theater system instead of the 17" and the bookshelf stereo that we have now.

  • My husband and I would have been able to afford to have a getaway for two, maybe a couple of days in the Bahamas.

  • I'd be able to buy my daughters more things that they want. Sometimes I feel badly because I can't buy them more toys and clothes like the other girls at school.

So, by impulsively quitting high school, I set myself way back. I'm just now getting to where I should have been, career-wise, ten years ago. I'm hoping to land a regular job, but that's tough these days. Meanwhile, I'm doing some freelance writing from home in order to bring in a little extra cash.

If I had it to do all over again, I would have finished school and then taken some college courses, maybe in graphic design or fitness and nutrition. If I can finance it somehow, I may still take some classes. The moral of my story is: Don't quit school, or it will cost you money far into the future.

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