One of the questions I get asked a LOT is how we afford private lessons, activities, camps, training, etc?
I think one of the biggest conceptions people have about having a child that aspires to be an actor is that it’s cheaper than a child who plays sports. I’ve been the soccer, football, horseback riding and tennis mom prior to being a stage mom. Honestly, the arts costs just as much if not more.
With the government cutting funding to arts programs, that cost is extended to parents. Before we moved into private vocal, acting and dance lessons (at multiple places) we did do a free program called Youth Ensemble of Atlanta or YEA. Here is why: 1) Anybody who’s somebody as a person of color in the arts scene in Atlanta has had some sort of affiliation with YEA. 2) It was a good place to figure out if my son was actually any good. 3) We were transitioning out of sports and my pocket needed a break, but my kid needed an activity. What came out of this was we were able to see how passionate our son was and that this was something we need to invest in. After being apart of YEA for a year I began researching other programs and this is when the sticker shock took place.
As we began looking into places, I would call and leave messages and directors would not respond within 24-48 hours. Emails went unanswered. The hours of operation for most places were for evening classes and as homeschoolers, I was looking for daytime activities if possible. I happened upon a Facebook article talking about a new Arts Complex opening near my parents home (about 30 mins from me) and this particular place was owned by the Grammy award-winning artist Speech, from the 90s hit group Arrested Development. I called, left a message and actually didn’t think anything else of it. My call was returned in under an hour, I spoke with Yolanda, Speech’s wife for close to 30 mins and set up a consult. Upon walking into The Victory Spot the atmosphere was immediately calming. There was something “different” about this place. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I have yet to walk into another place of business (outside of a Spa with the same effect). They asked questions, they developed a plan, we agreed to begin two months later (remember I’ve got to get my finances in order) and my son has been there for two years.
Since this time my son has auditioned for multiple shows and been cast. Most of the shows have a production fee upwards to $600.00. He attends week-long summer camp training that carries costs up to $899.00. Most recently he was accepted into a brand new 3 day Broadway training intensive in New York City that will cost $3,000 (just for the training, all other expenses fall on us). So again, the question remains how do we do this?
- Enlist the help of others. I assure you we could not do this without the help of my parents, friends and our massive village. From people opening their doors and letting my daughter and I hang out while my son is in rehearsals for hours, to people feeding us, or sliding gas money or more importantly paying for the private lessons themselves!
- Do your research. Don’t just pick the closest place to home or the cheapest place you can find. When you have a child that understands Gods purpose for them on this earth is to change lives through the arts, this is an investment, not a hubby. Make sure you allow your child the opportunity to grow, and their growth may happen an hour or two away from home.
- Look for scholarship opportunities. Most camps and even some shows have needs-based scholarships. This has been a saving grace for us. As a family where only one parent is working a 9-5, we honestly don’t always have the money needed for our son to do everything he does, but when other people see something special in your child things happen for them!
- Budget: Get another job or reallocate funds. My husband and I discussed how to live this year. As we began to see how things were progressing with our son we knew travel would get expensive. What we didn’t know when we had this conversation was how much we would be traveling. We made a decision to essentially live off one income. I own an online dessert business, Adonai Cookie Shoppe, which is now what we use to fund our travel and fees needed for our son. I also started freelance writing this year. I consult with women in business on how to get their startup off the ground via The Visionary Catalyst. My husband is a photographer outside of his 9-5 and we use all these funds to live our lives.
- Get used to being FRUGAL! I have become an avid fan of Amiyrah over at 4 Hats and Frugal. While we haven’t progressed to the Dave Ramsey Zero-based budget, I did reduce my grocery bill exponentially by joining Amiyrah’s meal prep Instagram Live on Sunday evenings at 9 pm.
- Have “grown-up” conversation with your child. Please don’t be a parent that makes their kid think money grows on trees. Their hobby cannot put your family in the poor house. But investing in their future needs to be a REAL conversation. Your budding star needs to understand the financial cost of their dreams.
- Be present. Okay, being present does not mean you need to be a pest! Don’t become one of those stage parents that attempt to run everything. The people working with your child needs to know who you are but they don’t want you to be overbearing.
- Support your child’s craft. We attend a LOT of shows. We attend shows in theatres my son wants to work in once he graduates college. We are supporting the places that will employ him years from now. By getting to know the people within the industry now we have become apart of the arts community locally. We intentionally go support other actors. This is a very SELFLESS move all parents need to understand. The same way you would take your athlete to see professionals, do the same for your child rising in the entertainment industry. Actors are very generous people. My son has found out about opportunities and auditions ahead of time because of his relationship building skills.
These are just a few things that have worked for our family. Does it mean I have to forgo things like steak and burgers and eat peanut butter and jelly? Of course, it does but when God gives your child purpose, it’s your responsibility as a parent to see it through. I hope this list helps other parents out there. To the other momagers that fully understand life isn’t always glamorous I salute you!