Flying, with kids

The average cost to send a kid to college these days is north of $100,000. That’s “just” a state school with in-state tuition, and living cheap for four years. Even a trade school is going to be a few dozen thousand bucks.

When we had two kids in diapers, we were budgeting $100 per month for things for the kids to poop in.

When our 200k-plus-mile van shelled its compressor, we opted for another family hauler, preferably one that would keep maintenance costs down.

When we were renting but wanted to buy a house, we were pinching every penny to have the scratch for a down payment.

I work 45-50 hours a week, the kids have ballet and sports throughout the week, we go to church on Sunday, and I actually want to hang out with my dear wife from time to time.

In summary, life is busy--and expensive--with kids.

How, exactly, does flying fit into all of this? How can I say to my wife with a straight face that I’m going to spend a couple hundred dollars a month owning a plane that I fly 4 hours a month just for the heck of it, just to go poke around with only one out of four kids at a time?

On the one hand, I can’t. I may be an airline pilot but I am not spendy and still feel like I'm making it but not rich by any stretch. My kids are community college and state-school-bound. I will keep buying used Honda Odysseys. I am generally an adherent to Dave Ramsey and the FIRE movement. On so many levels, flying is a rich man’s game, and I’m not a rich man. It’s expensive to get a pilot's license, and expensive to keep an active flying hobby. More expensive even than golf, I’d reckon.

On the other hand, I can’t not fit this into my life. I made an investment in my early twenties: I paid for my private ticket, my instrument training, and commercial time building, and my college to boot, and that investment in part got me into the Air Force, which has only further enhanced my flying life. My investment is fully vested and paying dividends and it would be a total waste not to share that joy, that benefit, that privilege.

Financial advisors say that they can tell where your life’s priorities are with just a quick glance at your finances. For some it’s cars, for others it’s travel, still others food. If I’m honest, for many years it was not aviation for me. For all the aforementioned reasons I hadn’t flown a non-military plane in ages. But my kids are old enough to enjoy (and remember) flying with Dad, and I am determined to prioritize that in my finances, and my life. And I'd be lying if I didn't look at their modest college savings accounts and think of what kind down payment that would make on a really nice airplane.


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