The last time I wrote about financing competitive dance, Piper had just finished her first season. (Read that post first if you are brand new to this!) I meant to write again last year, but money is such a sensitive topic. Every time I put amounts down in black/white – I cringe. Perhaps it’s better that I waited, because a lot has happened between Year 2 and Year 3.
The biggest change for us was a change in studios. Many things led to our decision, but it was the right move for us on a lot of levels. And, now, one year later – oh my stars, we made the right move!
So, money … where are we now, what’s the same and what’s changed. First of all, I still track every penny. With that said, I can accurately account for how things have changed from year to year.
Our grand totals each year:
Year 1: $8,356.27 – 2 dances
Year 2: $13,565.75 – 5 dances
Year 3: $10,641.91 – 8 dances
For ease of comparison, I’ll call the studio we were at for years 1and 2, Studio A. Our studio for year 3 will be Studio B.
TUITION: This is a little different at our Studio B. Tuition covers your weekly technique classes. At Studio A, it covered your weekly technique classes and your mandatory competition dance choreography and cleanings. (So, basically, in year 1- we got classes, plus two dance choreography/cleanings in our $260/month. In year 2 – we got classes, plus three dance choreography/cleanings in our $260month.)
At Studio B, our monthly tuition was $275/month. (That is raising to $300/month this coming year.) Piper took 11 classes each week and our tuition only covered those technique classes.
However, we are also offered the option of paying for the entire year in advance. We get a small discount when we take advantage of the offer. For our family, it’s a huge outpour of funds all at once, but it’s $300/month that we know is already paid. That comes in really handy when Christmas comes around, or an unexpected financial emergency arises.
Total for tuition (Year 2) = $2,717.50
Total for tuition (Year 3) = $2,500
CHOREOGRAPHY/CLEANING: The last time I wrote about this topic, we were only doing our mandatory dances. At Studio A, you paid a choreography fee for any “extra” dance – solo, group, duo/trio, etc. For example, we paid $350 for solo choreography, $134 for trio choreography, and $110 for a tap small group with 5 girls.
At Studio B, we pay a choreography fee for every dance. It’s nice for a few reasons. We are given the cost of each dance – a solo is $450, a duet is $550, small groups are $800, large groups are $1,000. The cost is split between the dancers in each group. For example, Piper could be cast in a group with 4 girls and our cost would be $200 for that number. But she could also be cast in a small group with 9 girls and it would be $88.89.
Given those costs and the odds of what a “worst case scenario” could be, we are able to tell the director how many solos, duo/trios, groups we (1) think our daughter can handle and (2) our wallet can handle.
At Studio A, for the dances that required a choreography fee, it was truly just that – choreography only. From there, you paid a “cleaning fee” every time that dance was cleaned ($35/half hour, $70/hour). This meant that I was constantly running into the studio waving cash … and needed to have odd increments of bills available at all times. It was C-R-A-Z-Y. Especially for someone (me) who HATES carrying cash.
At Studio B, the cleaning fees for all group dances are included in the choreography cost. Thank you, Jesus! (I mean that literally.) It also means that although things are expensive on the front end, once it’s paid – it’s paid.
Total for choreography/cleaning (Year 2) = $280 (one dance)
Total for choreography/cleaning (Year 3) = $680 (six dances)
SOLO/DUETS/TRIOS: This is another area that we hadn’t explored last time. In Year 2, we started with a solo and during spring break added a trio, so those costs might be a bit skewed. For Year 3, we did a solo and trio again.
Both Studio A and B do this the same way. You pay a choreography fee and then you pay for each cleaning separately. I think that’s industry standard.
There are many kids that do multiple solos. For us, financially, we would rather Piper be in more group dances than add another solo. When she’s older and if she still thinks that this is what she wants to REALLY do as a career, we’ll add another solo. But, for now, our choice is one solo and more groups.
Total for solo/cleanings (Year 2) = $1,155
Total for trio/cleanings (Year 2) = $333 (1/2 season)
Total for solo/cleanings (Year 3) = $1,380
Total for trio/cleanings (Year 3) = $478
COSTUMES: I now consider myself a costume expert. We’ve done catalog and custom-made, and semi-homemade (catalog, then alter it to look like something else!). I’ve also learned that a lot of what happens with a costume depends on your studio and what they consider standard.
At Studio A, more was better. And more, and more. I love me some bling, but it was a lot! And many times the additions to the costume cost more than the basic costume.
At Studio B, we have some gorgeous costumes, too. But, there was a bit more of a “Let’s try it like this … if we see it needs more, then we’ll add more. But, let’s not just do it because we can.” And, guess what? Many times, costumes were gorgeous “as is”. It made a difference in the bottom line.
My advice – learn to stone. Order stones wholesale. Both of these things will save you LOADS of money. And, some of the best Dance Mom moments I’ve had have come over a costume and a gross of crystals!
Total for costumes (Year 2) = $835.73 – 6 costumes
Total for costumes (Year 3) = $674.44 – 8 costumes
COMPETITION FEES: Last time, I wrote about how surprised I was when the time came to pay fees for competitions. It was significantly more than I ever imagined. Well, that was with two dances … so imagine how numb I am now!
To be honest, groups aren’t much (in the grand scheme). They run $35-45 on average. Duo/trios will run approximately $60. Solos are about $100.
The upside is that there is prize money. Whoo hooo! This is slightly different for each competition and sometimes depends on the number of entries in a category. It’s also an opportunity for studios to handle this in different ways.
Studio A – solo – the money is applied to your account; duo/trio/groups – the money is split and applied to your account.
Studio B – solo – the money is applied to your account; duo/trio – the money is split and applied to your account; groups – the money goes to the studio.
Total for competitions (Year 2) = $1,262.82 (5 dances)
Total for competitions (Year 3) = $1,601.68 (8 dances)
CONVENTIONS: When I write you this time next year, I will be an expert in this field. Our studio is doing all conventions next year with the exception of one competition. (Even doing a convention nationals!) We did one convention this year and Piper loved it. For me, I love that there are scholarship opportunities and (in our case, at least) the teachers in the sessions are amazing.
Of course, they are more expensive. For Piper’s age, we are looking at $225-260/per convention + competition fees. I’m thinking that it will add about $1,000 to our overall costs. We will have to weigh whether or not we stay in the convention hotel or drive back/forth from home for the local events. Staying in the hotel is another added cost, so we’ll play that one by ear.
ATTIRE: With a change in studio, brought a new change in attire (logo jacket/pants). My best advice for this is “buy with room to grow”. I got two seasons out of Piper’s attire for Studio A, and I will get 2 years and possibly more out of Studio B.
STUFF: I still love “the stuff” … the DVDs, the photos, the shirts, the programs … I’m a sucker. It’s probably worse because I’m such a memory keeper with scrapbooking and Project Life. But, I have learned when to pass it by and when to buy, but more often then not – I’ll buy.
PACKING IT UP: I’m still in love with my Dream Duffel. You might recall from the last post that I had a small duffel. I’ve now graduated to a medium and could probably use a large! The Dream Duffel holds up so well and they’ve come out with so many accessories since my original posting specifically on them. I can’t recommend it enough.
If you are new, my advice would be to buy the basics – the duffel, their hangers (they are worth the money), and their garment bags. Then, after your first competition, order the additional accessories that you wish you had.
TRAVEL: This is always a biggie. Thankfully, we’ve gone to three nationals that are within driving distance for us. Next year, we will be flying. It’s still the single biggest expense of the year, but we’ve had such good experiences – I don’t regret it. If we did a nationals close to home, I’m not sure it would feel like nationals.
We’ve done condos alone, we’ve shared a house with friends, we’ve cooked in and eaten out … there are so many ways to try to make it cheaper, but in the end – you have to do what works for you. There are certainly pros and cons to every scenario. The bottom line is to plan early, budget, and make sure that you have all the information. (A huge key piece is “What day is my first dance?” If you are trying to pinch pennies, you might not want to show up on Saturday if you don’t dance until Thursday.)
No matter where we go or how we slice it, nationals for us is a $3,000 trip every year. And, probably $5,000 next year with flights.
Piper has grown so much – 1,000% since we joined Studio B. She is independent, confident, and has a work ethic that most adults don’t have. She has never once complained about going to class or missing out.
More than anything, we’ve seen a talent blossom in her. And as long as she wants to nurture that talent, then it’s my job to make sure that she can.
Will she dance forever, who knows? I hope so. Right now, she plans on it. But, because this investment goes beyond the dance studio, I’ve gotten my money’s worth if she quit tomorrow.
For our family, this amount doesn’t come easy. There’s a lot of sacrifice, and thankfully, my mom helps out each month. Don and I both work extra jobs … and Don works A LOT of long hours. But, when I see how happy Piper is when she’s dancing and how her face lights up the second her foot steps on the stage – I’d do it a thousand times over. And, a thousand times again.