5 Times When 'Second Best' for Your Kids Might Be Best for Your Family

Too many times life teaches us that second best is not good enough. The loser of the Super Bowl, for instance, doesn't run around boasting, 'We're number two!' Whether they're pressured from outside sources or by their own expectations, many parents simply want 'the best' for their children. But aren't there times when second best is the more logical and financially sound choice? We've listed below five times when taking the second choice could wind up being a winner.

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second choices school alternatives

1. Schools

Of course we all want the best education for our children. But is the private school with the $3,000-per-month tuition a viable option? Likely not so for the average working parents. Or what about preschool? Is the most expensive one really offering more than the one that's a bit more affordable?

If you live in an area that allows you to choose a school for your child outside your particular zone, visit a few schools and compare the curriculum, teachers, etc. If they seem pretty close, why choose the best one on the other side of town that's going to cost you more in gas and time to transport your child there? Weigh whether the time and money lost is worth any small advantage your child may receive.

2. Extracurricular Activities

As long as they're fun, do extracurricular activities have to be top shelf? An example: Your town is offering a top-notch T-ball (or basketball, or football, or cheerleading) program that's fairly expensive and requires two nights of practice plus two games per week. The local YMCA has similar but less renowned programs at half the price, with a looser schedule than the town program. For less money and more quality time at home instead of running out four nights per week, the Y could be the way to go.

3. Cell Phone Plans

It's probably a safe bet that most middle- and high-school students have cell phones. But do these phones need the 'best' plans? You can save money by limiting talk time, texting and other features such as Internet access or downloadable content. Sure, the 'second best' plan might be a bit more restrictive, but cell phone use is something you'll probably want to monitor anyway. Going second best on cell phone plans can wind up being a win-win situation.

4. Summer Vacations

Sure, almost every kid in America would love to spend a summer vacation at Disney World or a timeshare in the Caribbean. But you can have fun at a fraction of the cost by visiting local attractions. Maybe going camping at a nearby resort or taking some trips to the community swimming pool can be easier on the wallet and reward you with other dividends: a more relaxed vacation and possibly more quality time spent with the family.

5. College

Showing your child when they're younger that there's really nothing wrong with 'second best' can perhaps prepare them for a time when they will have no choice but to settle for their second choice: college. Sometimes they simply don't get accepted by their first choice (or necessarily their second, or even their third).

But if they do, it can come down to choices like the large, more expensive university with room and board in another state versus the smaller local college that allows them to live at home and commute to classes. In some cases, depending on the academic program, a smaller school can wind up being the better choice. And there are millions of successful people across the country who did not graduate from Harvard or Yale!

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