School, day care costs anything but academic

Dennis Bolen, 32, Assistant Builder

November 09, 2008|By Scott Calvert

When Dennis Bolen was laid off from his home construction job last month, he and his wife, Ann Marie, debated what to do about their 18-month-old daughter, Cadence.

Should they take her out of day care? After all, Bolen now had time to watch her during the day, and the family could save $800 a month.

On the other hand, he has no intention of staying unemployed a second longer than necessary. If they took Cadence out of day care, what if another child got her slot by the time he did find work? Unsure, they left her in day care.

As the Bolens grapple with the unexpected loss of his job, they are trying to do what's right for Cadence and their son, Ryan, 5. And that's not cheap.

"It's almost another mortgage payment just putting them through day care and school," said Dennis Bolen, 32, who was an assistant builder for residential giant Beazer Homes. He worked on Pikesville-area projects, commuting from New Freedom, Pa., just across the state line.

Ryan attends a private kindergarten this year because he missed the age cutoff for public school. His parents badly want Ryan to start first grade in public school next year when he turns 6.

At least the kindergarten costs a lot less than day care: about $3,600 per year, roughly $300 a month.

Still, the Bolens have drastically scaled back. He was making more than $40,000 a year - far above the $25,000 he can expect from temporary unemployment benefits on an annualized basis.

Ann Marie Bolen, 31, sells newspaper advertising for the York Newspaper Co. While her job is going well, her base salary is about half of what his had been, not counting commissions.

On top of school and day care, they have a $2,200-a-month mortgage payment that he said "is going to become a financial burden."

"On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being terrified, right now we're about an 8," he said.

He posted his resume on headhunter sites, but nothing has panned out beyond a couple of interviews. He is also tapping into his network of subcontractors, hoping for jobs here and there.

Meanwhile, they have scrapped cable TV, stopped going out to dinner and started buying bulk meats. Most evenings feature books and family games such as Connect Four, Uno and the Disney version of Trivial Pursuit.

Happily for the family, the cutbacks don't seem to faze the kids. Ryan is learning to read and enjoys reading Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go to his little sister. For her part, Cadence likes flipping the pages.

As for vacation, Dennis Bolen that's now "out the window" - literally: "If they want to pitch a tent and camp out, we can do it in our backyard."

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