I’ll be honest, and please don’t think I’m a total party pooper for saying this; I get kinda annoyed with kids in graduation caps and gowns. If a child/kid/teen is not receiving either a high school or college/university level diploma, it bugs me to see he or she in a cap and gown.

Okay, I can dig a preschool or kindergarten cap and gown. Of course, it’s super cute, and the picture I have of my son in his with friends after his pre-k completion is one of my faves. I’ll love comparing that little-guy pic, standing arm in arm with a couple of his buddies, to the same pose at age 18. But after that 5 or 6-year-old photo op is had, I say put the garb away.

The reason I don’t want to see a cap and gown until high school isn’t that I don’t think it’s adorable. It’s because I think it’s a big deal. Getting your high school diploma or graduating with a degree is a big deal, and I want to keep that special. For me, part of that specialness is getting to put on a cap and gown. So, it bugs me when we get our kids all dressed up every few years in something that’s supposed to signal a major, once or twice-in-a-lifetime (for most people) accomplishment.

Finishing kindergarten is great. Finishing elementary school is great. Finishing (surviving) middle school is great. But putting that on par with the culmination of a dozen years of education, or the financial and academic commitment made through college, is just another ‘participation award’ in my eyes. I want my kiddos to know the bar is set higher. I expect them to get a high school diploma, and a degree or training afterward that will cultivate a marketable skill. When that happens, we’ll put on the cap and gown, and have special pictures taken. Until then, let’s go out for dinner (your choice!) and pick a fancy dessert.

ALRIGHT, I’m not a total Scrooge McDuck, I swear. I can enjoy the kindergarten cuties in my newsfeed. It’s the perfect time to remind ourselves that these beautiful babes will be in the real deal before we know it. Just 12 years left with our loves before they really do walk across that stage…which also means – yikes! – just 10 years before they get behind the wheel and drive. Dang. In an effort to avoid an emotional mommy breakdown, let’s use this influx of mini academics in our lives to do some money planning and figure out what kind of costs we’ll need to be prepared for when our kindergarten graduates trade in two wheels, for four.

I’ve been surprised to find several places where people have really hashed out the numbers. The folks at driving-tests.org have what is the most complete (in my opinion) accounting of the cost from the vehicle purchase (even tax, title, and licensing) to maintenance, fuel, and of course the biggie we’re all bracing for; auto insurance.

Driving-tests.org puts the current-day cost of insurance for an average teen driver at about $200 a month. Which is a good chunk of the total $580 a month they estimate it would cost the average teen to buy and maintain a new vehicle. They tighten up that number to just (“just”) $244 a month for a teen who borrows a parent’s vehicle. Take a good look at their complete breakdown and calculations here.

While these numbers are great as current-day estimates, we are (of course), trying to plan for ten years in the future, when nothing is expected to be cheaper. Forbes magazine has a good guideline number when it comes to guesstimating the insurance cost of a teen driver. In a 2014 article, Forbes says parents can plan for a 92% increase in your auto insurance bill when covering a 16-year-old male driver to your plan. Adding a daughter of the same age is estimated to only increase your auto insurance bill by 67% (yay?).

Now that we’ve laid our eyes on some of the big numbers we need to prepare for, there is a lot of advice out there on how to keep your teen driver insurance costs down. The Chicago Tribune shares some tips that go from the usual good grades discount (yes, that’s really a thing), to what you should look for in a vehicle that will also save you money on coverage. U.S. News and World Report has some advice on sending your kid to college without a car, and how to keep one just close enough to save on insurance and still have a way for them to get around when they’re home from school. And for those of us still a little freaked at the thought of our not-so-long-ago-toddlers operating a major piece of machinery on congested highways and roads, Bankrate.com does a nice job of reminding us not all teens are ready for a car at 16, and it’s okay to be the lame parents who get your kid a bus pass until they’re mature enough to drive solo, not to mention chip in for some (or all) of the cost.

It’s no surprise to any of us that this teen driver thing isn’t cheap. But with help from sites like Britebee, shopping around for the most competitive rates will be easy. In the meantime, what may be a surprise is how much insurance money I can save up if I throw a couple bucks in a jar every time I scroll past another kiddo in a cap and gown.  


ABOUT MARI COCKERELL

“I’m Mari Cockerell, and I’ve been working in broadcast news across Texas for the past 16 years. I’m mom to two kiddos; a 6 year old son and 2 year old daughter. I start my day pretty early as a local morning news anchor, and my husband is just about finished up with an art and graphic design degree at Hardin-Simmons University. I’ve also worked a little bit in financial advising, real estate, and education. We love being a part of our West Texas community while raising our family and having as much fun as possible along the way!”