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All's Well That Ends Well


Time for a new beginning.

After a nearly two-year run, it's time to bring the curtain down on Oh, Mother! I figure I've shared more than any of you ever need to know about me, my family, and my finances!

Is that a collective cheer I hear out there? I'll still be writing, just not so much about my daughter or me.

As the year winds down and we head into the holidays, I have one final story line to wrap up -- the one about getting out of my daughter's private school tuition contract. (See How to Break a School Contract)

I still paid two-thirds of the annual tuition for five weeks of my daughter's attendance, but was absolved of the final four payments in the year-long commitment. This saved me $4,400 and change. The school in question enrolled a new high school student in mid-November, which more than offset the tuition I had already paid.

The school actually winds up ahead of the curve from a financial standpoint. I feel good about keeping the relationship a civil one. In a small town, everyone's path crosses one day or another.

I took the recommendation of a reader during the negotiation period and reached out to someone I know on the board of trustees to explain the situation and to request a formal hearing. By doing this I got insight to the director's thinking, which was that she wanted to let me off the hook, just so long as the school's fiduciary interests were protected.

I also learned more about private school tuition policies. For instance, at another school in town, withdrawal for a medical reason, loss of job, or move outside the district before the commencement of the school year are all considered legitimate grounds for canceling the contract.

(An active case now in the New York State Supreme Court might also establish new precedent in the matter. A preliminary ruling suggested that a private school would have to prove it incurred damages from the lost tuition).

With that behind us, in the spirit of Julie Andrews, if you're still grasping for gift ideas let me share a few recommendations from my favorite things:

See the Broadway show Billy Elliot. It's funny, inspiring and has an economic underpinning as well. What Anglophile could forget Maggie Thatcher?

Need a book pick? The Little Prince is a timeless classic that works for kids of all ages.

Or support my old colleague and friend Alan Brigish's project Breathing in the Buddha. It's a gorgeous book and you'll be supporting a good cause.

Another good choice for photography lovers is The Photography Project, sales of which will help pay back the medical bills owed by my friend Amy Hawthorne, whose husband Paul died this time last year of a rare disease, amyloidosis. Paul was an excellent celebrity red-carpet photographer and an even better man. Amy is an inspiration to all.

This one's for all the Jersey Girls out there. Merry Christmas! May the joy and true meaning of the season bring you peace.
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