DEAR AMY: I'm a mom of four children. I've been divorced for three years. It is in my divorce agreement to pay for half of my children's extracurricular activities, and there are a lot of them -- volleyball in particular. My oldest daughter is amazing at volleyball and she plays on a travel team. This costs $4,000 a year, plus expenses for travel tournaments out of state. She will probably be offered a scholarship to play for a private/Catholic high school in the area. I have a live-in boyfriend who makes a little more money than I do, but we are still pretty much living paycheck to paycheck. He does help me pay for my kids' schooling and volleyball, but it definitely brings a lot of tension into the relationship. He has three children of his own that he pays child support for, but they live with their mother out of state. He won't even discuss my oldest going to a private high school because he doesn't want to spend his life "stressing and being broke" because my kid wants to play volleyball. I don't want to tell my daughter she can't play because I believe she is good enough to play at the college level, which is her dream. So how do I calm the financial tension with my boyfriend and still give as much as I can to my kids?
-- Volleyball Mom
DEAR MOM: This is a question of priorities, and while yours are obviously with your daughter's success, there is another way to approach this.
If your daughter is able to go to a high school that offers the best combination of scholastics and extracurricular activities, you should make every effort to send her to that school.
So perhaps she could not do travel team and you could save the more than $4,000 a year, put it toward tuition at a great school (also applying for scholarships), and encourage her to go out for the team at that school.
You are not married to your boyfriend. He has other children. You are financially vulnerable. If he is with your family permanently, you should sit down together, spread all the bills out, and strategize on how to pay them.