|Gary Foreman is a former Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who currently writes
about family finances and edits
The Dollar Stretcher website
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I just read your article about the rent to own question. Your
examples are easy ones. What about the difficult ones - namely
school band instruments? I read somewhere that the rule of thumb is
if they are going to play the instrument for more than 2 years it's
cheaper to buy. If they play it for less than 2 years it's cheaper
to rent. My husband got stuck with a saxophone and a drum kit. We
sold them so we got a little money back. But not what he paid. Our
daughter never stuck with one instrument longer than 2 years, but
every year we were renting something for her. I returned each
instrument when she switched to another. Our son, on the other hand,
played the trumpet 2 years. So I purchased a trumpet. Then he played
for 2 more years and quit! I'd appreciate your thoughts on this,
even though it seems like a no-win situation. Thanks,
A lot of us share Mary's experience.
We have a child who wants to try band or orchestra. And, like good
parents, we encourage them. But, we all have the same problem. No
one can see into the future. And that means that there's a good
chance that you'll end up with an old clarinet in your closet!
Mary's estimate of two years on band
instruments is about right. Most instruments will cost between 15
and 30 times as much to buy as they will to rent monthly. So the
simplest way of looking at it is to divide the purchase price by the
monthly rental to figure out how many months Junior will need to
stay with the program.
Will he be interested that long? All
you can do is to take your best guess based on other similar
circumstances. Some children are naturally more persistent than
One thing to consider is why he wants
to try this instrument. If his motivation disappears Junior will
probably take the earliest opportunity to quit. For instance if his
best friend quits don't be surprised when he follows.
A better solution might be to compare
renting to buying a used instrument or borrowing. You're not the
first parent to face this question. And some of those parents would
be glad to recapture the closet space currently occupied by a snare
If you have enough time you might
want to run a 'wanted to buy' ad. The school paper would be an
excellent place to find a seller.
Look for other ways to avoid buying
new. It would be fairly easy for the band teacher or a parent in the
class to make a list of parents who will want to sell their
instrument when the class is over. That list could be circulated at
the beginning of the next school year to parents of band students.
I'd suggest that any parent give
serious consideration to renting. The fact is that not too many
students will stay with an instrument for more than one year. Many
kids start in the early grades. But very few students are involved
with band or orchestra as they approach graduation.
And even a student who plays for more
than two years can outgrow an instrument. Violins are one example.
Student violins are available in special smaller sizes. Your budding
virtuoso might get too big for the smaller instrument you purchased.
So unless you're pretty sure that
your student will be able to use the exact same instrument for more
than a couple of years it's probably best to either buy used or
One final note. The average house in
the U.S. has grown from 1100 square feet in the 1950's to 2000
square feet in the 90's. Part of the reason for bigger homes is
storage for all the things that we're accumulating.
So follow Mary's example if you buy.
When Junior finally lays his horn down for good sell it. Not only
will you make a little more space in your closet, but you'll also
help another family find a good deal on an instrument.