The dreaded topic of money is usually the item that so many clients and their parents bring up first. It is an investment to have professional senior portraits done, and often, it can be tight for families who live paycheck to paycheck, or who want to provide their senior the best experience at an affordable price. As parent of a graduate, I know the many places your pocketbooks are being pulled: college expenses, textbooks, car maintenance, and graduation parties/expenses. I wanted to share some creative ways to budget today, so it might encourage and help clients who are considering a senior shoot (and wondering how to pay for one). We are just one of many professional senior portraits services here in Texas, and our signature selling point is that we understand our clients. I hope these tips can help you!
Divide out your needed amount way back at the start of junior year: If you are a parent of a junior who is reading this, nope, it's not too early! In fact, many parents start searching for a senior photographer as early as sophomore or junior year, and it's never too early to begin saving. After you've found a photographer you love, try to get a ballpark figure (ask your photographer for their session fee and their average investment costs, and take into account that many photographers raise their prices each year). Divide that amount by the number of months before the time when your session would take place (don't forget to ask what payments are due when). Make this number your monthly savings goal and set it aside. When your session rolls around, you may not have the exact amount yet, but you should be close, and it will alleviate the major crunch of paying for it all at once.
Get creative with raising money: Saving things as little as pop cans, or putting change in a jar can really add up. Although these things are not fast ways to earn money, every little bit helps. Larger ways to raise money such as yard sales are also a great idea. You can buddy up with a friend to earn money simultaneously, and have a "multi family" yard sale. Shoppers are more likely to come to larger sales, so if you can find a friend and split your profits, it can work out great for everyone.
Go through your closet and take clothes to a consignment shop: Most of us have tons of clothes and shoes we don't wear anymore. Taking them to a good consignment store or selling them online can be a wonderful way to earn money for your senior wardrobe or your session fee. Plato's Closet or similar consignment shops can be perfect, although your take might be small. Try EBay or Poshmark for higher-end items (like LuluLemon or Anthropologie) to get a little more bang for your buck...some nicer brands go for close to retail prices if they are in great shape. Be sure to wash, iron, and remove any pet hair from your clothes to increase your chances of selling them for a good price.
Request contributions to your "photo fund" for birthdays/holidays. If you have eager grandparents or family members who enjoy giving gifts for holidays and birthdays, encourage them to put money towards your senior session instead. This way, they can be a part of your special journey, and give something much more meaningful than a trinket or memento. Be sure to send a sincere thank-you...and plenty of prints when they are done!
Turn in books or DVD's on Amazon or a local book store: Amazon has a buyback program for some books and dvd's that are in great shape. This solution can help you clear out clutter and raise a little money in the meantime. They typically accept books and media in great shape, and will give you a few dollars per item, based on demand. It won't make a big difference to your fund, but could also be put towards clothing or college needs.
Make a spreadsheet to track expenses and income for the senior shoot. This will help you keep your eye on the goal, and prevent unnecessary spending. If you can see progress, you are more likely to stick with your savings plan. You can also enter in extra money that you earn to get to your goal faster. If you are wondering how to find any extra money in the first place, begin tracking your regular expenses (parents and seniors can benefit from this), and see where you may be overspending. That daily latte or dry cleaning or Target run might be sucking up more money than you realized!
Let me know if you have questions or concerns about paying for your senior session, and I will gladly help direct you to resources or ideas.