Thrifty Advice for Parents (and Nonparents)

Sather Gate at UC Berkeley

Sather Gate at UC Berkeley. Photo by Huney Kong.

The categorized advice exchanged on the Berkeley Parents Network, a volunteer-run community forum, is available to anyone with Web access, and many tips apply to anyone, anywhere, not just parents in Berkeley.

Having worked on staff at UC Berkeley for six years, I recognize the address as one hosted by UC Berkeley. My guess is that it was started, probably long ago, by graduate students who were also parents, or became parents during their studies.

There are a few things to know about grad students at any university, even the top ones like UC Berkeley:

  • Grad students are required to work hard, either in teaching or research, as well as study hard.
  • Grad students are woefully underpaid. Seriously, their stipends have hovered around minimum wage. And their studies can last up to seven years. So they’re poor for quite a long time.
  • Grad students at UC Berkeley almost always have to relocate, and often bring nothing with them to save on moving costs.
  • Grad students with families usually can’t rely on a spouse’s income to make up for their low pay, because the spouse (1) had to move too, and (2) is often just starting out in a career and/or is waiting for his/her turn for grad school.

So, even though Berkeley Parents Network has evolved to include all parents within commuting distance of Berkeley, there is a definite thrifty tone to the requests and offers for advice. And all of them are categorized and searchable on the Web site.

I’m not a parent, but I have two girl cousins, 9 and 16, that I take on day trips once in a while. I’ve made use of Berkeley Parents Network for inexpensive places to take kids for fun, and for advice on handling occasionally sullen teens. But I’ve also checked it for how to handle an unusual pest problem – which has nothing to do with kids, or with Berkeley.

But if you do live within commuting distance of Berkeley, you can join for free and get email newsletters as well as the ability to post forum messages of your own. Plus, the localized resources, such as dentists and preschools, will work for you.

Whether you’re a parent or not, live near Berkeley or not, Berkeley Parents Network is an extensive, reliable resource.

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