Missing annual holidays to the Gold Coast was a sacrifice worth making for Chris Southerwood to send her children to more expensive schools.
She chose state integrated Hutt International Boys' School for Olly, 16, because of its strong sporting and academic reputation, and wanted Lily, 13, to attend all-girls integrated school St Oran's College.
Her youngest son, 10-year-old Joe, is currently at local state primary Plimmerton School, but will probably join his brother at HIBS.
She said sacrifices had to be made by mechanic husband Brent Smythe and her to keep their children in the type of education they have chosen.
"Every year we sit down and say, ‘Can we do this for another year?' My husband was in a better-paying job when we decided to go private. Our financial situation is a bit different now. It's now quite challenging for us."
Overseas holidays were one such sacrifice the family needed to make.
Olly's HIBS fees are $1750 a term, which includes school trips but not uniform.
Lily's St Oran's fees are about $1000 a term, and the family also pays about $5000 a year for her 10 weekly dance lessons, exams and ballet shoes. She is still wearing her year 7 uniform so the family has avoided that expense for three years.
Stationery for the older two was $300 this year, and each term it costs them $320 to take the schoolbus from Porirua to the Hutt Valley.
Joe, on the other hand, incurs much lower fees: a voluntary $140 a year, plus $40 for stationery. He is a budding squash player, however, and takes a $40 private lesson each week, and travels extensively for tournaments.
Lily, 13, said most of her friends went to state school Tawa College, but she did not regret her move to St Oran's - even if she missed out on exciting holidays.
"It's just girls so I don't worry about much being there, boy issues. I would like to go to the Gold Coast but I think the education will pay off in the long run."
- The Dominion Post