Along the derail, my solution to that would be either guestimating how long it takes to get 1st dan, (lets say 2 years for math purposes), after the first year I know if I want to continue till then. So I start putting money away, an extra $60 a month, along with the $30 a month for testing until then (assuming test every 2 months to get to black belt). That's $90 that I'm putting away, bringing it to $180 a month, for the second year, and 120 a month the first year. Not sure how long you spend at each 1.x for black belt, so can't add that math in. If the school is worth 120 then 180 a month to me, and I can afford that, I would pay it. But to me, I'm paying for instruction, not a rank. So in general I would rather pay X amount a month for instruction, which I care about, and 0 for a rank, which I don't care about. There's also a chance that I will stop at 1st kyu, and not advance beyond that, rather than pay $700 to say "I am a black belt". I can still refine my technique regardless of the color of the belt around my waist, and by the time I know all the material up to black, I should have enough material to keep me busy for years, if not decades.