Students get financial lesson at Dollars and Sense event

November 21, 2011

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Area high school seniors learned last week that in the “real world,” sacrifices must be made to make ends meet.

“I get what I need instead of the things that I want,” said Martinsville High School senior Joi Millner.

Millner and other seniors from area high schools attended the Dollars and Sense Reality Fair on Thursday and Friday at the National Guard Armory.

At the fair, each student was given a budget plan to take to various booths to calculate different real-life expenses. Students had to plan as if they were living on a $25,000 gross annual salary as they explored each booth.

The booths consisted of housing; utilities; clothing/furniture; healthy lifestyles, which dealt with the cost of groceries, dining out and health care; credit/savings and retirement; transportation; continuing education/graduate school; Temptation Island, in which students calculated the cost of vacations, haircuts and entertainment; and Making a Difference, which consisted of incorporating donations and church tithes into the budget.

After Millner went around to every booth and calculated her spending for each area versus her income, she had $41.50 left. However, she realized she would have to get a part-time job to balance her budget.

“I learned that you have to spend your money wisely,” Millner said.

Becca Herndon learned that with “a lot of these jobs, you don’t make as much money as you think you would make.”

Herndon, also a Martinsville High School senior, finished up with $193.68 in the bank after paying her expenses.

To have that balance, she “did not buy a car ... I got a bus pass,” she said, adding that the exercise made her realize how expensive things are.

Some students pretended as though they were married. They combined their salaries and planned their budgets accordingly.

Magna Vista High School seniors David Dillard and Cody Lopez decided to get an apartment together to save on rent and utility costs. After their calculations, each saved $375 a month as a result.

To further reduce his costs, Dillard also chose to cut his own hair.

However, he still was $140 in debt because he bought a new television and a new computer, he said.

As Lopez looked over his and Dillard’s budget plans, he realized that when starting out, you can only afford “the bare minimum,” he said.

The United Way, the city and county school systems and other local organizations have hosted the Dollars and Sense Reality Fair for four years. The event is funded through the Lacy Foundation, according to Joanie Davis, community initiatives director at the United Way of Henry County and Martinsville.

The event began to teach high school seniors how to manage their money and prepare them for the future. “It gives them (the students) an opportunity to plan,” Davis said, adding that students get to explore their options for credit counseling as well.

Many times students “don’t think about the extras and end up in debt,” she said. On average after college graduation, young people have $20,000 in student loan debt and $5,000 in credit card debt, according to Davis.

In addition to the event, representatives of the United Way go into area high school classrooms to educate students about how long it takes to pay off credit card debt.

“They (the students) are amazed” at how long it takes, Davis said.

Bassett and Carlisle seniors attended the fair on Thursday, and Magna Vista and Martinsville seniors went on Friday.

The local organizations that helped with the event included various area banks, National Guard, Blue Ridge Regional Library, New College Institute and the Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness.


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