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Reality Check! Wait, that costs how much?!

I was so excited to be asked to volunteer this morning at the Chamber of Commerce's "Reality Check!" at Baldwin High School. The purpose of this event was to show high school kids what things actually cost in the real world and how to budget. Wow! It was a MAJOR reality check to 90% of them. I picked the Retail booth (go figure) and a lot of them would walk over first and say, "Ooh, yeah I want the clothes to the left (Gucci, Michael Kors, Armani) and then they would see the cost per outfit and step back and think for a minute.

You see, each person had a full listing of details; marital status, kids or not, degrees, job title, convictions, and salary information. They would start off looking at the fun things, like the beautiful Christian Loubuiton shoes but forget they had a mortgage and utilities to pay. Sometimes I would throw in the wrench that they had two kids to buy clothes for as well as childcare and they would groan and say they would be back. After looking at their finances more closely and paying the essential bills they would slowly change their minds and choose the Target and TJ Maxx brands.

One young lady kept talking about the high heels and then she said, "You dress nice, you know why I want them!" I laughed and said, "Yep, but my outfit is TJ Maxx and Nine West shoes on clearance from Belk!" Once I told her this she thought a little differently and budgeted for the TJ Maxx price tags.

Some of my fellow Jaycee members were with me too. Jesse, Crystal, and Stacy (shown above) had their booths as well. Crystal had basic necessitates from the grocery store and Stacy had the Education booth. I was in between them so we could all be involved with the kids at the same time! When they would see how much groceries cost for a family of 4 they would all cringe a little. I had multiple students look at their balance and then look at their salary when trying to buy clothes so the ones without degrees I would say, "See, this is a good incentive to go to college or a tech school and get a specialization." They would agree most of the time and go see Stacy about furthering their education.

One of the girls came to me, left to pay essential bills and then came back with a different mindset. I heard a friend walk up to her and ask her what's wrong and she simply said, "I don't want to live like this!" I smiled and said, "And honey, you've got a college degree and a good job in this scenario." She moaned and moved on. It's not really funny but at the same time I was glad she could see just how hard it is, even with a good job. These are the things kids need to see before they are really out there working and struggling to make ends meet. I so wish I had seen this slap in the face before I was in my early 20's and realizing for the first thing that I had too much month left and not enough money. I can remember the first time I really worried about money; I had not checked my account and had thought nothing about buying a new pair of shoes. After realizing I was about to go in the red I had full buyers remorse but was already back home and lived 60 miles away from the store I had made the purchase.

As an FYI, I.STILL.HAVE.THOSE.SHOES and vowed I would get every last penny out of them! Haha.

I think one of the absolute best things we can do for our kids and for the younger people around us is talk about finances and ways to better budget. Now that most people use a debit card over checks, the balancing isn't always there nor is it taught. Most student workers that come in my office have never written a check nor do they own checks. I should say I'm used to it but it still blows my mind since I grew up with checks and I would like to think I'm somewhat young still!

If you have kids, talk to them about money. Explain to them when you are in a store what it takes to make that purchase or how many hours worth of pay you just spent on an item. My kiddos are still pretty young (3 and 5) but I still try to explain to them how money works in hopes that as they get older they will be subconscious of how hard we have to work for it. So do yourself and your kids a favor and start showing them ways to manage money, have them earn money by helping around the house, and if they really want something expensive (ipad, cellphone, fancy tennis shoes) tell them they have to earn the money, or pay for half of it by helping around the house, babysitting, or even volunteering a certain amount of hours and then you will buy it!

By showing them how to better budget and also what to expect in the "real world" we are setting them up for a path of success versus struggle. If they know how hard it is to make ends meet without a degree or specialization (at least to fall back on) then hopefully they will work a little harder for good grades and knowledge and what parents don't want to see that! Now go do your happy dance and teach your kids about some finances!

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