Oregon Students Embrace Budgeting Reality at Credit Union ‘Reality Fair’

While legislators struggle to patch together a balanced budget to address healthcare, education and other vital public services, area high school students came to the Oregon State Capitol Wednesday to try their own hand at budgeting for life’s essential needs.

More than 40 credit union volunteers from Oregon and Washington staged the state’s first Reality Fair yesterday in conjunction with Oregon Credit Union Day at the Capitol, giving legislators a chance to watch and learn alongside the Reality Fair participants.

Students at the Reality Fair, which was made possible in part by a grant from the Northwest Credit Union Foundation (NWCUF) were given an occupation with a base salary and then weaved their way through various purchasing stations where they would pay for housing, transportation, food, clothing and other living essentials while keeping within their monthly budgets.

“It was really eye-opening for a lot of the kids,” said Valley Credit Union’s Carolyn Strong, who helped man the technology station at the fair. “The kids really started to get a sense of how difficult in can be to separate what they need from what they want and how they are going to pay for it,” she said.

Chase Gibson and Cody Goldsmith of West Salem High School ran the gauntlet together and got a dose of reality quickly.

“I was $500 over my budget so I had to find a way to cut back on some things,” Gibson said. “Cody and I decided rather than having separate apartments we could room together and each save a few hundred dollars.

“I thought it was real interesting. At first I thought it might be really hard, but my credit counselor really helped a lot.”

Students from Salem’s Sophomore Connections Academy as well as students from West Salem all took part in the exercise designed to bring financial education to life.

“Kids really began to understand that it really isn’t about good choice or bad choices, it was about making practical decisions and they had control of those decisions,” said Suzanne Klenk, a Reality Fair volunteer from Washington State Employees Credit Union.

Jack Peterson of West Salem found he couldn’t afford the 2007 Dodge Ram truck he selected unless he extended his payment from five years to six years. Another classmate decided she had enough left over to purchase a pet but chose to adopt from the Humane Society for $75 rather than opt for a purebred that would have dinged her wallet for $750.

“Kids learn a lot more when they get to see how financial principles work when they get to apply it to real life,” noted Carol Frauendiener, a long-time financial education advocate from MAPS Credit Union.

Students who budgeted well had a little extra cash for a stop at the “entertainment” booth. Blazer games, dining out, a trip to the beach all were on the menu, but the top choice? How about a tattoo for $200?

Well, it’s a good thing mom and dad weren’t around.

 

Questions or comments? Contact Matt Halvorson, Anthem Editor: mhalvorson@nwcua.org.

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