Financial Reality Fairs See High Student Engagement at April Events


The Idaho Southwest Chapter of Credit Unions coordinated three Financial Reality Fairs in April to help students learn real-life budgeting skills. After the event, students identified key financial lessons such as the importance of prioritizing purchases and that staying in budget means not always making expensive choices.

Over 500 high school students participated in Financial Reality Fairs in April to learn financial skills that will serve them into adulthood. The fairs are a real-world simulation in which students are given an identity and monthly salary; then they must complete a budgeting exercise where they make spending decisions such as buying a car, selecting insurance, paying rent, buying food, arranging childcare and more, with the goal of staying within their budget. 

The Northwest Credit Union Foundation has partnered with credit unions and chapters to hold the fairs since 2012, and most recently partnered with the Southwest Chapter of Credit Unions in Idaho and USAgencies Credit Union in Portland, to help more students learn the importance of financial education. 

The Southwest Chapter facilitated two fairs at Skyview High School in Nampa, Idaho, and one at Caldwell High School, in Caldwell, Idaho. This was the first time the Southwest Chapter used the Bite of Reality App, which was launched by the Foundation last fall, to administer the fairs. Northwest credit unions have hosted more than 40 fairs using the Bite of Reality App in the 2018 to 2019 school year. 

“The students and teachers were very impressed with the new technology,” said Southwest Chapter Chair and event organizer, Nikie Bauer. “They were excited to get started.” 

More than 300 students participated and about 30 volunteers from local credit unions stepped up to work at the three fairsCapEd Credit Union, Clarity Credit Union, Desert Sage Federal Credit Union, Idaho Central Credit Union, Mountain America Credit Union, ICON Credit Union, Northwest Christian Credit Union, Pioneer Federal Credit Union, and Simplot Employees Credit Union.  

FRF Volunteers

USAgencies Credit Union recently hosted 200 students at its first Financial Reality Fair. The fair was coordinated with the help of 16 volunteers from local credit unions.

By the end, the majority of students made smart money decisionsAccording to Bauer, 85 to 90 percent of the students stayed within budget. The students also identified a few key financial lessons including: children are expensive; the importance of prioritizing purchasesmortgages are expensive; and sometimes staying in budget means you can’t make the expensive choice. 

“Overall, it was a great experience for the credit union employees and students,” said Bauer. “We can’t wait to do it again!” 

USAgencies Credit Union recently hosted its first fair at Portland’s Cleveland High School. Over the course of three sessions, more than 200 students took part. 

“The kids really had a lot of fun, and it truly did seem they were learning the importance of budgeting under realistic circumstances,” said USAgencies Credit Union Training Coordinator and event organizer, Sarah Buck.  

Buck worked with the high school’s Career Coordinator, Emily Hancock, to bring the program to Cleveland students. The program went so well, the school has plans to continue offering the fair. 

Students participating earned one CRLE, a special credit toward a Career Related Learning Experience. Students at Cleveland High School are required to obtain two of these credits prior to graduation. 

Household Booth

Students gather around the household expenses booth, using the Bite of Reality App to make decisions on how they’d spend their money.

The fair was coordinated with the help of 16 volunteers from area credit unions including: Point West Credit Union, Consolidated Community Credit Union, Providence Federal Credit Union, OnPoint Community Credit Union, USAgencies Credit Union, and Cutting Edge Federal Credit Union. 

The majority of students were making good choices and wanted to be within their budget by the end of the program.   

“A lot of the students were shocked by how important budgeting is and how expensive things were in the real world,” said Buck. “They left with a lot more understanding of how much things cost and felt grateful for how much their parents provide them.” 

For more information on Financial Reality Fairs or to request a program kit or grant information that will help facilitate a fair for your credit union or chapter, contact  Kaitlin Ramos.  

Posted in Financial Education.