I spent the morning at Upper Cape Technical High School as a volunteer for the Credit for Life program sponsored by the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank. This is my 4th time doing this and each time I come away very impressed with the character of the students who participate. The program sets a goal of showing soon-to-be college students that will be entering the workaday world, the reality of costs related to living on one’s own. Each student states what he/she plan to do for a career. With that, they are given an approximate monthly income and must figure out a budget as to how they will make ends meet. The students visit a number of stations including housing, insurance, transportation, clothing, utilities, furniture, luxury purchases, etc. and they make choices as to how they will spend their income without exceeding what is coming in. At each station volunteers point out the pluses and minuses of their choices. It is pointed out how too much credit debt can bring a myriad of problems. There were credit counselors supplied by the bank that took each student’s credit expenditure and multiplied it by an interest rate to show what they would owe the lender each month. A number of students realized they had to cut back on some things to make payments on what they had previously figured they could afford.
In my case, I was a volunteer in what was called the “Luxury” option. My job was to have the students select an appropriate communications device that will further their job and personal requirements. (actually, I didn’t think that was really an option and more a necessity in this day’s world,) but they could choose a basic Iphone plan or one with a lot of bells and whistles. Also they had to consider how much each month for personal grooming – haircuts, shampoos, pedicures, etc. (A number of students were in the cosmetology field and they said they would room together and do each other’s hair to save money!! I had to laugh at that.) We still made them budget a minimum amount for grooming. What would they spend for entertainment made them think. And finally, would they have enough left over to think about a vacation. Often, by the time the students got to me, and after they had figured how to pay for necessities, they realized that the real cost of living on their own precluded the option of a high-priced vacation. Most ended up choosing a low-cost Netflix package that would let them stay home at night and watch a movie.
It was a really good reality check for these students to realize that making the right choices will be the key to guarantee that they won’t be back living with Mom and Dad sometime in the near future.