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Real-World Budgeting Comes to ID Students

During the financial reality fairs, students are assigned careers and salaries and must balance real-world budgets. (Clarity Credit Union)
During the financial reality fairs, students are assigned careers and salaries and must balance real-world budgets. (Clarity Credit Union)
June 11, 2019

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Northwest credit unions are giving high school students a taste of real-world budgeting. Nearly 1,400 Idaho students attended financial reality fairs sponsored by local credit unions across the state this year, providing young people a crash course in managing money responsibly once they're in charge of their own finances.

The exercise takes place on an app called "Bite of Reality" that randomly assigns students careers, starting salaries and other characteristics such as student debt. At the fairs, volunteers try to sell them on expenses that might be outside their means. Nickie Bauer, branch supervisor with Clarity Credit Union in Meridian, said the students had a lot of enthusiasm at this year's fair.

"They were coming up to the volunteers as we were walking around and they were saying, 'I'm making such good decisions. Look how much money I have in my savings account!' Or, 'I had the choice of going out to eat or staying home and look how much money I saved by staying home!'" Bauer said.

Students get to decide on everything from housing and transportation to clothing and travel and are tasked with balancing out their budget by the end of the fair. Grants from the Northwest Credit Union Foundation made possible 40 events at 21 schools across the Northwest this academic year.

Sharee Adkins, executive director of the Northwest Credit Union Foundation, said a lot of young people walk away from the fair with a greater respect for their parents.

"That really is my favorite thing to hear from students. Not just, 'Oh my gosh, I have to make these decisions!' But, 'Oh my gosh, I really appreciate my parents!’” Adkins said. “That always makes me chuckle to hear that, because they don't necessarily think about the fact that their parents are making those kinds of choices day in and day out as well."

The Bite of Reality app also throws students curveballs, such as the unexpected cost of fixing a car. Adkins said this highlights the importance of thinking ahead and saving for life's unanticipated expenses.

Disclosure: Northwest Credit Union Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Community Issues and Volunteering, Consumer Issues, Housing/Homelessness, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID