“We must consult our means rather than our wishes.”
― George Washington
Raise your hand if you know what is a budget. Raise your hand if you have a budget. Raise your hand if you have never made a budget in your life.
Today’s Sweet Cicily lesson is on “budgets”. We are going to learn it, live it and love it. Over the past week, I have introduced the topic of budgets to the students in my high school classroom. As we were watching CNN Student News, we listened to reports, that our nation’s government may potentially shut down, due to budgetary restraints.
Questions ensued from the students, confused how this could be a possibility.
“Does the government have a budget?”
“Can the government really shut down?”
“How will people get paid?”
“Will the military close?”
“What happened to all our money?”
I especially appreciated the last question, because I have asked myself that so many times. What happened to all my money? Have you ever asked yourself the same question?
As the teacher of a students with special needs, connecting curriculum to the real world is critical for my students to be successful as they transition into adulthood. Instead of learning algorithms and writing college entry essays, the students in my program are studying functional language art and math skills (a.k.a real world stuff).
I absolutely LOVE my profession as a special needs Life Skills teacher. It would be a lie, if I were to say I would love to teach Algebra. I hated it when I was in high school, my sentiments still have not changed. However, teaching math my students will use for the rest of their lives, gets me fired up.
Lessons on money, personal finance, shopping, budgets, etc. is TOTALLY fun. Getting students excited to learn about the real world is my bread and butter. Empowering my students with the skills, necessary to live as independent and contributing member of his/her community, brings me a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction. I know I am making a difference in the lives of some very special people.
Back to my budget lessons with my students. We discussed how our government has it’s own budget to run, much like a household. When the government doesn’t have enough money, cuts have to be made to trim the budget. Furthermore, when people don’t have enough money, they have to make personal cuts in their own spending.
Light bulbs in their heads were going off. Our class agreed on two things: 1) a budget is the money that is coming in and the money that is going out and 2) a budget is managing your money.
We discuss the reality of not paying your bills. My students understand, the Sprint bill has to be paid, otherwise your service is disabled. When you don’t pay your electric bill, the lights are turned off. Credit card companies don’t give you free money, you owe them their loan plus interest. Behind on your car payments, the repossession man will drive away with your ride. While my students are in my classroom, I will EMPOWER my students with the power of personal finance.
It blows their mind sometimes that I will actually show them my own budget. As a class, we will break it down into categories for income, fixed expenses, flexible expenses, savings, insurance, etc. Everything from rent to gas money. Wait till we get to state and federal taxes. We get as real as it gets.
Let me remind you, my classroom is a setting for students who have profound to moderate cognitive disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Each earn a certificate of completion instead of a high school diploma. Everyone benefits from learning about personal finance. Even more so, individuals with specials needs, should be equipped and empowered by their choices involving money management.
According to Aristotle, “Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient.” It is my goal to guide my students in this direction. I wished I had learned these lessons when I was their age. Not until after I became a single parent, that I learned to reign in my spending and manage my finances.
I will never forget the first time I showed my students a spreadsheet of my personal finance budget. Jaws were dropping. “Miss, why are you showing this?! It is a secret! I cannot believe you are showing us this.” After the initial shock wore off, I simply explained that money shouldn’t be a dirty secret, budget is not a scary word, learning about money can be fun and I am more than happy to share my real life example of a working budget.
Unfortunately, no one ever helped me understand the importance of managing your money. As a child, I recall my father sitting at our kitchen table, writing out checks and doing the bills. At the time, I had no idea what paying the bills meant. We didn’t ask, so no one told us. We just didn’t bother daddy.
No one sat me down and talked to me about maintaining a bank account, responsible credit card use, developing a budget, living within my means, saving my money, etc. It is no wonder, during college and during my divorce, I found myself in credit card debt. Consulting Discover, Visa and Mastercard with my wishes instead of my means.
I have been credit card free nearly five years! I live off CASH. Sometimes it is really tight, BUT all my bills are paid. I drive a beater car that drives great and is owned outright. I stopped keeping up with the Joneses. I taught myself how to create a budget. I can practice financial restraint, as opposed to shopping sprees of yesteryear. I am a work in progress. Life would have been much easier, had I learned these skills earlier in my life.
Why isn’t there a mandatory personal finance math course in order to graduate from high school? Let me tell you something, I don’t remember JACK SQUAT from geometry. I don’t graph equations on a daily basis, I do deal with money every single day of my life.
Maybe parents assume this is being taught in the school systems. Maybe the schools are assuming the parents are teaching this lesson in the home environment. What if neither is taking place? We are sending our children into the world unprepared, crossing our fingers they will figure it out on their own.
Don’t be surprised if your college kid finds themselves getting into credit card trouble, if you never explain how credit cards work.
Even though my son is 6 years old, he already understands we have a budget. It is never too early or too late to learn about money. It is still a learning process for me.
Here is the stark reality, very few people teach money management in the school systems. Time is spent preparing students for standardized testing. Don’t leave it up to the schools to educate your sons and daughter about money. Have the talk. Empower your loved ones with this valuable lesson. Maybe the loved one might be yourself.