PARMA, MI – After buying a used car and two-bedroom house, fifth grader Rayah Hitt had $200 left in her budget. She decided to donate the surplus to charity.
Parma Elementary School fifth graders spent three weeks learning how to write checks and balance a checkbook.
They also explored different careers and learned about the difference between wants and needs with with Kelly Hatler from CP Credit Union.
The students put their artificial money to use at the City Reality Fair on Monday, Feb. 11. While rotating between booths, students chose how they’d spend their money, including paying for health care, groceries, housing and transportation.
They could decide how much money to spend on eating out, fun activities and travelling.
“I learned saving and spending money is a lot harder than you’d think for parents,” Hitt said. “I didn’t realize how many things you had to do to stay alive.”
Kelly Burnett, a parent volunteer at the fair, worked the “Life Happens” booth, where students were presented with random financial circumstances, such as getting money in a birthday card, or losing a wallet.
“It teaches them that even if you plan everything, life happens and there’s unexpected events,” said Burnett, of Parma. “We are trying to give them a head start on prioritizing your finances to be more successful.”
Alan Fulmerhouser, 11, bought a new truck and expensive clothing at the beginning of the fair. When he eventually wasn’t able to afford necessities, he exchanged the truck for a used one. He finished with $40 left in his budget.
He said the exercise taught him an important lesson: buy things on sale.
“I learned not to buy the expensive stuff and to use your money wisely,” Fulmerhouser said. “I probably should’ve also changed my clothing because I spent a lot on it.”
Burnett said kids will always go for the best new thing, and what other kids have. That’s why it’s important they learn from a young age how expensive everything can be.
“It’s important to teach them from a young age that money doesn’t just grow on trees, and things aren’t just given to you,” she said.
This is the second year of the program. Melissa Fausz, a parent volunteer, said she wishes the program had been around when her son attended the school three years ago.
“They will always remember this. They’re learning a lot here,” said Fausz, of Jackson. “This program teaches what we do every day as adults.”