By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
CORINTH – Several fifth- and sixth-grade students at Corinth Middle School have a better understanding of how tough it is to stretch a dollar.
For several weeks, the students have been studying family finance in Jennifer LeGoff’s gifted class. They were assigned families, jobs and incomes and required to develop budgets.
Shortly before leaving for Christmas break, the students took a field trip to Kroger, where they simulated shopping for a week’s worth of groceries while staying within their budget.
“There is so much kids aren’t taught about finance, and by the time they start doing these things, they’re already out of school and they’ve picked up bad habits.” LeGoff said.
Boys and girls in the class were matched together for the projects. The income levels they were randomly given ranged from $38,000 to $150,000, with the average being between $60,000 and $80,000.
They had to begin by paying taxes and other expenses like rent and car notes. Some families had special demands, such as braces for their daughter or a car for their teenage son.
“They were really surprised by how fast the money went,” LeGoff said. “They were shocked by insurance and how much it cost.”
During the trip to Kroger, the students were allowed to use part of their shopping budget to buy enough food to feed their family for five days. Meals had to be well-balanced nutritionally.
The kids did not buy the food, but wrote on a list what they would have purchased. They were also able to use coupons and buy generic products to save money.
“We talked about how much you save by doing those things,” LeGoff said.
Many of the students were surprised by the reality of how much goods cost, LeGoff said.
“They thought they needed four cell phones in a family of four,” LeGoff said. “They came back later and said, ‘Oh, I see why my parents told me I couldn’t have that iPhone.’ It got them thinking in a positive direction.
“If we can get to them now before they’re making money and spending it foolishly, maybe we can curb some problems in the future.”
LeGoff said she also used the lesson to teach them about the importance of continuing their education.
“I wanted them to realize they need that college degree so they can make more money and do the things they need to do.”
As part of the unit on finance, certified financial planner Greg Cooley also spoke with the classes about financial responsibility and budgeting.
“He talked to them about the importance of saving and spending wisely,” LeGoff said. “He also spoke about the importance of saving money so you can give back later.
“We wanted to teach them some good habits they could carry forward for the rest of their lives.”
Cooley also told them about simple and compound interest, about the dangers of credit card debt and how if they began saving $35 a week at age 11 or 12, they could have $2.5 million saved by the time they were 50 or 60.
The students will continue studying family finance over the next couple of weeks. They will make a scrapbook about what they learned and will work with their partner to plan a vacation.
“I think that one of the most important things is that now, before they spend money or ask their parents to spend money, they really sit back and think about it,” LeGoff said. “I wanted them to realize the importance of thinking about what you spend.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.