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Published: Wednesday, 10/4/2006

Maumee High School class teaches students value of frugality

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The thought of one of her students paying $90 a month for a cell phone bill sickens Maumee High School teacher Jennifer Bayer.

"They feel like they can't live without it," she said. "Sometimes they're paying all this money just for overage charges. It's sad to me."

Ms. Bayer uses her Independent Living classes, offered to juniors and seniors, to do more than try to get the students to keep their cell-phone bills under control.

She wants them to get a handle on their finances, period.

Ms. Bayer said money management has always been a part of the curriculum in her 26 years at Maumee, but she has spiced up her class the last three years by forming a partnership with local professionals through the National Endowment for Financial Education.

This year, businessmen from Wilcox Financial, Fifth-Third Bank, Munn Wealth Management, and Bolanis Financial Planning Group have been invited throughout the trimester to come to the classroom to give lessons on personal budgets, salary, credit, and investments.

"When a teacher tells something over and over, it doesn't mean as much as adults who are living it come in and support what the teacher is saying," Ms. Bayer said. "They come in and verify how important it is to starting taking care of money now."

Ms. Bayer's students are made to do more than just listen to the value of a buck. They have to live what is being preached to them. Each student is asked to manage at least $10 a week by saving half and budgeting the rest. Parents of the students who don't have part-time jobs signed agreements to provide their children with at least that much cash.

The students had to identify on paper bad habits they have with their money, whether eating too much fast food or spending a fortune on cell phones.

They also have to fill out sheets stating how much money they started with, how much they saved each week, and what goals they are trying to achieve with their money.

To ensure that students are following the program, parents must sign their child's finance sheet every month.

"Showing my parents is probably the toughest part," said Kelsey Kuszek, a 17-year-old senior.

"They crack down on you, and [Ms. Bayer] makes them do it. It's good, though, because it helps you prepare for living on your own," she said.

Kelsey has a part-time job as a baker at Cookie Lady in Maumee, making between $100 and $150 a week.

She said she had $944 to her name when Ms. Bayer's project began and hopes to have $1,500 when the class ends in November.

To get there, Kelsey said she has begun saving on gas by watching the miles she puts on her car and keeping her wallet closed at the mall.

Eric Ealy, another 17-year-old senior, said his goal was to save $180 for homecoming, which falls at Maumee High School this weekend. By last week, he had saved $140 and thought he would reach his goal.

"My budget plan stunk when I started this class," Eric said. "I would buy another new pair of shoes when what I needed was school supplies. Now I see people with new shoes and I get [mad] because I could've bought those, but I know what I'm doing now is smarter."



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