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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Teenagers and Money, Frugal This, Frugal That

Many of the bloggers I read have a sense of impending doom, as they wait to hear about the future of their employment. Given the economic situation, I sometimes feel that my frugal thoughts are awfully trivial. Here are a few of them.

Teenagers and Money: This is a topic that recurs. How does one teach teenagers about money? In truth, we teach them by our actions.

Example: my daughter's friend Sadie, whose parents lost their house two summers ago. They had been living in a small house in the country for 15 years. According to them, they got a notice saying they had to be out at the end of the month. So they left, and moved into a trailer on the farm of their employer. Only a few months later did I realize that these were probably the first people I knew (albeit tangentially) who had lost their house because of a sub-prime loan.

Sadie is a senior in high school. She works in a salon doing shampoos a few days a week. She takes home around $150 a week! Bossy me (an occupational hazard), I asked if she had a savings account. No. I asked if she saved any money. No. She explained that she had "expenses," which turned out to be pet food, meals out, and clothing (she has no car and lives with her parents). I launched into a lecture (an occupational hazard) about the importance of saving.

Next time I saw her, I repeated my questions (an occupational hazard). She said that while she still did not have a savings account, she keeps $80.00 in her room at all times for an emergency. This teen runs through $7000.00 plus a year! She's been working for two years and has $80.00.

Then I realized that her parents probably had out-earned Mr. DFS and me. We were in school till we were 30. We became teachers, not the most lucrative profession. These people did not go to college and began working at 18, buying a house then and starting a family.

Am I being too judgmental? Should I continue to ask questions and make suggestions?

Frugal This, Frugal That: Today, Mr. DFS and I, along with the rest of our department, had a free food opportunity, a catered lunch provided by a textbook publisher. We have 2 or 3 of these every couple of years. I'm not sure of the ethics here, but the food was delicious! We had seafood chowder and a waldorf salad (chicken, apples, and pecans), followed by king cake. If you're not from Louisiana, you probably don't know about this cake. It is cake topped in Mardi Gras colors--purple, green, and gold--and contains a tiny plastic baby. If you get the baby in your piece, you have to buy the next cake.

While I was eating, I was musing on the ethics of all this. Then I read about the perks gotten by various political figures recently. I suppose that they would scoff at my little lunch. Any thoughts, dear readers?

Frugal Dilemma: Our Frugal Daughter, though she does not supply posts as our Frugal Son does, is never far from our thoughts. She is up for two college scholarships. The competitions are on THE SAME WEEKEND and cannot be re-scheduled.
Choice 1: A big school in another state offers the chance to be one of 40 fellows, who are mentored and groomed by faculty. $1000 over whatever other scholarships you get. 50 students are invited to compete.
Choice 2: A private college offers FREE TUITION, ROOM and BOARD to 3 or 4 students. About 80 students are invited to compete. Frugal Daughter has already been given a scholarship almost equal to tuition.

School 1 offers an almost sure chance of a lesser benefit; school 2 offers an enormous benefit, but almost no chance.

At first she was drawn to the smaller school, mostly because of the wonderful recruiter. But now a good friend who goes there is saying the school is TOOOOO small and she wants to transfer. So Frugal Daughter is conflicted.

Aren't we lucky to have these trivial problems in these difficult times? Even so, dear readers, we welcome your counsel. Any thoughts on any of these?


Duchesse said...

I am sure you know the expression "there is no free lunch." Is the textbook publisher hoping to influence future buying decisions with this lavish spread? Is it a 'thank you' for current business? Re "perks gotten by various political figures": One can always find examples of someone else's behaviour to justify most any action. Look into your heart, and you will find your answer.

Re Sadie: Her behaviour is typical of a teen, especially one forced to give up her home. You have made your point, twice. What does she want? (School, travel, an apt.?) It's easier to save towards a goal.

Congratulations to your daughter, a wonderful opportunity. I would include the criterion of which school has the stronger dept. in her field, and, if equal, in which location she'd like to live.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--Thought-provoking as always. It's a little of both (thank you/future). Lunch is served during a presentation on the merits of a book. Hmmmmm. The leftovers are usually put in the lounge for the grad students, so maybe I should eat with them...

Re Sadie, you are right. She was like this before. But I have to stop trying to "help," as I already made my point.

Yes, lucky daughter. It's really a big school/small school decision. Both have decent programs. Of course, both my children want to be English majors. It's genetic.

Terri said...

Sounds like your department carries more "weight" than the 11 faculty in my English Department. We occasionally receive such perks, but I tend to be more focused on the actual cost of the textbook to my students. My American Literature textbook was supposed to cost a reasonable $39. By the time my students bought it, the price had gone up to $59? Last night I discover, the pagination in my edition differs from that in my students'! Aaargh. For some minor tweaks, my students are having to pay for the publishing company's minor iterations! This semester, I will be offering minor extra credit to students who track down web links to the readings they have been assigned. These links will be entered on the course web-site. I am actively working to disconnect from expensive textbooks--though that puts far more reliance on my skills as the instructor.

Duchesse said...

Frugal, my experience with these "free" lunches comes from working with MDs and all the lunches and dinners the pharmaceutical companies provided, along, of course with "educational" talks about their product. The teaching hospital where I worked finally banned it.

If I had a nickel for every time I wish my 21 year old twins understood the value of a dollar I could easily take both of us to lunch!

Frugal Scholar said...

@Terri--I'm with you on the cost to students. At my school, we have a text rental system ($18.00 per course) that is much loved by the students. Now that my son is in a college without this system, I can see why. My department orders a single rental text for the freshman writing courses and the sophomore literature courses. It is a BIG order. But my students aren't paying for my choices. And, since I've had a reprieve from teaching writing for a while, I don't vote on the text (my choice not to vote).

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--The pharma freebies are a huge pet peeve of mine. About your boys: would that be an expensive lunch or an inexpensive??!!

I would guess that your boys have had a good education, in the largest sense. I presume they are in college. For Sadie, college is likely not in the picture. There's a lot that troubles me in the situation

Duchesse said...

One of my twin sons is in last year of a BA and the other has chosen a trade (railroad conductor- with eventual work as an engineer.) I believe firmly in a woman having the ability to make her own living, whether via the college-to-work route or skilled trades.

Logan Leger said...

As to the ethics question, it's probably not unethical unless you're choosing their book over another more merited book simply because of the free lunch. Otherwise it's just one of the perks of being a college professor, I guess.

As for the Divine Ms Em's dilemma, I'd personally say she has a good chance of getting the private college because I know her and I know the scholarship and people who've gotten it. However, I can't really say about which choice is better for her because I don't know her that well. I've also gotten mixed reviews about that college.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--Both your boys seem to have direction in their lives. That is my wish for all these kids.

@Logan--Thanks for the comments as always. And thanks, especially, for your thoughts on "that school," which I will report to the Divine Miss Em, who doesn't read this blog.