The main priorities for students during their teenage years are pretty minimal. They go to school to get an education and, if their parents allow them to, they work jobs to get used to having a career and to assist them in creating smart spending habits with their own hard-earned money. While doing this, students are able to rely on their parents to do the heavy-lifting. They pay the electric bill to keep the house warm. They pay the water bill in order to shower and wash dishes, and much more. However, parents can only handle so much. Some of the desires adolescents have to step out further into adulthood warrant them to have to handle the responsibilities that come with them. For some juniors and seniors at East, they are further into this stage than the rest are.
As high school students get their licenses, they begin to want their own car to drive wherever they want whenever they want. This is where most students pay bills. Juggling school, work, and paying bills sounds like a hassle for students to tackle, but in reality it assists greatly in preparing for life during and after college.
Senior Madison Nottke pays for her monthly car lease bills which cost $190 a month, car insurance which costs $115 a month, and gas. She works about 20 hours a week at Maciano’s Pizza & Pastaria.
“I don’t think most people realize just how expensive it is to do anything in this world and I’m glad I’m able to ease myself into paying for things, starting with my car. It’ll be less of a harsh wake up call for me than people who haven’t already been adjusted to bills,” Nottke said.
Like Nottke, junior Luke Wentz is one of the many teens who has a car. Though in order to have one, he had to put in a lot of work to pay for it. In order to come up with the money, he began to babysit three to four times a week at the age of 15.
“I originally started to save for college, but I also started storing some aside to get a car,” Wentz said.
He now has his own car which he bought and helps his parents pay the insurance. His babysitting hours fluctuate every week and he pays $100 a month on his car, sometimes more if he wants to get ahead on payments. He gives credit to East for educating him on the process of buying a car and helping to ease the clutter of it all.
“The most stressful thing is just school, having a job and paying bills hasn’t proven to be very stressful, I took consumer Ed already and that helped,” Wentz said.
“I don’t think most people realize just how expensive it is to do anything in this world and I’m glad I’m able to ease myself into paying for things, starting with my car. It’ll be less of a harsh wake up call for me than people who haven’t already been adjusted to bills.”
— senior Madison Nottke
Consumer Education teacher Andrea Van Wie said that the Oswego East curriculum prepares students exactly for this part of their future.
“While taking Consumer Education students will get a hands on experience with how to balance a checkbook as well as maintain a personal budget. At the start of the course students select an entry level career and research the salary for that career. They use the salary they find to shop for both fixed and flexible expenses. They are able to see at the end of their project how much money is left over, giving them an indication of how they could live off of that salary if they end up in the profession later in life,” Van Wie said.
Fixed expenses are payments that will be the same total amount regardless of changes in the amount of sales, production, or some other activity. This includes things like rent, car insurance, etc. On the other hand, flexible expenses are costs that are easily changed, reduced or eliminated. This includes groceries, clothes, food, and adjustable subscriptions like Hulu and Spotify.
According to a survey from Citigroup and Seventeen magazine, almost 80 percent of students in high school, community college, online colleges, and both public and private colleges and universities take at least a part-time job during the school year and work about 19 hours a week. Usually this is so that students can have their own spending money to buy the things that they want. This coupled with the rising cost of living in America adds a lot of weight to teens and their families.
“One of the biggest changes is the technology that is available today. Most of today’s teenagers want to have their own devices. Cell phones were becoming common as I graduated high school and many didn’t have them. They were also very inexpensive compared to today … When I was in high school you had a home computer that everyone shared and the use of dial up internet was just becoming common and was very inexpensive compared to today’s costs,” Van Wie said.
Imagine the costs of wants plus extra hundreds of dollars each month to pay for needs. Below is a chart comparing payments of students with both fixed and flexible expenses to those with just the latter. Note that this does not contain food, credit cards, clothes, car maintenance, other electronics, or personal needs.
Junior Ben Scott helps pay for his car as well by paying about $150 every other week. He works about 12 to 18 hours a week at McDonald’s. Like Wentz, Scott also breaks the stereotype that paying bills adds an insurmountable amount of stress to the already hectic lives of teens.
“I still have plenty of time to do homework and relax while still having to work,” Scott said.
Not only this, but paying bills also showed Scott exactly the hardships that his parents must go through to support them.
“[Paying bills] opened my eyes to see the difficulties of running a family,” Scott said.
His mother Sheila Scott wanted her son to experience this in order to also lessen the amount of money she must spend.
“Although it is a small percentage of the overall household budget, having Ben pay a portion of his bills does provide some additional money each month. I predominantly invest the savings in Ben’s college fund but sometimes we splurge on something fun for the entire family,” Scott said.
Another reason that she has her son pay bills is because she firmly believes that students paying their own bills provides a safe, yet real world environment to learn budgeting, prioritization of income, saving, and paying on time.
“Like all skills, these life skills have to be learned and require practice,” she said.
The amount of money parents must put in is much more than teenagers may think. USA Today reports that the cost of raising a child in America is $233,610 – excluding the cost of college. Nottke said that she has a new perspective on what exactly her parents go through.
“I only pay for my car and that’s just one piece of the puzzle of all the trillion things they need to pay. It really helps me be more understanding of adulthood,” Nottke said.
Wentz also thanks his parents for being another reason why paying the bills isn’t as stressful as he thought it would be.
“I am happy they help me pay for insurance because I would have to work a lot more otherwise,” Wentz said.
Though Sheila Scott did not have specific bills as a child, she had to earn money herself since she did not have an allowance.
“My parents were not financially well off so I learned from a very early age to work hard and be fiscally responsible with what I earned. Based on what I learned at a young age, I was able to pay my own way through college and graduate with no debt. I am very thankful to my parents for ensuring I learned how to manage money at a young age,” Scott said.
This is also found in her son, Ben, and his ability to manage money now to prepare him for life in school while having a job. At such a young age, it is good to get a headstart on the many charges adulthood comes with.
Van Wie was responsible for keeping track of expenses as well as paying for many of them. She credits this to why she is so interested in banking and teaching students the fundamentals of spending and saving now.
“I did have to pay bills when I was in high school and therefore started working a part-time job when I was 15. I paid for my cell phone which I didn’t get until I was 17, gas, car insurance, and entertainment expenses … I also made sure that I was putting money into savings after each paycheck,” Van Wie said.
Growing accustomed to these responsibilities allows for teenagers to get a glimpse into what they will be exposed to as they begin families of their own. Due to this snapshot of the not-so-sugar-coated life of adults, all three teenagers said that they would suggest their children in the future pay their own bills because it helped them so much in the present.
Keara Shannon is a features writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl
“I’m really proud of my ability to manage my money and budget and it’s a crucial life skill I’d like my kids to have,” Nottke said.