Budget challenge for high school students

Changing bad budget habits

By Ruth Spencer - Anchor

Are you smarter than a high school student when it comes to making a household budget?

Maybe not! The H&R Block Budget Challenge is helping thousands of teenager learn the budget basics that even many adults may lack.

One Gallup poll shows only one-third of Americans sit down and work on a household budget.

That means two-thirds do not plan their monthly spending and saving.

H&R Block is looking to change that trend by starting at the high school level, with some big scholarships as incentive.

Teacher's Winning Ways

Teacher Micheline Livingston used the H&R Block Budget Challenge to enhance the curriculum for students at Oakland Schools Technical Campus in Royal Oak.

"It's a great program because it gives them a hands-on opportunity to try it without losing money for real," she said.

The challenge sets up a virtual life for the students with a virtual job, salary, apartment, and car.

The students make a lot of choices when setting up their fake household just like adults do in real life.

"You had to choose whether you were gonna have a studio apartment, furnished, unfurnished, or a roommate. You had to choose how much you were going to save into your 401k," explained Livingston.

How much they put into the 401k helps determine how well the students do in the nationwide challenge

The students have to start paying their bills and the program even generates surprise challenges like car accidents.

How they handle those accidents depends on the decisions they made earlier. " If you had a $500 deductible, you had to pay $500. Students who had a $200 deductible paid $200," explained the teacher.

 Budget Lessons Learned

 "I was kind of overwhelmed at first," said student Evan Deciantis, a senior at Clawson High School. "But, I was able to research online and also on the site and figure out what everything kind of meant and then put two and two together and pick the best options.

Deciantis said it was a challenge to juggle the emergencies and regular bills that had to be paid on time.

"Just paying bills on time, how difficult that can be because it's such a simple task, but you really have to keep up with it," said Deciantis.

"If you don't stay on top of them and pay them on time, they they can really set you back, said Antone Montgomery, a senior at Berkley High School.

Deciantis and Montgomery were among the students who did stay on top of their bills. They competed against thousand of students across the country  and each won $20,000 scholarships for college.

Wade Murley, another senior at Clawson High School, also scores a scholarship. "It was overwhelming. I knew I needed a lot of money and help for college. so, it's really going to be put to good use."

Livingston is proud of all her students. In all, five students who attend her class at Oakland Schools Technical Campus in Royal Oak won the $20,000 scholarships. The other two winners were Amanda Clayton and Zackary Heacock. Four other students from Michigan were also winners.

The teacher has also noticed that the budget lessons have a ripple effect. "I've had a couple parents that approached me and said they worked on it with their student, and they learned a lot also," said Livingston.

Also, Oakland Schools Technical Campus-SE in Royal Oak has been awarded two grants totaling $7,500.

More Details About The H&R Block Budget Challenge

The H&R Block Budget Challenge is free to high school teachers and home educators. Participants play classroom against classroom and student against student, competing for $3 million in grants, scholarships and cash prizes in the 2014/2015 school year.

For more information on the H&R Block Challenge visit http://www.hrblockdollarsandsense.com/

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