Many families in Harlan County have faced financial hardships over the past year, making the importance of teaching financial literacy at a young age even more important. The Harlan County 4-H Dollars and Sense program, geared for eight-graders, has become a good tool for teaching youth how to budget money well, especially in tough economic times
4-H Dollars and Sense is a hands-on, real life simulation where students make lifestyle decisions similar to those adults face daily. Students randomly pick an envelope with two hundred dollars inside. Cumberland Elementary School’s eighth-graders got a dose of the real world when the local 4-H program Dollars and Sense made its way into their school.
In the Dollars and Sense store, community volunteers, Family Resource Center and school staff have booths students visit to gain information on which to make “adult” decisions and see if their allowance will pay for the necessities and luxuries they envision as part of the adult lifestyle.
Booths can include banking, candy store, toy store, pet store, veterinarian, taxes, health and grooming, entertainment, chance, SOS, etc. Students also had the responsibility of taking care of one or more pets that they draw for at the Welcome Booth. Volunteers often bring in props to depict the type of services they provide. Youth learn about savings accounts and applicable charges such as opening an account while at the bank. Entertainment opportunities include travel expenses and the costs of going out to eat, renting games or going to a movie. At the “chance” booth, students pull out a “chance” card for unexpected situations that affect life daily. At the Exit Booth students will fill out evaluations of the experience.
Dollars and Sense gives students a fun, exciting glimpse of their future, while reinforcing the importance of the decisions that they will face in coming years. This educational experience encourages students to examine their attitudes about the future and career aspirations, and helps them realize they’ll need basic skills for financial planning, setting goals, making decisions and planning for a career. Another goal is to motivate students to remain in school.
At the Dollars and Sense, volunteers gain self-satisfaction from playing a role in preparing youth for the workforce. Youth stated that they would think about the cost of an item before purchasing it now. Some things that surprised the students most were:
• How quickly you can run out of money;
• In order to save money, don’t get the most expensive items;
• Shop around to save money;
• Money can be difficult to manage;
• You have to pay taxes;
• Donate money to organizations;
• You should be careful what you buy;
• You need to choose wisely to have enough for the things you need; and
• Don’t spend all your money in one place.
4-H Dollars and Sense is scheduled for eighth graders at Cawood Elementary School on Feb. 23 at 9 a.m. and Evarts Elementary School at 12:30 p.m. Other schools may contact the 4-H agent for scheduling eighth-grade Dollars and Sense at 606-573-4464 or 606-273-0835.
Raymond Cox is the Harlan County extension agent for 4-H/youth development. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.