Money Matters

Now that they've graduated from high school and are independent, Susan and Kayla face different pressures as they deal with money.

Susan is out of money and has bills to pay.

Susan has trouble paying her bills.

My roommate Allison was waiting for me when I got home from class. “I just got an overdue notice from the electric company,” she said in this real mean voice.

“Oh?” I asked – and felt my stomach drop. At the start of each month, Allison, Keisha, and I all sit down together to figure out our bills (rent, cable, and electric) and split everything three ways. Then we each write a check to one person, who deposits it, adds her share, and writes a check for the entire amount. It had been my turn this month to make sure the bills were all paid on time. My roommates had both given me checks to cover their share. The problem was, I didn’t have the money to pay the rest.

“That bill is in my name,” she almost screamed. “I’m not going to have you ruin my credit rating just because you’re too irresponsible and immature to manage your money.”

“Hey,” I shouted back. “I mailed the checks, alright?” That wasn’t totally true. I’d paid the rent and the cable bill with the money they’d given me, but not the electric. There just wasn’t enough. But I’d get paid tomorrow for my job at Goody’s and then I’d write the check. I figured it would all work out; I didn’t think they’d send out an overdue notice quite so fast. “Maybe they just didn’t credit it right, since the check had my name on it.”

“You are such a liar!” she yelled right back. “I called the company already. I know you didn’t pay it.”

Remembering something I’d learned in the intro to psyche class I was taking, I lowered my voice so that I sounded totally calm and reasonable. “I’ll write another check, okay? You can watch me.” I pulled my checkbook out, wrote out the check for the full amount, and popped it into the envelope the company had sent. The electric company wouldn’t get it until after I’d deposited my paycheck tomorrow, so it’d be okay.

Allison took the envelope right out of my hand. “I’ll drop it off,” she said. And she looked right at me. “Tonight.”

“Fine,” I said. I was pretty sure they couldn’t deposit it till tomorrow, and I could get my check in the bank before then. It wouldn’t bounce. At least, I didn’t think so.

David visits Susan when he comes back to town.

Anyways, I was glad when David called and said he’d take me out to dinner. I haven’t seen him much since we graduated. He was always out with Audrey over the summer, and then he went away to auto school, so we’ve been kinda out of touch.

Click here to watch David tell Susan about his experiences away from home. (dialup  OR broadband)

Even though he didn’t say much, I could tell David was really bummed about Audrey. I mean, he drives all the way home to see her and then she’s too busy? That’s pretty harsh.

I decided to tell him about my money troubles. I knew he wouldn’t be mean about it, not like Allison.

Click here to watch Susan tell David how she’s spent her money. (dialup OR broadband)

I know I need to get things under control. It’s just, I never had to deal with any of this before. I guess I went a little crazy when I had money left after buying books and paying tuition. I thought, why not reward myself with some retail therapy? I guess I forgot about rent and food and stuff like that. And now I’m so far behind, I don’t even know where to begin.

Kayla borrows a lot of money to go to cooking school.

Kayla knows she’ll graduate heavily in debt.

So, I went ahead and decided going away to cooking school would be worth it in the long run. Yeah, I’ll come out owing more than most people make in a year, but I’ll also come out with great credentials and a good job. I’d better! I can’t even think about how much I’ll have to pay back on my student loans without feeling a little sick.

But it’s hard. I mean, I see some people here, and they’re driving BMWs and talking about heading to Mexico for spring break! One girl I know, her parents bought her a condo so she wouldn’t have to “worry” about paying rent! I’m staying in the dorm and eating off the meal plan. If I go out, I drink water rather than pay for a coke. It’s hard not to get a little jealous. I mean, I know what I’m here for, but it’d be nice to have a break now and then.

I really like my classes, though. They’re so different from anything I took in high school. I go to some lectures, but most of the day I’m actually cooking, practicing what we’re learning. And it’s only four days a week! The only weird thing is there aren’t many women here. But even that’s okay. It makes me stand out a bit, and I’m used to that. I guess I even like it!

I got a job, too, working in a restaurant, of course. It was funny, because when I walked in and told them where I was in school, plus my experience at La Reine Astrid, they hired me right away and are paying me two dollars an hour more than I was making back home! It’s pretty cool, and I’m getting to do different stuff.

So, I like it here. I’ve met a lot of people in my classes and at work. I guess cooking is good that way, because we all have to work together and rely on each other. And we have fun. Like if somebody burns something and we’re trying to figure out a way around that, the instructor usually has a story about when that happened to him and he was cooking for the governor, or something like that, and we all end up laughing. Food doesn’t have to be serious to be good, I’m learning.

I’m paying a lot of money for this experience and I’m working really hard. But it is so worth it. Way better than high school!

These sites offer advice for dealing with financial issues:

Good Savings Habits

Monthly Budget Calculator

School Affordability Analyzer

The Cost of Car Ownership

Credit cards can be dangerous! Explore these sites for information about how to manage them wisely and build a strong credit history:

Purchasing Power on Campus: Beware the Credit Card Trap

Building a Credit History

Making Credit Work

These sites provide information about dealing with student debt:

Think Before You Borrow: Money Saving Tips

10 Essential Borrowing Tips

The Loan Center

Loan Repayment and Debt