Rent is due, the car’s in the shop and a big name band is in town. There is $327 in the checking account.

What to do?

High school students at a handful of public and private schools around the Palouse are about to jump into a brand-new world of bills, breakdowns, insurance expenses and budgeting.

In short, the real world.

Fortunately for them, it’s only a trial run — for now.

Thanks to a financial literacy software program called Banzai, sponsored by the Potlatch Number One Federal Credit Union as a free asset for schools, students can experience the struggles of real life without the credit risk and come out of high school knowing how to balance a budget and a checkbook.

Pullman Christian School teacher Dawn Warren said she used the program with a class of freshmen last year and is anxious to give the program another go.

“They had not yet had huge exposure to economics, economic principles, thinking, money management, anything like that. What a great first way for them to get their feet wet,” she said.

Warren said one of the factors that separates this program from run of the mill economic courses is the fun students have with it.

“This exposes them to all of those different components in a fun way, sometimes a humorous way,” she said. “When they were going through it last year sometimes they would just laugh, ‘Look what happened to me.’ ”

For example: a 2 millimeter abrasion can turn into an unexpected $450 expense at the emergency room after a fall at the Styrofoam Burritos concert.

On any given day in the student’s independent alter ego’s life, they can get a parking ticket, spend more than they meant to on groceries or get a tax refund.

“It offers them some really good perspectives, this could really happen. It starts with real life — your rent is due. They hit the road running,” Warren said. “It gives them some really practical strategies too, not assuming that they’re college kids, and mom and dad are paying for everything. It puts them in a more realistic scenario: You are working your way through, or at least you still have a job to afford the extra things on the side.”

Warren said some portions of the program are similar to a choose-your-own-adventure game: Each decision has its consequences.

“You decided to eat more healthily, but it’s more expensive,” Warren said. “What are you willing to give up in one area to then have enough for another area?”

While the program helps students make financial sense of the adult world they’ll be entering, it makes financial sense to schools as well.

“The cool factor was … it was free,” Warren said. “Just because we’re a private school doesn’t mean we’re making a profit. We’re a not-for-profit organization. Having a resource like this is definitely a treasure.”

Warren said the program can give teens more confidence and the tools to succeed financially when they’re on their own, and parents a bit of room to breathe.

“As parents we need to step back and let them try it out. We learn from our mistakes, but hopefully this will help eliminate some of the bigger ones.”

For more information on the Banzai program, visit teachbanzai.com.


Shanon Quinn can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to squinn@dnews.com.

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