Financial Literacy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     In my lifetime as a consumer, I havepurchased over 300 plastic eyes, pounds and pounds of plastic beans, andheaps of fuzz. Cleverly constructed rhyming hangtags are torturousreminders of crisp dollar bills that have left my wallet. Basically,until fairly recently, the purchase of Beanie Babies was the main causeof my wallet’s emptiness.

I began receiving an allowance infourth grade in exchange for making my bed, helping to fold laundry, andpicking up around the house. After depositing two dollars into mycollege fund, I spent the rest on as many stuffed toys as possible.Saving didn’t seem like a good option but having the latestspecial-edition Beanie did.

My friends had them, my teachers hadthem, even some of my family collected those silly things. Many people Iknew were convinced that some day the furry creatures would financetheir children’s college educations. Sadly, they haven’tproved to be the wise investment many thought. The value of the toys hasdramatically declined since 1998, leaving collectors with what I nowrealize Beanie Babies truly are - stuffed animals.

I’mproud to say my spending habits have significantly improved. I no longerrely solely on my parents for income now; I baby-sit and sell items oneBay while juggling school, choir, church activities, and AP classes.After I put the finishing touches on my college applications, I plan toget a job at a music store.

Earning a good part of my spendingmoney has taught me how foolish it was to purchase all those BeanieBabies. I’ve learned that moderation is an important economicconcept. The purchase of a few Beanie Babies wouldn’t have beensilly, but no child needs the number I own.

As my desires haveshifted from stuffed animals to clothes, music, and musicalinstruments, I’ve learned the importance of being a carefulspender. I often peruse the aisles of used CD stores and frequentdiscount stores to stretch my dollars. I’ve also found thatsometimes in privately owned music shops, owners will lower the price ofinstruments and other equipment if asked.

I often make a list ofitems I plan to buy, then check internet sites before deciding where tomake my purchase. Sometimes, after spending time finding the best deal,I come to the conclusion that I really don’t need the item at all.I use coupons as often as possible when eating out and purchasing itemslike shampoo. It might seem like overkill, but a few dollars saved hereand there can really add up (and collect interest). I usually haveenough money to buy an item full price, but there’s no reason tospend unnecessarily. Also, I received my first car this summer from myparents, after being very responsible in handling my schoolwork andpersonal finances. I believe purchasing a used car is a good idea,especially for teen drivers.

I typically use cash when makingpurchases. I have a checking account and write checks for larger items,but having cash in hand helps me realize how much I’m spending.Although credit card companies make charge cards very accessible toteenagers, I don’t have one. I plan to get one in college, but Iwill not use it for daily purchases.

As college approaches, Ihope to continue improving my spending habits, and to find good homesfor many of my Beanie Babies. I would like to encourage other teenagersto avoid frivolous purchases. By making good financial decisions, ourgeneration can make a difference in our schools, our communities, andour world.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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