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Cross: Personal Finances

Last year, I spent about $800 on things I didn't need. I've just started my third year of university, and the job I had paid nowhere near enough for me to be spending that much on recreational shopping, so you might well wonder why I did it.

And that's a good question.

When I saw my account after my final exams, my first thought was just to be grateful that I hadn't gone broke. But then I started to wonder how I could have let so much money drain away. I hadn't even realized it and I couldn't understand how I could have been so careless.

So I bought a personal finance book and started working through it, creating a budget, tracking my spending, and learning about credit. I'm so glad I studied up before I decided to get a credit card; can you imagine the carnage?

And it hit me, taking notes from my book, that I knew how to calculate derivatives in an equation, but I had no idea how to reconcile my earning with my spending.

I'm an English major and I'll never need to know how to find a first, second, or even a third derivative. But not knowing how to manage my money can and will cost me.

So it seems to me that there's a hole in the educational system that everyone keeps missing. I went to an excellent high school. Geometry and trigonometry are required courses, but I've been out of high school for three years, and I've never once had to calculate the length of triangle side C , while my checking account has been overdrawn more than once because I didn't know to take the time to balance it.

A smart attitude about money is one of the greatest assets we can take into our twenties, thirties, and beyond. It affects everything from our relationships to our living situation to our education. Unfortunately, nobody's born with it, and it's largely based on habits. High school is the perfect time to form healthy, smart habits about spending and making money.

So I think that personal finance should be a required course for high school juniors and seniors. The purpose of high school is to prepare students for their future, whether at university, in trade, or some third option. No matter what, everyone needs to know how to balance a checkbook or an ATM card, set and keep a budget, and make sure their credit score stays bright and shiny. Interviewing for a job becomes a much more daunting task when we're up against bad credit, and in today's job market, students need all the help they can get.

I haven't shopped in more than a month and I'm running a tighter wallet these days. Fortunately for me, it wasn't too late to learn how to budget.

Caleigh Cross of St. Johnsbury and Canada, is a journalism major at Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec. She was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and has been writing in various capacities since she was old enough to hold a crayon and figure out what words meant. Her hobbies include Irish and Scottish fiddle, painting, writing, and shopping.
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