Vanessa M. – Long Beach Polytechnic High School

Growing up my parents have always stretched the importance of a dollar. I still remember the countless times when my father arrives late from work, always tired and worn out, and he looks at me and tells me “see Vanessa, this is the difference between a job and a career. Focus on your studies and get yourself a career”. And whenever my mom and I would shop. She always taught me to be responsible with my money. She would give me a weekly allowance and told me to spend it wisely. People would always compliment saying how cute it was that a little three year old was waiting in line with her purse to pay for her purchases. Little did they now that it wasn’t a game to me, it was a lesson that I cherish even to this day. Of course there were times that I completely blew off all of my money on things that were worthless, and I quickly regretted it. But I learned from those mistakes. I understood what I did wrong and I promised myself never to blow my money again on silly little things.

Oddly enough I learned about the importance of saving from a very credible source: The Baby Looney Toons. I was about six years old when I saw an episode of this show. It was about the Looney Toons receiving an allowance and how everyone spent it on 25 cent ice cream (back in the day when 25 cents actually bought you an ice cream) from the ice cream truck that same day. That was their impulse buy for everyone except Petunia the pig. She never spent her money and she put it in her piggy bank (how ironic!) and she was proud to save her quarter because she knew that she would soon get rewarded. Daffy laughed at her and said that “saving a boring old quarter for tomorrow instead of eating a delicious ice cream today is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard!” and the rest of the Looney Toons joined in to laugh at Petunia. Three weeks later, the ice cream man comes with a special kind of treat: one untopple-scoop quadruple-dip mega sundae­ with sprinkles! Bugs Bunny goes up to buy it but is denied because it costs 75 cents and none of them had enough- that is, except for Petunia. They looked upon her in envy but then realized that she got an awesome reward because of her saving.

I will be honest when I say that I have sometimes felt like Daffy. I would rather enjoy my reward today rather than saving money and going without stuff for a while. Exhibit A: my closet. I have several items that I purchased on an impulse buy because they were so cute and I will honestly say that that I heard them calling me from the window: “Vanessa, buy me! Please, imagine how cute I would look on you! We love you!” And I, out of the goodness of my heart, could not imagine leaving them there to suffer without being purchased by me. It was an impulse buy. I didn’t need them, I wanted them. But as I have grown up I have gotten wiser about how I spend my money.

In my years of high school I have realized that my future has many important things waiting for me- much more important than a new pair of shoes (no matter how cute they are). I have my whole future ahead of me- getting a job, buying a car, buying a house, supporting a family, and now thanks to Think. Tank. Challenge I realized that I should also plan for my retirement. Social Security is already running out because when it was founded in the time of the Great Depression, they didn’t expect people to live as long as they do now. Think. Tank. Challenge taught me that I should be smart with my money- more than just saving it. For instance, in order to set up a good credit score, I actually have to buy stuff. And that I have absolutely no problem with it. But they have to be smart buys, because if they aren’t then they will bring down our credit score, and that’s not good. Our credit score is like a grade and I take my grades seriously. I also learned that I need to take several actions to be money smart for the rest of my life. I should make a student budget (and keep with it) and I should look for ways to save money wisely. Although credit cards are given to us, but it doesn’t mean that we should be dependent on them. The phrase “buy now, pay later” sounds awesome but in reality it will come back to bite us and it will leave us in a bad situation on. I, myself, know that I don’t have a lot of restraint at the moment and so I will only use it when I truly have to. Also, something else that I learned from my mom, is to bargain hunt. I realize that it is not important to break the bank buying $400 shoes just because of the brand, when I could buy cheaper shoes that are cuter and I will be able to put the rest of the money to something useful.

Another important reason to be money smart is because in the future I want to own my own business. Preferably a bakery or a restaurant. Being money smart would not only help me but it would also help my company. Many small businesses fail because they run out of funds and they waste more money than they can make. They were not wise with their business because they overspent on the decorations or they bought too big of a place when in reality they only needed a small location. I have seen these mistakes several times and a lot of these businesses have to hold large sales or, sadly, they have to close their doors less than two years after they opened. I don’t want to make that mistake and so I thank Think. Tank. Challenge for opening my eyes and making me realize that I need to start thinking financially for my future. Therefore, I will plan for my retirement, I will always plan for the future, and I will be wise with my purchases. I will ignore the cries of the shoes when I go shopping because I know there are more important things waiting for me in the future.