Writing Contest: Semifinalist

Saving Every Penny

Erin Frederick, Ursuline Academy, Cincinnati, OH, (Teacher: James McCarthy)

My plan started early. I was going to save every penny and dollar possible. I didn’t know where or what I wanted to study, but I did know I wanted to attend college. So when my mother gave me and my sisters pennies to ride the coin-operated horse at the grocery store, my sisters would run off to get the first ride. However, I would stay put. My mother would ask, “Why aren’t you riding the horse?” I would reply, “I am saving the penny for college.” When I got home, I would put the penny in my piggy bank. I didn’t just collect loose change, I also saved toys. I kept Barbies, received as birthday presents or underneath the Christmas tree, unopened and in pristine condition. I would rather make a profit on a toy than play with it. My goal was to sell them later. To this day, I have twenty unopened Barbies stored in my closet.

I soon learned that saving pennies and Barbies was only going a make a small contribution to tuition bills. So at age 15, I went in search of my first “official” job. I worked at a tea parlor & gift shop as a waitress. Although I only made $3.43 an hour, I learned how to work hard for tips. I devised a system that enabled me to efficiently wait on multiple tables and still give personal and exceptional service. I kept track of my tips on a daily basis and determined I actually made $9.76 an hour. Since I worked in a family owned and operated business, I experienced firsthand the ins and outs of running a small business. I often helped balance the day’s receipts, participated in advertising incentives and really understood the importance of a budget to make a business operate successfully.

In order to save enough money for college and not squander it, I created a budgeting system where I properly managed and saved the money I was earning. I created a two tin system using cookie tins. One tin was labeled “+save+” and the other “–spend–“. At the end of every work day, I split my tip money in the following way between the two tins: all of the coins went to the “save” tin and then I evenly split the paper currency between the two tins. By using this method, I saved approximately 76% of all money earned with my job.

Even though I am a saver, I still spend money. I like going to movies, dinner and shopping with friends. To manage my money wisely and avoid buyer’s remorse, I ask myself a series of questions: “Do I really need it?”, “When will I use it?”, and “Is it worth the price?” These questions have prevented quite a few impulse purchases, although I do have a nice shoe collection.

While I budget for the present, I also plan for the future. As soon as I had the minimum balances, I opened interest bearing checking and savings accounts. My parents encouraged me to create these accounts so I could practice writing checks and balancing a checkbook. Having my own accounts allows me the freedom of withdrawing and depositing money at anytime. I have also acquired an ATM card. An ATM card makes money more accessible and easier to spend. Therefore, I need to stick to my budget and goals so I don’t deplete my savings. I enjoy receiving my statements, reconciling accounts and deciding how to allocate money. These experiences have led me to pursue a major in business with a focus on accounting and personal finance. My current financial goal is to pay for my college room and board, so I can live on campus.

As I approach the end of my senior year, college costs have increased and the economy is in a downturn. The money management skills I have developed are more important than ever. With this knowledge, I have confidence in my ability to budget and manage my money wisely and will continue to “save every penny”.

Composition has been lightly edited.