REALITY STORE OFFERS REAL-LIFE LESSONS
PLAINFIELD -- A few minutes after buying a luxury Grand Am, Katie Katchka returned to the dealer with the realization that she couldn't afford the payments.
"I spent a lot more on my clothing and my home than I should have," Katchka told the salesman at D'Arcy Pontiac, Buick and GMC.
"You're going to need to trade into a pre-owned economy car," Edward Goings, the salesman, suggested.
"But, I don't want an economy car. I'll take the used sports car," Katchka, the married mother of one, snapped back. Even after taking on a part-time job, Katchka needed to save $200 each month, and targeted her car payment at that price.
"That won't save you enough," Goings explained. "Your insurance rates will go up and eat into your savings with the sports car."
Ultimately, Katchka left as the not-so-proud owner of the economy car. The civil engineer who earns about $3,200 a month after deductions explained she would rather forgo a fancier car in order to buy nicer clothing from a department store, not a discount store.
"In work, you have to be presentable, but who cares what you drive to get there?" she said.
Katchka is a sophomore at Plainfield Central High School. In reality, she doesn't even drive, let alone own a car. Nor is she married or a mother.
But, her story is similar to those of her fellow students, who on Wednesday participated in a Reality Store designed to teach them how to budget.
"You need to buy groceries and clothing. You need to pick out your home and your car and pay for child care and utilities," said Barb Courter, the school's vocational coordinator. "The first thing they all run to is the car dealer. They want the Audi or BMW until they realize they can't afford it and have to return it for the beater with the heater."
Kendra Landfair, a 16-year-old sophomore from Joliet, chose not to purchase any car. The single mother purchased a $100-a-month bus pass instead. And instead of paying $350 a month for child care, she asked her grandparents to help. They agreed to watch her child after Landfair rolled a pair of dice and checked a corresponding list for their response.
The vendors were actual business leaders that helped students with their budgets. Besides the salesmen from D'Arcy, a Countrywide Insurance salesman helped with home and car insurance needs, bankers from Harris Bank helped with savings and retirement, a manager from Jewel helped with grocery purchases and representatives from Wal-Mart helped with clothing purchases.
Gayle Pande and Doug Potts, employment security service representatives with the Illinois Department of Employment Security, helped coordinate unemployment benefits for students who lost their jobs at the Budget Buster Wheel.
"It's called Reality Store for a reason," Potts said. "The kids realize they have to pay for some things that they have no control over, like gasoline."