A Valuable First Financial Lesson: Saving for a Trip to France

A Valuable First Financial Lesson: Saving for a Trip to France

When I was in my teens, I had an unbelievable opportunity to go to France with my class. My classmates and I were able to experience a new world and a new culture at the bright young ages of 17- and 18-years old. This wonderous overseas adventure helped each of us become well-rounded and understanding individuals.

However, trips overseas are not cheap, so how can a young teen save for the transcontinental experience in a responsible, character-building way? My own adventure was four years and hundreds of hours of work in the making, and I would like to share my story about how my teacher and my mother encouraged me to make my dreams a reality. C'est mon histoire financiere:

The Beginning

From the first day of French class, I knew I wanted to go to France. My teacher entered the room and rattled an entire introduction in French. Most students were taken aback, but I loved every moment of the spiel. I wanted to speak like that someday. When Madame Parmer told us that our class would be eligible for a French Club trip to France in four years, I knew I would be going.

However, at 14, I did not know that I should have started saving the moment I knew my intentions. I skated along for a year, attending French class and French Club and spending my dish-washing earnings on frivolous items.

The Awakening

Thankfully, my French teacher was much smarter than me, and she planned French Club events to bring in some cash for each participant. We washed cars, held bake sales, sold raffle tickets and worked the local grocery store's popular bratwurst stand. By the time I was 16, I was 1/4 of the way to my $3,000 goal. But to me, raising $2,250 in under two years sounded impossible.

Madame Parmer helped me see that if I worked every French Club fundraising event, I would be very close to my goal. In her estimation, I would only need to bring in $1,000, plus any spending money.

The Hard Work

After the conversation with my teacher, I talked to my mom about my goals. She showed me that if I set aside money from my part-time gig in a grocery store, I could realize my dream. She didn't let me off the hook for my other responsibilities (my car payments, insurance, gas, clothing and entertainment expenses), but she did show me how to budget.

Here's how my mom broke down the idea of budgeting for me: She told me to add up all of my expenses, subtract them from my earnings, and see where I could cut back. I was making $350 per month as a cashier, but I had expenses totaling $240. This meant I had to deposit $25 per month to my France trip savings account and make $85 last an entire month for entertainment. Good thing $20 per week stretched a lot farther back then!

Reaching the Goal

With Mom's help, I was able to spare $25 per month – $1,000 toward my goal! But even after reaching the goal, I needed some spending money and there was no time left to save. My mom offered a loan, but I wanted a lot of Francs (now Euros – I'm showing my age a little here...). My only option was to sell my beloved car for $1,000, but that sale set me up for a nice chunk of spending cash.

Additionally, I raked in some dough for graduation, so I was well over my mark by the time I boarded my trans-Atlantic flight for two weeks in France. It was the best experience ever, an experience that was not only fun but that helped me become a better person.

I am very happy that my teacher and my mother had enough foresight to guide me toward my savings goal so that I could experience les bons temp en France. With a little foresight and a lot of encouragement, any parent/teacher team can help a child reach a large savings goal.

What about you: Did you have any huge goals to save toward as a teen? Do you have any tips for encouraging teens to save?

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retirebyforty's picture

retirebyforty wrote:

Sun, 04/17/2011 - 13:38 Comment #: 1

great job! you have to tell us more about the trip someday.

jeff @ Sustainable life blog's picture

jeff @ Sustainable life blog wrote:

Tue, 04/19/2011 - 14:27 Comment #: 2

That's quite the lesson to learn as a teen - something that gave you what you wanted after a few years of working toward your goal. That sounds like an interesting trip as well!

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Thu, 04/21/2011 - 00:00 Comment #: 3

Hey Retirebyforty, the trip was awesome! I'll have to share the difficulties I encountered with spending in France later -- the money felt like Monopoly money, and everyone spent more than intended. But it was all fun and a great experience!

Hi Jeff, thanks for stopping by! It was a fantastic trip, and I can't even put into words how amazing it felt to reach my financial goal at such a young age :-)