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Jenniffer's Journey:

Back When I was in School…….

A lot of things have changed since I was in school. I walked a mile to school one way. Literally. I know because I just Google mapped it. I also didn’t have Google when I was in school. Or Gmail, or Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat. Or the ability to search the World Wide Web - as it was known in early days by its inventor, Al Gore – for the answers to all of my questions.

When I was 15, I was so excited to be enrolled in Driver’s Education, or Driver’s Ed as it was referred to by us cool people. Driver’s Ed “way back then” consisted of classroom instruction, the driver’s simulator and the “range”. For you young folk, the simulator was a state of the art semi-trailer converted to a classroom with individual driver’s seats and a video screen where we were given scenarios for driving. Picture a large video game with real world on the road driving scenarios. It’s too bad technology hasn’t advanced enough for there to be driver’s simulators in the current driver’s education curriculum.

The range was the coolest part of all. We walked from the high school to a nearby parking lot converted to make shift city streets. We each got into a car and drove around while our Driver’s Ed teacher Mr. Crane gave us commands from a thing we referred to as a “walkie talkie”. 

So, when I saw the envelope in the mail this past week from Ashley’s school and opened it to find the top of the letter titled, “Driver’s Education Registration Form”, all of my fun Driver’s Ed memories came back. I felt some excitement for Ashley (and, admittedly, some excitement for myself knowing that the days of soccer and basketball carpool will soon come to an end). And then, just as quickly as my excitement came, it abruptly ended as I continued to read the form. There it was, halfway down the page in small print:  the cost for your student to complete the Driver’s Education curriculum as required by the State of Wisconsin is $400. Or, we could opt for the online curriculum, but that costs $25 more and we have to buy the book, the price of which was not listed. Hmmm, the online version still requires an actual book? Call me crazy, but that’s what I call ironic. Oh yeah, and there’s no driver’s simulator or range. Nowadays, I guess they just put the kids in the car and put them on the real roads the first time they operate a motor vehicle. That sounds safe enough.

Back when I was in school, Driver’s Ed was free (yes, I confirmed with my mom!). Some of you may be thinking I was ignorant to think that it would be free. Some of you may be waving your free flags with me chanting, “Make it free again”. Nonetheless, call it what you want, I’m still left with a completely unexpected expense. And pretty much everyone can relate to that. 

Thank goodness I set up a Summit savings account in June for school expenses. It was meant for school registration, school sports fees and miscellaneous school supplies. But, I did not budget for Driver’s Ed, so I don’t have nearly enough in it to cover this expense. 

And so we come to this week’s financial fun fact:  while you can never plan ahead for unexpected expenses (otherwise, they would just be bills), you can plan for your savings budget. Whether you call it a school savings, an emergency savings, a teenagers-are-expensive savings or something else, you can take some of the edge off of a large unexpected expense if you have at least something in your savings to fall back on.

I’ll be readjusting my school savings in the coming month or so to try to address this unexpected expense. And then I’ll start a cheap-car-so-mom-doesn’t-have-to-carpool savings. With a match requirement from the student driver. 


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