Integrity Matters
October 22, 2008

Use discipline in spending

Question: (E-367)

Recently two Monterey Peninsula residents, Linda and Mike Dorn, went on a buying spree on behalf of eight Pay It Forward scholarship recipients. They purchased "typical" items popular with college-age impulse shoppers. They compared prices to provide financial counsel to these students through my Executives-in-Residence project at California State University, Monterey Bay. The objective of their spending excursion was to educate young people on ways to leverage dollars, getting the most from their financial resources.

The Dorns, benefactors and mentors through CSUMB's Executives-in-Residence Pay It Forward program, priced and purchased items from convenience stores and "big box" retailers - underscoring the premium often paid by impulse shoppers. They focused on items students might buy: candy bars, snack crackers, cookies, batteries, ChapStick, aspirin, gasoline, bottled water and soft drinks.

Students got the picture quickly. A 48-pack of candy bars, purchased in bulk, reduced the per-bar price by more than 50 percent.

Soft drinks from vending machines can sometimes cost as much as 400 percent more than when purchased in bulk. Bottled water is another cost-saving opportunity, as much as 700 percent.

The purpose of the activity was not to become advocates for "big box" stores. However, those who leverage their dollars effectively, frequently and consistently practice prudent planning, self-discipline; including avoiding grocery shopping when hungry and not using a list.

To further emphasize the importance of working within a budget, these first eight Pay It Forward recipients kept a record of their purchases for two weeks. They were then asked which items they "needed" versus which items they "wanted." The results were eye-opening. For young university students as well as more experienced folks who might have developed less disciplined purchasing habits, it is wise to develop dollar-conserving practices to more efficiently stretch financial resources - especially when the economic health of the nation is still "wobbly."
Waste not, want not! Perhaps the Wall Street calamity, creating a $700 billion "bailout" or "investment" depending upon your perspective, is a wake-up call to practice smart shopping.

Pay It Forward is an on-ramp for first generation college students from Monterey County at CSUMB and goes beyond the traditional arms-length transaction of providing deserving students with financial assistance for higher education by fostering an ongoing, mutually accountable relationship between recipients and leader-mentors. Scholarship recipients are required to "pay it forward" by providing their own service to youngsters through a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County. The goal is to develop confident and enthusiastic young people who gain both the means to complete their education and the tools to make their own contribution to others. Certainly, sound personal financial discipline reflects integrity and leads to success. Pay It Forward provides access - the on-ramp - to opportunity.

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