Personal Finance By Carola Vyhnak 151 Views

High school students with financial issues can turn those woes into cash with essay-writing contest

What was the dumbest thing you ever did with your money?

Fessing up to their moronic money moves in an essay contest has earned hundreds of Canadian students big bucks. The contest for Grade 12 students is held every fall during Credit Education Week Canada.

Credit Canada Debt Solutions and Capital One partner with other sponsors to award university scholarships to writers who best own up to their financial faux pas and share their hard-earned lessons.

Now in its 12th year, the competition aims to jump-start the conversation about personal money management, says Laurie Campbell, CEO of Credit Canada. Almost $500,000 in scholarships have been awarded to more than 350 winners.

With school back in session now that March break is a memory, financial literacy goes to the front of the class as we check in with a few essayists.

Big spender gets the girl: Thomas Black was a lovestruck 11-year-old when he “did something very stupid with a lot of money.” His fifth grade, “soon-to-be-wife” was head-over-heels about Webkinz stuffed animals. So he bought one to impress her.

It worked so well that young Black sprinted down the entrepreneurial path to wash dishes, cut grass and “pick enough dog ordure to fertilize a football field” so he could buy more.

Alas, his lady dumped him for “some dodo-head with a trampoline,” leaving him with $300 worth of plush toys and a “gargantuan sense of buyer’s remorse,” says Black, now 20 and studying new media at the University of Lethbridge, in Alta. His first-place win in 2015 netted him a $5,000 scholarship.

While his heartbreak over losing both girl and cash taught him the importance of frugality, he says living on his own since age 17 and financing his education have given him a better appreciation of the value of money.

Black, who works 30 hours a week in a bike shop, controls his spending by using a savings account that he can’t easily access.