Times are tough. Money is tight. Fast-buck firms are offering quick-fix loans like they were sweeties.
There is a little chink of light at the end of this tunnel of economic darkness, however, and it can be found in the assembly hall of Grangemouth High School once a week during lunch hour.
The school, with assistance from Falkirk District Credit Union, is the first secondary to set up its own Savers Club run entirely by pupils.
Not only does it teach the pupils running it the importance of good financial management, it also helps them – and other youngsters – save up for school trips and rewards days away to exciting locations like Alton Towers.
Club member Dale Patrick (16) is looking forward to next year’s T in the Park and is using the club to create a nest egg that will fund his tickets, while a few of his classmates are also putting aside cash to fund essential items for their upcoming prom.
Savings club main man, and gift-of-the-gab spokesman, Patrick Doig said: “Before joining the club I would spend all my money on rubbish. It’s hard, but now I’m putting it away for a rainy day.”
The brainchild of business education teacher Jane McGuigan, the club was given the okay by headteacher Lyn Brown and won the backing of the parent council.
Jane said: “I just wanted the pupils to feel they were part of a community within the school and it is important to get into good habits of saving early in life. It will stand you in good stead later on, allowing you to avoid the trouble people get into when they are short of cash.”
Initially there were no suitable pupils available to run the initiative, but then maths teacher Lynne Laughlan’s new fifth year class came along, consisting of Patrick and Dale along with Grace Baff, Nathan Chalmers, Stephanie Doig, Kirsty Frew, Mellisa McLaughlan and Paul Marshall.
“This class were perfect to run the club,” said Jane. “They took everything on board and are doing a great thing for their school. Their ideas and designs have been brilliant.”
Lynne added: “They were a bit shy at first, but really enthusiastic, and we are helping to build their confidence. We are teaching them personal finance because money is a big problem these days – it’s so easy to get a credit card and go deep into debt.
“Companies like Wonga will give you money, but you have to pay it back and a lot more besides. A lot more schools are teaching personal finance because the country is in such a mess.
“We were talking about tax in class last week and the pupils were amazed at how much money would be taken from their wages. We teach them the importance of things like budgeting – practical things they can use when they leave school.”
The gang also created posters to publicise the club, and a promotional video featuring Patrick telling his fellow pupils why it is important to save their cash and join the club.
Working on a weekly rota basis, Patrick and his pals will man the booth during lunchtime and hopefully get a lot of people signing up to the club, which is open to both pupils and teachers.
Credit Union development worker Jim Marshall will be on hand to give advice for the next few weeks, until the youngsters get the hang of it.
“It will be as if the youngsters were dealing with the Credit Union, just in their own school,” said Jim. “And they will be dealing with guys their own age.”
The money being put away for savings will be held safe and sound with the Credit Union until the pupils and other savers want to use them.
Falkirk District Credit Union, which currently has over 1400 members, also runs basic finance initiatives in a number of primary schools in the area, including Victoria, Bonnybridge and Westquarter.
Jim said: “We just want them to be ready for their move to secondary school and are basically giving them the same advice and guidance we give adults in community centres and other locations.
“It’s easier to work with the Credit Union – we are more personal and we don’t have things like bank charges. We are a non-profit organisation with volunteers. What we are all about is self-help.”