Dollars and Sense Reality Fair

Dollars & Sense Reality Fair exposes high school seniors to the costs of living

United Way’s Dollars & Sense Reality Fair exposes high school seniors to the costs associated with living on their own. By giving them the tools they need to take charge of their own 'Money Story,' each student has the opportunity to graduate with a firm foundation as they pursue higher education and enter the workforce.

This year’s spring fair was held March 12th & 13th at the New College Institute on Fayette Street in Martinsville with seniors from area high schools.  High school seniors were assigned monthly incomes based on local data for entry level positions in their preferred jobs. After taxes, students use their take home monthly pay to visit booths to make purchasing decisions, such as housing, utilities, clothing, transportation, health and other expenses. They also have an option to seek advice at the credit counseling booth.

Every local senior attends the D & S Reality Fair in either the Fall or Spring semester. 

“This event is a reality check for most of the students in attendance,” said United Way’s Community Impact Coordinator, Lisa Frick. “They are often surprised by the true cost of living.”

According to the U. S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, 41 percent of graduating senior had credit card debt, with the average balance just over $3,000.

It would take roughly 12 years for a student to pay off a $1,000 credit card debt with an 18 percent interest rate if they are making only minimum payments. 

“It is great to see the students taking this budgeting process so seriously. It is fun to watch their excitement when they balance their budget.” remarked Frick.

It is never too early to talk to your children and teens about money. Financial Stability starts at home. Not sure how to start that conversation? The resources below are a great place to begin.


The Dollars & Sense Reality Fair is held twice a year in the fall and spring for area seniors. This year’s event was funded by the Lacy Foundation, SunTrust and BB&T and made possible by the over 40 volunteers who worked booths.