Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Billy Balfour
While the average teenager may see learning about finance as a bore — 18-year-old high school student Billy Balfour of St. Clair, Mich., enjoys it! Starting off his senior year, he wanted to learn more about how to manage money successfully, so he took Amanda Volz’s personal finance class and participated in the H&R Block Budget Challenge.
With some hard work and dedication — and some savvy saving along the way — he pushed his way to the top of the competition and won a $20,000 college scholarship in the process! Hear more about what he learned from the program and how he plans on carrying his personal finance knowledge into the real world.
Do you talk about money with your family or friends?
My parents and I talk about personal finance a lot — my mother is actually an accountant, so she’s always made sure to talk to me about maintaining a budget and investing my money wisely. But even though I grew up talking about budgeting with my parents, it never really made sense to me until I had to do it myself with this program.
Had you heard about the Budget Challenge before?
This was my first time participating in the Budget Challenge, and I took Ms. Volz’s personal finance class without actually knowing that I could win a scholarship. But, when I was a sophomore, my classmate Sean Lawrence won a scholarship by taking the Budget Challenge in Ms. Volz’s class, so when I found out about that, I was really motivated to do well.
Knowing your teacher had previously had a winning Budget Challenge student in her class, was there a little bit of friendly competition amongst your classmates to do well?
Yes, there was a little bit of competition, but we sometimes worked together and bounced ideas off of each other during the program. When it got down to the wire, we were a little bit more competitive though.
How did you find out you won the scholarship?
The simulation actually ended on my birthday, and when I woke up that morning, I looked at my phone and saw I got third place overall. I was so excited!
How did your family react when you told them you won the scholarship?
My parents were ecstatic since I had been keeping them updated on where I was in the rankings throughout the Budget Challenge. My grandparents were happy too because they plan on contributing money to my college education, so they liked seeing that I was contributing to it as well.
What’s the most important financial lesson you learned from the Budget Challenge?
It’s hard to choose just one. I think the most important lessons were how to create and manage your budget. When I was taking the Budget Challenge, I made sure I had my budget all laid out, and I knew exactly what I was spending. It really helped me keep track of all the expenses. I also think it was great to learn about managing credit and credit cards, so you don’t end up in debt.
How will the personal finance knowledge you learned from the Budget Challenge help you later in life?
Once I start having monthly bills as an adult, I’ll know how to create a budget and be really organized. I’ve always been told starting off on the right foot when it comes to finances is super important. I highly recommend that other students take a personal finance class and participate in the H&R Block Budget Challenge if they can. It’s scary to see some of the financial choices Americans are making today, and my generation needs to start making better decisions.
*Responses have been edited for clarity.
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