Three Lessons I Learned From High School Economics Class

While I was in my senior year of High School I was required to take economics.  In this class as part of our curriculum we did two interesting things:

1) We split into teams and competed against each other in computer simulations based on business. We had to figure out the price as well as budget for R&D, advertising, etc… It was a little like the old Lemonade Stand game (which I mastered in elementary school), if you remember that, but obviously more complex.  We then wrote a collective group paper detailing what worked for our group and why based on economic principles.

2) We also had our own class-based business for the term. Our class product was little graduation stuffed animals (it was our senior year after all).  We all invested a small amount and put the product together and sold it to classmates and family.

Now besides the actual economics text there were three things I learned:

If you’re not the one making decisions someone else WILL and that person won’t be as good as you.

lessons from high school economics

High school economics taught me some great lessons.

As I mentioned we split into different teams that competed against each other and we also wrote a paper together.  At first I sat back and let anyone else make decisions.  This was my senior year and my mind was elsewhere.  Problem with that is our group wasn’t doing well against the others.  We also had the paper to write and that wasn’t doing well either.  In fact, our teacher had to speak to our group because we were falling behind.  You don’t want to fail a class in senior year!  I finally woke up and took an active part in running the group.  Our team didn’t finish in first but we ended up doing much better than we started.  Our paper also shaped up and we were able to complete it.  Not to say I’m some economic genius or something but our team was better once I took an active role.  If I didn’t take my destiny in my own hands they would be in the hands of someone else which can be a dangerous thing!

The effort you put in is what you get out.

Aside from the issues I had with my group, as a class we were a small business selling an item.  I’ve got to admit, I really didn’t sell many stuffed graduation animals.  A couple of them maybe (one was bought by my parents).  It’s not that people weren’t buying, I just wasn’t trying.  At the end of the term our teacher split the profits evenly among all of the students.  We all made more than what we invested.  This got me thinking.  If I had sold more or helped others sell more I would have made more money.  I was responsible for how much I made.

Add a zero to it.

This one is directly from our teacher and probably the one I remember the most.  When we started selling, many of us didn’t take it seriously since the item we were selling was so cheap (that would be me; I did mention it was senior year right?).  What the teacher said was to take the amount we were looking at and add a zero to it.  Did that make it worth being serious?  Add two zeros.  How about now?  Ok, add three zeros.  Five dollars turns into $5,000 after three zeros.  As I’ve said I didn’t put as much effort into the class as I should have but this little bit of advice stayed with me long after I left High School.  Today if I’m about to buy something and tell myself “it’s only $20” I’ll stop and throw a zero at the end.  Then I think twice about spending the money.  When I would look at my savings account years ago it wouldn’t look like much and I would think I would never save a significant amount.  Then I would throw a zero or two at the end and feel a little better.  See, those little amounts don’t look like much but they add up pretty quickly and adding a zero to those amounts makes them much more serious.  Small amounts grow over time whether it’s what you spend or what you earn.

It took some time for all of this to sink into my thick head but it’s all important to me now.  I take responsibility for my decisions, which are mine to make.  I understand that my success is related to my effort.  And I look at the small things as big things to realize their impact.

Tell me what practical money advice you retained from High School!

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Published or updated November 5, 2012.


  1. Track Your Bucks says:

    I discovered thrift shops in high school; I got pretty good at picking out somewhat hip outfits (which are everything to anyone in high school) on the cheap. Even when other students “called me out” upon realizing that I occasionally wore duds from the local Goodwill – they still thought it was pretty cool. This was back in “caveman days”, however – I don’t know if today’s ultra-hip kids can get away with “thrifting”, but then – maybe it’s time to bring back the practice…

    • Glen Craig says:

      My friends and I used to do that. I once got an amazing London Fog wool coat for $25. Only thing wrong with it – was missing a button (which there was an extra inside).

      Compared to the “hip” stores that sold used duds, the thrift stores were ridiculously cheap.

      Great way to get some great clothes on a budget.

  2. Remembering anything from your senior year is a bonus. My kids seemed to slide by, and I don’t remember much important happening of my own.

    Great tips-don’t tell Ramit you are worried bout those small things though! You’ll end up in a video.

    • Glen Craig says:

      Haha, so right about remembering. Senior year was so long ago. But I remember that eco class.

      Now it depends on the small things. I think Ramit would say that some small things are VERY important.

  3. barter411 says:

    I didn’t learn much in high school. It wasn’t my time and I didn’t know who I was. When I stumbled into college, I soon realized that unless I took the lead I was going nowhere. I found out that I loved economics. My programming classes were fascinating too, but it wasn’t my major, so I began learning computers wherever and how ever I could. I agree with the late Steve Jobs, who said you have to do something you love. Like me, you may find it by accident. But follow the love and find it you will. It’s your destiny.

  4. I went away to a prep school and I was on an allowance ($2 per week). Anything I wanted required me to save my money for it. This was a long time ago, but it still works very well. The savings habit started much earlier, but this was the first time I was on my own with an allowance. I also learned how some of my fellow student s were much wealthier. Their allowance was as much as $40 per week. It never bothered me, but I learned that there were tremendous differences between my friends. I used it to motivate me.

    • Glen Craig says:

      I know as a kid I didn’t appreciate the whole “a little hardship builds character” line, but the truth is, it does.

  5. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    I didn’t take a single financial class in high school. I did get a job when I turned 15 though, which taught me a lot about money and responsibility.

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