‘Would You Rather…?’ A Text Messaging Campaign on a Mission to Help Students Manage Their Money

DoSomething.org LogoWe’ve all done some weird things to make money. My weirdest job? Working at an events company where I would dress in an elf costume, work the popcorn machine, and shuffle snot-nosed kids through the line to meet Santa every holiday season. At an Easter event one spring, I saw the inside of the Easter Bunny costume head, and was never the same. Every time I got a paycheck from that job, it seemed like it was gone in the blink of an eye. I had no idea how to manage, invest, or save my money.

I wasn’t alone in my lack of finance savvy, and the implications of being clueless about money extend much further than the holiday season. Seventy percent of college seniors graduate with student loan debt, averaging $29,400 in 2013,[1] and 36% of recent college graduates are mal-employed[2], meaning they work in positions that don’t require a degree, like on a wait staff or in the service industry. There is a monumental gap between the average college graduate’s debt and their financial ability to pay – and much of it can be attributed to an inability to understand and make tough financial decisions.

For the second year, DoSomething.org, the largest not-for-profit for young people and social change, is combating that issue and informing young people on financial education through a text-messaging experience in partnership with H&R Block Dollars and Sense. The experience, called Would You Rather, uses text messaging to challenge young people to make decisions about how they’d manage their money and provides real world financial tips. Last year, 44,238 young people participated in the campaign, delivering 62,435 tips to their friends.

Here’s how it works:

  • Teen receives a text message like this: “What would you rather do to save $$? A) Share your spring break hotel room w/ your entire extended family OR B) Not go on spring break.”
  • Teen responds: “A”
  • They receive: Hope the bathtub’s comfy!
  • After this and throughout the game, they receive actionable financial tips relevant to the question, such as: “Going on spring break? Create a travel budget so you come back from vacation with happiness and a tan, rather than regret.”

Teens have the opportunity to send this game to friends, compare answers, and share valuable financial tips directly relevant to their lives. Focusing financial education on short term decisions and small behavior changes with big impact is an effective and impactful way to get young people thinking about their financial futures, even beyond holiday shopping.

This post was provided by Farah Sheikh, Education Campaign Specialist at DoSomething.org, who was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on March 8th, 2014.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

Photo Credit: Fanlala


[1] Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt

[2] Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

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