Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them." Austin Seminary MDiv/Middler Sarah Wildt understands this sentiment well after taking the "Student Budget Challenge," a diary that chronicles the highs and lows of creating a sustainable budget.
Wildt currently participates in the Ministers Facing Money (MFM) program, funded by The Lilly Endowment, which allows students to explore money and theological education from a number of angles. The program offers resources to help seminarians navigate issues related to money, both professionally and personally. Many 2014 college students graduate with average educational debt of $33,000. It's easy to see how the program's lessons would resonate deeply for seminary students as they try to find ways to balance their budgets, while already saddled with the weight of student debt entering a graduate program.
The idea of chronicling expenditures biweekly on video came about in a conversation with MFM Project Coordinator Carrie Graham. "Sarah and I had some conversations about it, and this idea surfaced as both a way for Sarah to continue her own journey with money, and also to share her lessons with peers along the way," said Graham.
For Wildt, and the Ministers Facing Money program as well, the Student Budget Challenge offers a distinctive way of approaching the challenges of money management. Graham felt Wildt was a perfect candidate to record the diary. "Sarah’s enthusiasm and willingness to both a) try new things in general and b) share vulnerable lessons learned put her in a great position to do the video diary project. She is tracking what works, what doesn’t work; in essence, we can see Sarah’s growth more concretely than we might otherwise. Making brief biweekly videos throughout an academic year will do that. Sarah will put together highlights and biggest lessons learned and use the diaries to develop a workshop this spring. But it doesn’t have to end there. Through this medium, Sarah’s journey can be tracked by anyone that wanders onto our MFM page on the seminary website."
Overall, Wildt has created nine diary entries and will present them in a workshop this April. She gained a valuable lesson regarding finances and the experience provided some enlightenment.
"The number one thing I've learned during this project thus far has been that budgets are fluid," said Wildt. "There is no 'one set budget' that works for everything or even for the whole month. Budgeting is something you have to keep working at and maintaining all throughout your month and life."