If you’ve watched Channel One for a few years, you might remember a series we did called Wallet Wars. The idea was to invite three families to hand over their monthly finances to their teens to find out if they could manage the family budget better than their parents.”During my senior year,” explained Jess LeProtto, “my computer teacher asked me to be a part of the project about breaking down family finances.” He quickly learned that it wasn’t going to be as easy as it might have seemed. “When you see it all on paper, you’re like ‘whoa!'”
“When you see the differences between wants and needs, and when you see it from your parents’ perspective, the decisions you have to make in a month can change — a lot.” For him, “the biggest thing was food. At the time, it was also music downloads and just other random, miscellaneous stuff. It was a lesson for me to start saving.”
What you might not have known about Jess at the time was that he was an aspiring performer. Since Wallet Wars, and graduation, he’s been on a season of So You Think You Can Dance, and landed a role in the Broadway show, Newsies.
We spoke to Jess about his experience with our experiment to find out what he learned and how he applies it to his life now.
“Now,” he shared, “managing my money is a big priority — food is still a big category, and I’ve gotten better about music downloads. I moved into the city, I became more independent, but my family is still involved and supportive.”
The difference now is that he’s responsible for his own bills, and living in one of the country’s most expensive cities is a challenge. “I definitely live in a bachelor pad and that’s it. I have to save, though, so I make sure I have rent. I have a responsibility to my roommates.”
He’s also paying for college. “I go to school part-time for musical theater. I pay part-time tuition, but that’s something else I have to think about. I use budgets and calendars to keep everything scheduled and organized. It’s a lot to handle. I also teach a class here and there,” which brings in some money, but adds to his busy schedule.
“I’m lucky enough to be able to do what I love, so financially it’s important for me to have a grip on things so that everything stays level, and not chaotic,” something that people who work in a creative field have to keep in mind, because they’re not always being paid on a regular schedule.
In addition to staying on top of your schedule and finances, Jess thinks that for creative types, the “goal should be to get involved with as much as you can. Don’t feel nervous to open up because that’s what will make you successful. You’ve got to learn and work on things you’re weak in, but also enjoy yourself and be willing to give yourself to an audience.”For him, professionally, “I want to enhance my knowledge. I want to learn as much as I can, because right now I’m at a stage where I can do this,” but he knows he might not always be.”Newsies has been a great opportunity to learn from other people. I’m trying to enjoy it at the same time.””It’s crazy but it’s fun.”