Money Matters

How much do you know about budgeting, money sense and basic economics?

If compound interest and risk diversification are foreign concepts to you, then you are not alone, a 2015 Gallup study found that two-thirds of adults worldwide are financially illiterate.

Most schools do not have a dedicated money sense curriculum and instead teach the topic fleetingly in Math class, this can often amount to little more than naming the coins and basic addition and subtraction. What kids desperately need is classes on budgeting, finance and money management. They need to be taught the vital life lessons that many adults still struggle with, such as:

  • Needing to earn more money than you spend
  • Saving 10% of income
  • Discriminating between wants and needs
  • Starting to save early for retirement
  • Limiting debt
  • Paying credit cards off promptly 

With most adults receiving little formal financial education and money and debt still being a taboo subject in many families, is it any wonder that 8 out of 10 American’s are currently living in debt? Money problems can be a huge source of stress for many of us, and can represent feelings of power, shame and secrecy, in fact, many couples cite money problems as the source of their marital disharmony.

Blending practical financial tips into a range of cross-curricular activities both at home and school is an excellent way to equip students with the knowledge and skills to hold on to as much of their hard-earned money as possible and maximize their savings.

Read on for age by age activities for building financial literacy in your students.

Little Ones

Parents and teachers need to start young when it comes to building money sense in children. When children ask if they can have something, adults need to explain the cost, if it is feasible and encourage students to learn delayed gratification by saving for items. Small children love to play shop and understanding the exchange of goods is the beginning step in learning the basics of commerce.


Set up a play shop in your classroom, complete with price tags, a cash register and play money. Give students a set budget so that they understand money is not limitless, how much can they buy with the money they have? Allow them to make decisions and regularly change the prices so that they are forced to exercise discretion and sometimes wait until the next time they play to afford an expensive item. 

Elementary School

Encourage students to begin to see the link between work and purchases. Discuss their allowance or money earned through completing chores and items that they may wish to buy. Suggest students ask their parents if they can open a savings account and brainstorm goals they could save towards.


Share a selection of catalogues with the class and have them cut out items they are interested in buying, have them sort the purchases by price and work out how long it would take to save their allowance to buy the item.

Middle School

Teachers can introduce students to basic budgeting, learning how to balance income and expenditure and deciding which items are necessities and which are luxuries.


Have students look through flyers and decide how to spend a weekly food budget, how many meals can they make with these ingredients? Another fun activity can be to ask students how they would spend a million-dollar lottery win, once tax and expenses are factored in many students are surprised at how little their winnings can buy.

Young Adults

In Math class students should be presented with real world problems, for instance comparing credit card offers, if they need to borrow $1000 for a purchase, work out the total cost including interest and compare which products offers the best value for money.


Projects involving launching a company and developing a business plan can also teach financial skills and spark creativity at the same time.

If you are unsure exactly what financial concepts you should be trying to develop in your students, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has produced an assessment tool which details key financial concepts broken down into each grade level. This can serve as an excellent starting point to craft informative lessons that help your students to become more financially literate and develop confidence and money sense to last a lifetime.

Fiona Tapp, is a Freelance Writer, Educator and Mom. An Expert in the field of Pedagogy, a teacher of 13 years and Master’s Degree holder in Education. Take a look at her website or blog to connect.