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Education Resources

Share the Wealth

Meaningful budgeting activities for teens

The most successful activities for teaching personal finance to teens tend to be those that make the learning activities relevant and meaningful for the students. Two Tennessee educators recently shared their activities for engaging students in budgeting lessons they can relate to.

Paying for the prom
Elizabeth Borum at Harriman High School in Harriman teaches budgeting by using the students' prom experience as a learning opportunity. She begins the discussion by having students list basic prom expenses, including tickets, pictures, dinner, and clothing. She then challenges the students to identify other prom-related expenses such as getting manicures, styling hair, having vehicles cleaned, and buying jewelry.

Related Links
On this site:
"Making Budgets Real for Your Students" (Extra Credit Fall 2005 article and activities)
"Banking and Budgeting" (a middle school lesson plan)
On the Web:
Building Wealth: A Beginner's Guide to Securing Your Financial Future

Student tally their total expenses as well as the amount of time spent at the prom and then use these figures to calculate the cost per hour of the event. Comparing their total cost to the amount of money they earn per hour in their jobs shows students how long they need to work to earn the money necessary to attend the prom. Borum also guides students through an activity to illustrate the time value of money by calculating the potential value of their funds if they had been saved and invested instead of spent on prom expenses.

Borum said, "Students should have memories associated with high school, but they need to be smart about how they spend their money." To help students consider all their options, she and her students have conversations about cost-saving alternatives such as renting or borrowing a dress, which can easily save a girl $300.

Planning the dream getaway
Karyn Trent at Hancock County High School in Sneedville has students apply budgeting skills by planning their dream vacations. This activity allows students not only to apply personal finance skills but also to develop research, critical thinking, and technology skills

Given a budget of $1,500 per person, students plan their dream vacation to any location in the United States. They research prices on the various components of their trip—travel (air, bus, and car), hotels/lodging, food, attractions, and memorabilia—collecting three prices for each component. Students then plan their trip by choosing among these options. Finally, they develop and present to the class a PowerPoint slideshow about their dream vacations. This presentation outlines the component costs and the total price of their vacation and explains the steps they took to stay within their budget.

The Federal Reserve provides various print and electronic resources as well as lesson plans related to budgeting; see the related links for examples and more information.

By Jackie Morgan, economic and financial education specialist, Nashville Branch