Budgeting Activities for High School

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been part of the whirlwind world of teaching middle school for 20 years. She has a Master of Education degree in instructional design.

These budgeting activities will help you guide your high school students through the complex process of navigating personal finances. You can engage students in facing the challenges of budgeting and making necessary adjustments.

Budgeting Activities

Providing your high school students with a realistic picture of budgeting is essential. Since they will most likely encounter some financial challenges in the future, it's important to guide them through the process of initial planning, as well as necessary adjustments based on unforeseen events. These high school budgeting activities are appropriate for use with individuals, partners, or teams. Additionally, time for team discussion and whole-class debriefing can serve as a meaningful summary of their learning.

Basic Budgeting

In this activity, you will guide students through the basics of budgeting. First, provide them with a basic budgeting worksheet. Have teams conduct web research to determine expenses, such as electricity and cell phone bills. Students should complete their worksheet of expenses with as much detail as possible. If they are stumped, allow them to collaborate with other teams. Encourage them to make a reasonable estimate.

After students have completed their budget, allow them to randomly select an ''income card'' that provides a salary after taxes have been deducted. Have students divide the annual salary by twelve to determine the monthly income. Explain the difference between gross and net income.

Provide time for students to determine their financial situation based on their salary. Provide these guiding questions:

  • Is there a surplus, a deficit, or does it balance out?
  • What adjustments can be made to accommodate the difference between income and expenses?
  • If the income exceeds expenses, what can they do with this extra money?
  • If the expenses exceed the income, what can they do to make up for the deficit?

Provide time for students to debrief about the budgeting process. Were they surprised by the outcome? How can they apply the skills they've learned to real life? Consider adding in a written component in which students summarize their learning.

  • Materials: basic budgeting worksheet, income cards, guiding questions

Budget Balancing

In this activity, first provide students with a completed budgeting worksheet in which monthly expenses outweigh income. Provide a scenario with additional information, such as an emergency fund or general savings account, additional sources of income, or potential income changes. Students must determine how they will sustain themselves for six months by either cutting expenses, adding income, or utilizing their savings.

The essential goal of this activity is to help students prioritize and determine whether they should cut back on expenses or dip into their savings. Some guiding questions could include:

  • If they choose to utilize their savings, how long will this money sustain the deficit?
  • Should they look for a new job, take on a second job, or seek a promotion?
  • Should they cut back on expenses and live a more modest lifestyle?

Consider providing additional challenges after students have determined their solution. For example, they may need to purchase a new car in month three. How will they budget in a car payment and increase in auto insurance?

Provide time for students to debrief with classmates by combining individuals or partnerships into teams. Can they come up with a ''best approach'' if they face a similar situation in the future? Ask individual students to write a summary of their process and final product. They should defend their budgeting decisions within this written response by providing clear reasons.

  • Materials: completed budgeting worksheet, budgeting scenario, guiding questions, summary sheet

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