Budgeting Activities for Middle 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.

Teaching budgeting to middle school students doesn't have to be a bore! Use these hands-on activities to help your students visualize the realities of their future financial lives, including income, expenses, and emergencies.

Budgeting Activities for Middle School

Teaching the process of budgeting to middle school students provides an important foundation that can help them understand finances well into the future. These application-based activities will help you guide middle school students through the processes of balancing their income and expenses, budgeting for specific expenses, and adjusting for emergencies. These activities are best utilized in teams, with a whole-class discussion and an individual written reflection at the end.

Income and Expense Balance

In this hands-on activity, you can guide your students through the important task of balancing income and expenses. Provide teams with a substantial amount of paper clips, dried beans, or other small item. Assign a value to each item, such as each bean represents $100. For advanced learners, you may want to provide items that represent different amounts, such as a dried bean for $50 and a paper clip for $100. Provide teams with a randomly selected career and the median income for that career.

Now, it's time to crunch some numbers! Explain the difference between gross and net income. Provide students with a standard tax rate, such as 15%. Based on the median income, students should deduct taxes and divide the resulting annual salary by twelve to determine the monthly income.

Now that they have determined their monthly income, have students count out the number of items that represents it. For example, if every bean represents $100, a $2200 monthly income can be represented with 22 paperclips. Have students place the items on a sheet of paper labeled ''income''.

Provide students with a list of standard expenses. To provide added support, consider rounding to the amount represented by the small items. Students should then count out the number of items necessary to represent their expenses and place these items on a sheet of paper labeled ''expenses''. Lastly, they should compare the two piles. Are there more items on the income or the expense side? Is there a surplus or a deficit?

Wrap up this activity by asking students to explain the following terms: net income, gross income, surplus, deficit, balance

  • Materials: adequate amount of paper clips, beans, or another small item; career cards that include median income information (one per team); list of standard expenses; income and expense labeled papers (one set per team); word list for summarizing activity

Expense Brainstorming

In this activity, you can help your students understand the many hidden expenses they may encounter in the future. As a class, brainstorm the expenses students expect to have in the future. After the list is complete, explain to students that there are always additional considerations. For example, while they may have included car payment on their list of expenses, they left out fuel costs, maintenance and insurance.

Now, provide time for students to analyze each item on the expense list and think through additional related costs or fluctuations in the amount of that item. For example, when looking at rent, what about renter's insurance? When budgeting for electricity, what about when temperatures rise or fall and the bill changes throughout the year? Have them use markers to record hidden expenses on a poster and allow them to illustrate each expense category. Post these products around the room.

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