Financial Literacy Activities for High School

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

Financial literacy is an important topic for high school students as they continue their journey as consumers and begin building financial independence. Use these activities to help students understand and tackle financial challenges.

Financial Literacy Activities for High School

High school students can greatly benefit from financial literacy activities because they need hands-on experience applying textbook financial concepts. These partner and team activities will help you engage your students in identifying methods for balancing a budget, determining spending priorities, and calculating the effect of interest on purchases. The first activity is designed to be used with the whole class, and the other two are most appropriate for partners or teams. All three activities include an individual reflection component to solidify learning.

Balloon Budget Balance

  • Materials: balloons, permanent marker, note cards

In this activity, students will interact with one another by balancing balloons that represent different budget categories and reflecting on the experience. Begin by giving students a basic scenario, such as a two-parent, one-income household with three children. Next, place students into teams and ask that they brainstorm some budget categories that the family must consider, such as housing, transportation, schooling, food, gas, clothing, entertainment, and utilities. Include income and savings categories, as well, such as coupons, a part-time job, and conserving electricity. Have teams share their categories with the class as you complete a running list on the board. Combine categories as appropriate. Place each item in either the income or the expense column.

Consider splitting this activity into two class sessions to give you time to prepare the balloons and note cards. Write a spending category on each balloon. For large expenses, use a ratio system. For example, housing may be three balloons and entertainment may only be one. Write the income and savings categories on note cards. Distribute the note cards to several students. Have the remaining students serve as the salary income of the family's sole provider. Ask them to stand in a circle. Toss the top three expense category balloons into the circle and task students with keeping them afloat. Continue tossing balloons into the circle until all of them have been used. Most likely, students will struggle to keep them all in the air.

Pause the activity and discuss the challenges of ''balancing'' the various expense balloons. Resume the activity, but this time, add one note card student at a time until it becomes easier to keep the balloons afloat. If it is still a challenge, pause and discuss other options for savings or income. The students may decide that the other parent should begin a full-time job in order to bring in a salary; as a result, they may need to add a childcare expense balloon. Provide time for discussion and reflection throughout and after the activity to help students creatively solve problems to maintain financial balance. Provide time for individual students to write a brief reflective paragraph about the experience.

Prioritizing Practice

  • Materials: blank slips of paper, writing utensil, number cards (1 - 10)

In this activity, students will practice the skill of prioritizing potential expenses in order to maintain a healthy financial life. Begin by teaming students and providing them with ten blank slips of a paper. Provide students with a relevant scenario, such as a college student with a part-time job who shares rent with two roommates. From the perspective of their scenario subject, students should then write down types of spending she may encounter, such as rent, textbooks, and food. Additionally, encourage students to be realistic by adding slips for other items, such as entertainment, sporting events, and dining out. Encourage them to come up with at least twelve expense items.

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