Game On: How to Help Teenagers Learn How to Budget

August 17, 2015

Gabrielle Blair — graphic designer, Design Mom blogger, AltSummit founder, and mother of six — knows a thing or two about managing a budget. So she invented a budgeting game to help teenagers out, and give them a taste as to what real world money management looks like. Here's how it works:

Every child, no matter what, will one day leave the nest — whether for college, a job, volunteer service, or the armed forces — so making sure they know how to make a monthly budget and stick to it is essential.

For Gabrielle Blair, founder of the acclaimed design blog, Design Mom, the moment of truth came when she started talking with her two eldest children about college and living independently. Realizing that the moment they would be moving out was quickly approaching, she set about making sure her children had the tools they needed to make it on their own. 

Enter the budgeting game, a money management challenge that spans a 12-month time period, but only takes about an hour to play.

...yes, you can spend every dime you earn and never save, but there are real negative consequences when you do. And alternatively, yes, you can eat the bare minimum and live like a miser, but there are real negative consequences when you do. The goal is a reasonable, healthy, monthly budget.

Choose Your Own (Financial) Adventure
How it works: Each player starts with a round number figure that represents monthly income. Blair chose $300, but it can really be any amount you choose. Next, Blair laid out three financial options — frugal, moderate, and more lavish — covering everything from rent to food, transportation, utilities, and fun.

Each month, the players can pick and choose which option works for them, as long as they stay in budget. The only "fixed" option is rent, which once chosen can't be changed until halfway through the year.

And as for the rest, it all depends on how much money the player wants to save vs. how much they want to spend. Throw in a few kinks — like an overdue tax bill or unpaid sick leave — and add in elements that help foster social and emotional well being, and it all starts feeling less like a game and more like a primer on how manage money and manage living as self-sufficient adults.

While players probably won't become budgeting masters by the end of the game, it's definitely a great place to start.


If you have teenagers who are on the cusp of adulthood (or if you happen to be one such teenager), this is a worthwhile and fun exercise. Check out the budgeting game and download a free copy to play with your family.

By Lisa Merlini

Tag: Exploring Education

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