A lack of basic financial knowledge leads to money troubles later in life. Middle school students can begin to learn the basics of budgeting and saving money. Hands-on activities will give them the practice they need to apply the principles in real life, helping them to achieve financial success.
Needs Vs. Wants
One of the most important concepts of correct budgeting is the difference between a "want" and a "need." Students should learn that spending money on the "wants" can lead to debt. Give students a list of items and have them separate them into "needs" and "wants." List some items that fall into gray areas. For example, as adults, the students may need a car to get to their job, but they may want a Mercedes.
Minimum Wage Budget
Living on a limited income is a challenge for many families in America. Have students imagine that they are adults, working a minimum wage job. Give students several options for how they can budget this money to make it work. For example, students could choose between living with a roommate and having more money for entertainment or living alone and having to make cuts to accommodate the higher cost. If students want to imagine that they are part of a family, you could increase the monthly income to count for two incomes.
Price is Right
When shopping on a budget, it's essential to know the common costs of certain items so that you know when something is a good deal and when it is not. Play games like you'd see on the TV game show "The Price is Right" where students guess the cost of common household items or place items in order of cost, from lowest to highest.
When budgeting, you should count for everyday expenses, but save for some long term goals as well. Some people also like to set aside a certain amount for charity. Ask students to plan their own personal budget. Their incoming money could be an allowance from parents or they may work small jobs, like babysitting. A student should divide her earnings so that she is using some money now, donating some to charity and saving for a bigger expense later, such as a college fund or an expensive item that she wants.
Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.