Learning how to budget is a key life skill. It means being able to manage how much money is earned and spent over a period of time, often a fortnight or a month. A budget is a written plan for how much money will be spent and saved. Teaching students to develop budgeting plans will get them into the habit of thinking about what they spend and what income or savings they have to support this spending.
I Like, but I Can't Have
This is a useful exercise to teach students that everyone experiences wanting something, but not being able to have it without saving for it first. Ask them to write up all of their income -- money from paper route, pocket money, money from nice Uncle Joe, and anything else. Then ask them to write a list of all the things that they have seen and wanted in the past month. Seeing how their wants far surpass what they can afford is a useful way for them to learn that the feeling of wanting something passes, if we don't act on it on impulse.
Grocery Shopping Guesstimate
In this exercise, let the students do the family grocery shopping with a list from one of their parents/guardians. They are only allowed to spend up to a certain amount, but the list given to them by their parents comes to more. As they put the items into the basket, they have to add up what it costs, and what their running total is. Crunch time comes when they have to decide what needs to stay and what must be taken out. The student is being encouraged to prioritize what the family needs, rather than what he likes.
Planning a Trip Out
The students can be encouraged to arrange a school day-trip, and to look at all of the costs involved. These include transport, venues/places to be visited, food and drink and any other special costs. The students should then consider whether this is a reasonable cost to the average household budget, or how many weeks it would take them to save for it if paying for it independently.
Buying a Car
Most high school students look forward to learning how to drive and being able to buy a car. A really motivating budgeting exercise is for them to add up the total cost of owning a vehicle and to create milestones of saving to meet these costs. They should start with driving lessons, then buying an actual car, weekly fuel bills, insurance and other costs.
Nicole O'Driscoll has been writing since 2000. She is published in "The James Joyce Bloomsday Centenary Collection" and has written about social exclusion and incarceration in Samuel Beckett's "Trilogy." O'Driscoll is a qualified nurse who manages a mental-health crisis house. She holds a doctorate in English literature from Newcastle University.