Money Management Games for Teens

Michele Meleen
teenage girl stacking coins

Money management and financial literacy are life skills teens can't afford to live without. Start the conversation at home or in school with fun games about different aspects of handling money.

Fishing for Credit Cards

Take the classic card game Go Fish to a mature level when you incorporate credit card management. Using common credit card terms, each playing card takes on new meaning and players compete to end up with the best credit card offer. Gameplay is simple, but ending up with a winning card won't be so easy. If you have more than one deck of cards, get several games going with smaller groups in a classroom setting then have all players in the larger group compare their last card once all the games are finished.

Number of Players: Three to Seven

Objective: Keep the best card in your hand until the end of the game.

What You Need

  • One standard deck of playing cards

Preparations

  1. Write the following rules where everyone can see them during gameplay:
    • Black cards have an annual fee, red cards do not.
    • The number on each card denotes the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for the card. Face cards continue in numbering after ten, so a Jack is eleven and so on.
    • The suit on each card denotes any rewards offered with the card. Diamonds offer three percent cash back on all purchases, clubs offer one point per dollar spent to be used on redeeming gift certificates, spades give you a free domestic flight once you spend over $30,000 and hearts give you one percent cash back on all purchases.
    • The card with the lowest APR, no annual fee and the diamond rewards are best. To determine if a card is better than the others first look for the lowest APR, then the annual fee and use the rewards as a tie breaker if needed. The teacher or class can determine the ranking order of the rewards. For example, diamonds are best, then hearts, followed by clubs and spades are the lowest.

How to Play

  1. Deal five cards to each player then spread the rest of the cards in a facedown pile in the center of the playing area.
  2. Play according to standard Go Fish rules where each player asks another for a card to match one in their hand. Matches can be based on either color, suit or number and don't need to match all three aspects of the card.
  3. A player is out of the game once he only has one card left in his hand. He sits out of play with this card until everyone is down to one card.
  4. If the last player still has more than one card in his hand when everyone else is out, another player shuffles his cards around then he selects one from that pile.
  5. The player with the best credit card in their hand at the end of the game is the winner.

Budget Buster

In this fast-paced card game players race to balance their budgets before anyone else runs out of cards. Budgeting seems like a simple concept, but they get complicated by unexpected expenses and changes in income. This game gives teens a real look at how difficult balancing a budget can be. Go over the rules and set up a few times to make sure everyone understands how to play as this game is a bit more complex.

Young Women Playing Cards

Number of Players: Two to four

Objective: Be the first player to balance your budget and run out of cards.

What You Need

  • One standard deck of playing cards, jokers included
  • Sticky notes
  • Pens

How to Play

  1. Separate the deck where one pile includes only 10s, J's, Q's, K's, and A's. These are the income cards that dictate each player's monthly budget. Each card represents hundreds of dollars:
    • 10 = $1,000
    • J = $1,100
    • Q = $1,200
    • K = $1,300
    • A = $1,400
  2. The second pile includes all other cards.
  3. Each player writes on five sticky notes the following categories, one per note. This gives each player a monthly budget limit. These notes get lined up in front of each player and from each player's left to right their notes read:
    • Home expenses
    • Food expenses
    • Transportation expenses
    • Fun and entertainment expenses
    • Miscellaneous
  4. Shuffle and fan out the income cards facedown.
  5. Each player chooses one income card. This is their monthly income for the entire game and should be placed next to the line of sticky notes. Add the remaining cards to the other deck and shuffle them together.
  6. Deal five cards to each player, they can look at these cards. Place the rest of the cards in the center of the playing area facedown as the draw pile.
    • If a player is dealt a joker he is not allowed to change his income during the entire game.
  7. On their first turn, each player places one card from their hand on the "home expenses" sticky note and one on the "food expenses" sticky note. As these are basic needs, players must keep at least one expense card in these two categories throughout the entire game. Any player caught with an empty home or food expense category after their first term automatically loses.
  8. On subsequent turns, each player draws a card. They must then use any one card in their hand as an expense card placed under any of the sticky note categories. Add two zeros to the number on each card in your hand to get its value in this game. For example, a two would be two hundred dollars and a nine would be nine hundred dollars.
    • If a player cannot lay down an expense, change his income or make any other legal move he draws two extra cards from the deck and does not get to discard.
  9. Once a card is laid down as an expense, it can't be removed unless the player's income changes. There can be up to three expense cards in any note category, but all the cards in a player's total expenses can't add up to more than their income.
    • If a player draws a card from the draw pile that was originally in the income deck, he can replace his current income with the new income on a turn instead of allocating an expense.
    • Jokers are unexpected large expenses. If a player draws a joker, he loses his next turn.
  10. After playing a card, each player places one card from their hand in the discard pile.
  11. The first person to have at least one expense card in each of the five categories that equal less than their designated income and have no cards left in their hand is the winner.

Wise Investors

In this role-playing game, teens use clever strategies to convince others their company is a good investment. This take on Two Truths and a Lie will get players thinking about marketing ploys and weeding out the facts when making large financial decisions.

Number of Players: Eight to twenty

Objective: To make the most money on investments.

What You Need

  • Fake money
  • Art supplies like paper and markers
  • Small tables or desks, at least three

Preparations

  1. Create return on investment cards by tearing a piece of paper into four equal parts.
  2. On each slip of paper write one number based on the number of companies in your game. If your game has five companies, you'd write the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 on separate slips of paper.

How to Play

  1. Separate the class into two equal groups: investors and companies. If you have an odd number of players, it's OK to have one group larger than the other.
  2. Investors should gather at one end of the room and distribute an equal amount of fake money to each person. Each person has ten minutes to draw a table on a sheet of paper. The table should look something like this:
Sample Investor Table
Company Name: Investment Amount: Return on Investment: Total:
Co. 1
Co. 2
Co. 3
Grand Total:
Minus Staring Cash:
Total Gain:
  1. Companies have ten minutes to create presentation materials to display at their table or desk. Each company can use three sheets of paper, but each can only show one specific piece of information. For example, a company might draw a logo on one piece, offer their mission statement on another and offer a promised minimum return on investment on the last. Companies must include a lie on one of their sheets of paper. A good lie might be stating your most recent return on investment was five when you really don't know that's true. The goal is to get the most investors to invest in your company.
  2. Once each company has a display set up, the teacher randomly places a return on investment on the underside of the company's table where no one can see it.
  3. Investors now have ten minutes to visit the company tables, read the materials and talk with the company owner.
  4. At the end of the ten minutes, each investor must have allotted all of their money to companies using the table they drew. Investors can put all their money in one company or break it up across several.
  5. The teacher then reveals the return on investment for each company.
  6. Investors write these numbers next to each company on their table. They calculate how much they made from their investments by multiplying each investment amount by the return on investment for that company, adding totals for each investment then subtracting the amount they started the game with.
  7. The company who received the highest amount of investments and the investor who earned the most money win.
  8. Have all players trade roles and start over.

Online Games

If you're looking for more self-directed activities, online games featuring financial concepts are ideal. These games reinforce common money management skills through exciting graphics and difficult challenges.

  • Use The Stock Market: Risks andRewardsActivity from The Mint as the basis for a classroom competition. The original activity asks students to follow stocks over several weeks, but you can make this a quick in-class game by having each student select three companies using the provided dartboard method and comparing their current numbers to the three expert-chosen stocks. The student with the most random picks that beat expert picks is the winner.
  • Finances 101 is an online arcade-style game simulating real life money concerns. You need to create an account using your email to play, but the game is free. Based off a live-action board game, players travel through everyday adult life and have to make decisions about how to spend and earn money.
  • Students who love a good detective story will have fun playing Gen i Revolution. This free online role-play game asks students to help characters in a fictional world solve financial problems by recruiting experts and gathering clues about the scenario. To register you'll need to provide personal information like your name and address as you create a user account. The entire game consists of sixteen separate missions that each take around thirty minutes to complete.
  • Financial Football is a free online game pairing financial literacy questions with a professional football game. Choose from single player or head-to-head game mode and your age group from 11 to fourteen, fourteen to eighteen or eighteen and up. In order to make any plays, you'll have to correctly answer age-appropriate questions about money management in this simpler version of Madden NFL.

Fun With Financial Literacy

As teens grow and mature, they'll understand they can't survive in this world without basic money management information. Give your teens a successful head start on adult life in terms they'll connect with using fun games and activities.

Money Management Games for Teens