Family Game Night! A Fun Way to Teach Your Children How to Budget

teach kids budgetingToday my friend, Jacob from Power Over Life, is generously sharing a great way  to teach kids about money and budgeting in a fun and captivating way! Thanks for sharing, Jacob!

Growing up, my parents were notorious for finding perfect moments to teach my siblings and I about money. My parents were either being great parents and really trying to teach us life lessons…or they were wanting all of us to become independent and not stay in the house past college!

No matter the intention, I remember one family night in particular where my parents gathered all of us together for a special lesson on budgeting. What ensued was a night that was very hands-on and quite creative. It wasn’t until I became a father myself before I fully appreciated my parent’s preparation and creativity at teaching us how to budget.

Your children may not thank you initially for having this special family night, but I promise they will always remember it!

So grab a pen and paper and get ready to jot down some notes on how you can personalize this strategy to make it a special night for your own children.

The Game Setup

Here are the items that you will need:

1. Monopoly Money (or some other form of pretend money)

Make sure you have the amount of paper money equal to the amount of money you make in a month.

Note: My parents used the exact amount that they earned and they told us that fact. If you aren’t comfortable with telling your kids how much you make, use a different number.

2. Blank Paper with Different “Titles” Listed on Each One

Each of these pieces of paper will represent different expenses that you have each month.

For example, if you have a mortgage with a bank, then you would write “Mr. or Mrs. Banker” and then list “mortgage” underneath the title. Another example is food…so a title could be “Walmart Associate” and then list “food” underneath.

Note: Each family is different, so your list of expenses will need to be tailored to your own circumstances. You don’t need to include every little expense, but definitely the big ones such as: mortgage/rent, grocery store, gas and car services, savings, etc

Note: My parents had about 15 or so different signs for our family night, that included the biggest expenses that the family had. They then pooled all of the little expenses into a ‘miscellaneous’ category.

3. Pins

Use these to pin the pieces of paper, or “titles” onto your children and one parent (the other parent will be the “money earner and bill payer”).

Depending on your family size, you may have a lot of papers pinned to each of your children and one parent. Let them pin the papers wherever they want to on their clothes.

4. Chairs

Sit in a circle and get ready to have some fun.

The Game in Action

Once you have your paper “titles” and your children in a circle have the “money earner and bill payer” start the conversation. You will need to tailor the conversation to the age group, but it can be something like this:

“We are going to go over our monthly budget. This is the amount that we make each month (show them the fake money and tell them the amount). But we have a lot of bills to pay.”

Next, the “bill payer” starts to pay the bills, “It looks like we have to pay our mortgage, so Mr. (or Mrs.) Banker, here is our mortgage payment”. Hand over the amount equal to your rent (or a made up number).

Continue in this manner, handing out money to each of your children for each of the expenses. This is very engaging for the children, in fact, you might even get lucky and have children who like to role play their titles.

As the “bill payer” pays the last bill, make a point to mention that as a family, you always want to try and save some money at the end of the month for future events and emergencies. Specify that as a family, you are trying to put a certain amount of money away each month.

At the very end, try to make this specific point: “While we started the month with $____ of money, we only had $____ amount left over. That means that there are lots of things that we pay for to continue to have the life that we do.” (This will help them be more grateful and realize their parents really don’t have “tons” of money just sitting around).

Finally, engage each of the kids how they can help contribute to the family financially. The answers will obviously vary, and take whatever they say and commit them to it. As children feel that they are being included into the family finances, they will naturally respond and want to be a part of it.

Feel free to tailor this activity to your family and the age of kids that you have. Make it your activity. Add in your own dialogue or even show your kids your actual budget on paper or in a spreadsheet so they appreciate it a bit more.

Every age group can grasp the budgeting principles you are trying to teach.


When my parents had this family night, I learned some valuable life lessons and I believe your children will gain similar insights:

1. There isn’t a lot left over. Even though my parents made a healthy chunk of money, most of it went somewhere, so there wasn’t a lot of extra money left over. Now that I knew that, the next time they took us out to eat, or we had a big Christmas, I was a bit more grateful.
2. Money really doesn’t grow on trees. I know this is always a running joke in the financial world, but I realized that my dad’s hard work went to providing everything that I took advantage of.
3. It’s always important to have a budget out on paper. I didn’t realize how many moving parts there were to a budget. I learned that it was hard to pay everyone in a timely manner and it made sense to have something to help be organized.

I believe that your children, with proper training, can also learn the valuable skill of saving money and budgeting. As parents, it’s our duty to make sure that our children can survive financially in the world that we live in today.

If you haven’t taught your kids much about money, start with this fun family night and use it as a platform to launch into more specific areas of finance. At the very least, it’s fun and engaging!

Jacob Merkley is a full-time blogger who started in the accounting, financial, and retirement realms before switching to working online. Now he focuses on teaching others about Life Skills that put YOU in control, including the important principles of money management. He blogs over at PowerOverLife.

20 thoughts on “Family Game Night! A Fun Way to Teach Your Children How to Budget

  1. This is a great idea! I have volunteered with the organization Junior Achievement in the past and because it is for K-6 there were a lot of games and ways to make it fun to learn about money, careers, etc. Any time you can turn a lesson into a game is a win for kids!

    1. I completely agree. And the beautiful part is that you can make this your own. As parents or leaders of kids, we can be creative and tailor this to help teach these vital skills to the up and coming generation.

  2. Interesting idea. About how old were you when your parents did this? We’re struggling right now with when is a good age to go there with the kids.

    1. I remember my parents doing this twice. Once when I was around 8 (so my siblings ranged from 4-12) and then again when I was 15 (sibling range 11-19). I know my parents did a more basic approach when I was younger, then they used very exact numbers when I was older. I think you can teach kids about money at a very young age, you just need to tailor it to them and teach it to their level.

  3. What a great game/ training exercise to get the kids involved in money decisions, I like it! I hope to do things like this and have a number of teaching opportunities as my kid gets older. I know I benefited from a number of the conversations I had with my parents. It can make a big difference. Thanks Jacob.

    1. Thanks for reading…start with your kids as early as you can! I think it all comes down to our teaching skills and really being able to teach down to their level. In fact, someone that I look up to once said “the wisest teachers are the ones who can teach deeply to adults, yet unravel that same principle for a child to also understand”. I think that’s true. Its all on us as parents…no pressure!

  4. Great topic Jacob and I don’t say that because I posting an article on Monday about board games 🙂

    I definitely remember as a kid learning how to county money and being the banker in Monopoly when I was younger. In some ways I think that helped reinforce my love for math.

    Thanks for sharing the awesome list !!!

    1. Thanks for reading Mustard Seed Money. It sounds like you had opportunities to understand money growing up. Your parents/family did a great thing for you. If more of our kids can learn that skill early, we will have a much different world in the future!

  5. Cool idea! For me, regular Monopoly and The Game of Life gave a ton of life lessons.

    1. Agreed…they are just great teaching tools for parents. And its good to spend time playing games as a family. Thanks for sharing!

  6. What a wonderful idea! I think my older son would be able to grasp this – I would love to try…

    1. Linda, definitely give it a try! If this is something you haven’t really done before, make sure to be observant to how your son takes/understands the lesson. Doing so will help you teach him in the future. I’d love to hear how it goes; shoot me an email sometime:

  7. What a cool idea! My kids have actually made their own board games before-in fact I spent part of the weekend playing my nine-year-old son’s version of Monopoly he created with Amiibos, cardboard, and printed fake money. Maybe over the long weekend I’ll work on creating a game like this with the kids. I bet they would find it fun and interesting, and educational! I remember enjoying “The Game of Life” when I was younger, and it taught similar lessons in a fun way. Thanks for the idea!

  8. Liz – thanks for sharing! That’s awesome that your kids are so creative (and it sounds like they are just gamers…which is always awesome!). The Game of Life is definitely another great one for teaching life lessons. Thanks for reading!

  9. Very cool idea! We will have to try this for an upcoming family night. It is a little hard to teach kids about money when all they want to spend on is toys. I know as they get older we’ll have them buy more of their things like clothes or car expenses, but for now it’s hard to show them where money really goes.

  10. Very creative, and I think quite a few adults could benefit from it as well! Too bad there wasn’t some sort of adapted version of this that we were taught in school. Thanks, Jacob!

  11. This is fantastic! Great way to teach kids some perspective and to be grateful for what they have. Sure beats giving your kid an ipad and try your best to ignore them which seems to be the default parenting style these days. Thanks for sharing!

  12. This is such a perfect hands on way for kids (and some adults) to learn to budget. I heard a variation of this concept on Motley Fools where a man took us entire monthly pay home in real bills. The kids were excited by the amount of money in his hands. He then had the kids stand around the table and start listing housing expenses. One by one he plunked down piles of cash until all the “bills” we’re paid. At the end he had a small amount of money and explained that this is the balance each month. This idea really resonated with me because many kids are visual but I really love how you got the kids involved as well. 🙂

  13. Really creative idea, great post Jacob!

  14. Awesome idea!

    Wish my folks had worked to teach me about money. I’m guilty too, as I didn’t know what to teach them.

    Thanks for sharing. You can bet I’m going to pass this one one.

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