Budgeting with Simulations

Educator utilizes simulated learning to teach students about budgeting.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

The educator understands the benefits of active learning and chooses or creates a simulation to engage students in real-world financial decisions in order to communicate the importance of budgeting.

Method Components

What is a simulation?

Simulations are educational tools that replicate real-world situations in a controlled setting in which students are faced with decisions and their consequences in order to develop knowledge or skill sets.

Components of a simulation

  • Goal: Which facts, skills, or behaviors should the students learn by completing the simulation?
  • Resources: The physical and/or digital resources that will be used during the simulation.
  • Environment: This is the conceptual framework or “story” in which the students are placed.
  • Roles: What is the role for each student during the simulation?
  • Rules: Guidelines for completion of the simulation.
  • Evaluation Method: How will the students’ performance be evaluated? Will it be based on completion, quality of work, or a desired outcome?
  • Debriefing: Reviewing the activity to reinforce the goals of the simulation.

(Adapted from Zapalska, Brozik & Rudd, 2012)

Suggested Implementation:

  1. Introduce budgeting as a personal finance skill and discuss the purposes and benefits of developing a budget.
  2. Choose a budget simulation, either digital (fully online or on a software program) or “table top” (consisting of tangible pieces that students manipulate) to utilize with your classroom (See the resources section). The chosen simulation should contain a high level of fidelity (Lunce, 2006). It is also recommended that the simulation be completed within a single class period and simple in its structure (Devlin-Sherer & Sardone, 2010; Zapalska, Brozik & Rudd, 2012).
  3. Review the purpose, instructions, and evaluation method with the students.
  4. End the lesson with a reinforcement activity that prompts the students to reflect upon the lessons learned during the simulation. This could be in a form of a full-class discussion or written reflection.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

Budgeting is an important financial skill, but is one that is largely unpracticed by teenagers. While over 50% of teens report that they spend their own money, only 17% claim they maintain a budget (“Teens and Personal Finance”). Simulations provide students an opportunity to learn about budgeting and experience elements of the “real world” within the safety and comfort of a classroom. The most effective simulations maintain a high degree of fidelity and exclude elements that would be distracting in a real-world situation (Lunce, 2006). In addition, a large percentage of students view educational games favorably, stating that they believe simulation games can help them better develop their knowledge and skills of class content (Wardaszko & Jakubowski, 2013). It is important to understand that while simulations are enjoyable for students and educators, the most crucial part of implementing a simulation or game is the reflection period after completion, when students can review the lessons learned (Zapalska, Brozik & Rudd, 2012).

  • “Teens and Personal Finance – Surprising Survey Results.” H&R Block Dollars and Sense Blog. N.p., 28 Mar. 2014. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.
  • Wardaszko, Marcin, and Michal Jakubowski. “Economics in Practice: A Simulation Game for High School Students Teaching the Basics of Economics and Entrepreneurship.” Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning. N.p., 2013. Web. 2 Apr. 2016.


Free Simulations

Paid/Registration Required

  • “Mad City Money Workshop and Simulation Kit.” Credit Union National Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

The items in this following section detail what must be submitted for evaluation. To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1 and 3, and a “Yes” for both artifacts submitted for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview Questions

(200-word limit):

  • How did you use background knowledge to set up this lesson about budgeting?

Part 2. Work Examples/Artifacts

Submit the materials for the simulation (or hyperlink if digital) and a written rationale (maximum of 200 words) that explains why it was chosen.

Also submit at least two samples of students’ written responses to the reflection questions. If a full-class discussion was used for this portion, submit a video of the discussion.

Part 3. Teacher Reflection

Provide a reflection on what you learned, using the following questions as guidance (300-word limit):

  • How did this technique help you communicate this personal finance content to your students?
  • Which other personal finance topics can this teaching technique be used for in the classroom?

Part 4. Survey (Optional)

Please answer a brief survey about your experience teaching personal finance. Your responses will:

  • help us understand barriers personal finance teachers face;
  • and help us improve the resources being offered to personal finance educators

We appreciate your help.

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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