For Teachers

Financial Literacy Activities for High School Students

Check out these fun financial literacy activities for high school students to learn smart money habits.


Financial literacy is woefully under-taught in the high school curriculum. Yet, a thorough money education can help students more than many other topics taught in school. A common complaint for teachers and homeschoolers is that it is challenging to work financial literacy into the daily schedule. With these activities, students will learn and grow in their money mindsets, giving them an advantage as they prepare for life after high school. Check out this roundup of grade-appropriate tasks to boost your students’ success.

Financial Literacy Activities for 9th Grade

  • Hit The Road: This game shows students the realities of spending and budgeting, using a road trip scenario as the background. Your 9th-graders are likely thinking about a driver’s license, and this game will show them how road trips work. They need to save cash along the way, differentiate between wants and needs, and stretch their money to reach their destination.
  • Financial Football: This game lets students call football plays as they learn financial basics. In this partnership between Visa and the NFL, kids make football decisions as they discover budgeting, saving, and spending tactics. 
  • The Uber Game: This game shows students the reality of the gig economy, showing students how Uber drivers operate and showing them the costs of living independently, paying bills, and facing expenses connected to their Uber job. They have to pay a mortgage while raising two kids and soon see the reality – it is achievable but not as easy as they may think.
  • Shady Sam: Your high school students will have fun playing the villain, in this case, Shady Sam, the predatory lender. This game shows kids the risks of high-interest loans and how lenders can make money off ignorant and distressed customers. Setting up the game is simple, and your students can play it during independent time. It is a tremendous 9th-grade activity for your lending unit.
  • Money Magic: This budgeting game is great for showing students how to balance income and expenses. They pretend they are Enzo, a magician who likes to spend his money recklessly. Students’ tasks involve spending, saving, and budgeting to get Enzo to his big break in Las Vegas. This activity combines fun and learning in an engaging way for your students.

Financial Literacy Activities for 10th Grade

  • Lights, Camera, Budget! This game lets students act like blockbuster movie producers making the next big movie. They have a $100 million budget but need to determine which expenses to prioritize over others to make a winning film. If they handle the process well, their movie will receive five stars, and they will learn how to budget effectively. It is excellent for your 10th-graders.
  • Budgeting Project: This project has all you need to show your students how to budget. The first step is a spending log, which shows kids how to track their expenses and payments throughout the year. They use these logs to organize data and create a pie graph showing the results. They balance their income and expenses to see how they’re doing and, ultimately, get a picture of their budgets. The final piece is an essay reflecting on their spending and saving habits. Kids learn about budgeting and how to transfer raw data and display it in charts and graphs. They also see how to work collaboratively and make goals they can reach along the way.
  • Get a Life Budget Project: This project has a variety of materials – including a WebQuest, Google Slides, budget trackers, check templates, and grocery list templates. Students are given a job to do and create budgets with their incomes. Depending on your setup, they take a field trip to a grocery store, online or in-person, and locate the ingredients they need based on their meal plans and available cash. They then research how to buy a house and include mortgages and down payments into their budgets. When the project is done, students present their data, explaining how they determined their budgets using the income from their job. They also gain valuable experience in Google Drive, creating and using materials found there. 
  • Budget: Life Cycle Project: This project shows students how people adapt their budgets as they go through different chapters in their lives. These phases include high school, college, newlywed, and married. Students are put into small groups and focus on one of the timeframes. They research the unique expenses and potential incomes many people have during these times and develop a presentation. They present their budgets to the class and contribute them to a class-wide display. This project shows kids that different phases of life require varying budgets, and which expenses may come up during those times. 
  • Trip Itinerary and Budget Project: This project provides students opportunities to make a budget fortravel, research how to book travel, and learn other practical lessons like how to save money on vacation. The description is thorough and gives learners all the information they need to complete their activities. Students need to record all of their expenses and savings; if they go over budget, they lose points on the project. This emphasizes the importance of sticking to a plan and understanding the many expenses they will encounter on vacation. Students also learn practical information and see how decision-making skills are critical.

Financial Literacy Activities for 11th Grade

  • The Stock Market Game: This game shows students a realistic simulation of the stock market and how to be successful in it. They build a virtual portfolio – without taking on real risk – to see how their shares would perform, learning about index funds, ETFs, and diversification as they track prices. Setting up the game involves creating accounts and learning the ropes, but it is worth it. Your 11th-graders will appreciate the vital stock market experience they can use in the future. 
  • STAX: Kids can play this game independently or in small groups, making it a perfect choice for reaching all your students. This game benefits your upper high school students, who will soon be able to invest in the market. Within a manageable 20-minute session, students learn about stock price movement and how to invest for the long haul. They see how buy-and-hold investing is the most reliable pathway, learn about index funds and asset allocation, and understand why diversification is so important.
  • Finances 101: This activity is an outstanding way to show students how salaries and budgets are related. It also highlights banking services and how taxes look on paychecks, giving students an idea of how much they’ll take home. Playing the game is straightforward and intuitive, giving teachers a useful tool to have in the classroom.
  • Payback: If your students are planning on taking out college loans in the future, this activity is an excellent way to prepare them. It shows young adults how to balance student loans with other expenses they’ll encounter at school, giving them an accurate view of loans and how to avoid catastrophic debt. The setup is simple: navigate to the website and jump into the game. 
  • Personal Budget Project: In this project, students develop PowerPoints to demonstrate their findings on different careers and salaries. They practice balancing expenses and income, detailing their budgets across different slides and a written response. It provides an in-depth analysis of budgets so students can get a lot out of the project. Kids divide their annual salaries into monthly amounts, use online real estate engines to search for real-time home prices, and calculate specific costs of cars. This project is excellent for your 11th-grade students as it results in practical and applicable information for their future. They begin to see how car expenses, college costs, and taxes affect their finances.

Financial Literacy Activities for 12th Grade

  • Compound Interest and Budgets: Students learn about compound interest in high school and may connect it to saving and investing. Teachers can link it to budgeting, as well. You can create cards with different interest rates and have students pick one randomly. Tell them that is the interest rate for their account. Have each school day equal 5-10 years of compounding and after a week, check to see how much their accounts have grown, comparing the amounts with their peers. When you first begin the project, have students create detailed budgets. They will see how to adjust budgets based on income, expenses, investments, and savings. Later, have them develop new budgets with the power of compounding included, showing students that they can increase their wealth and adjust their budgets based on increased savings and interest.
  • Reality Check: This game is a quick activity to show students the importance of making high-enough salaries. Many kids think they can afford any lifestyle but may not realize how much it takes. This activity shows them the income they need to support their futures, so they are prepared to do what they can to bring in high salaries. It is excellent for your 12th-graders.
  • Misadventures in Money Management: This interactive activity looks like a graphic novel, helping students avoid financial obstacles through an engaging layout. Students must make decisions to protect their money, see how individuals make decisions, and determine the best choices on their financial journeys. This game is excellent for hands-on learning for your 12th-grade students.
  • Credit Clash: If you’re a teacher or homeschooler looking for a game about credit scores, look no further than this one. Kids can jump into the game any time and learn how to boost their credit scores to 850 by paying bills on time, managing loans, and dealing with unexpected obstacles. Having your 12th-graders experiment with this game will help them significantly, and you can use it beyond high school as students enter the real world.
  • Fantasy Stock Exchange: This activity is engaging and packed with tools and information. Your students can discover the stock market and trading vocabulary, create virtual portfolios, join competitions, and learn how trading exchanges work. This platform is suitable for all grade levels in high school but is outstanding for your seniors ready to launch their own portfolios.

Check out our Personal Finance Curriculum for Teachers for more resources.

About the Author

Peter Brown

Peter Brown is a National Board Certified teacher with over two decades of experience in the classroom. He loves working with students of all ages in many subjects, but particularly in practical areas like money education, to help kids achieve their goals. When he is not teaching or writing about financial literacy, you can find him surfing, hiking, skiing, or traveling to new places.

Last updated on: July 8, 2024