This might come as a surprise, but most of the money nerds I know did not grow up in families where money lessons were prudently taught while going to the supermarket. Nor did our parents sit us down to show us how to balance a checkbook, or to explain how interest fees on a credit card work. We grew up learning about money by figuring things out as we go, and making mistakes along the way.
And while it’s obvious why it’s important to teach kids about money at an early age — financially literate kids become money-savvy adults, and the stakes are low when you make blunders when you’re young — financial literacy has yet to make its way into our education system’s curriculum.
Since financial literacy still isn’t taught in schools, we need to look toward other resources and programs to teach our kids about money. Here are a handful of apps and games that I wish existed when I was a kid:
Cash Crunch Junior
This series of games for kids was created by Paul Vasey, who was a financial educator himself. Cash Crunch Junior is a board game for kids ages 5 to 12, and teaches important financial concepts such as needs versus wants and opportunity costs. Kids also learn basic math skills such as adding and subtracting, budgeting, and the value of saving. It’s far more fun to learn about money when you’re in a team setting and interacting with others.
A winner of several awards, Savings Spree is a financial literacy app that helps kids learn how their daily, short-term decisions can lead to long-term benefits. The premise is simple: kids can choose to either save or spend their money. Players have the option to either do the following with their money: save for short-term wish list items, such as a bike; spend more wisely; donate their beans; or invest it.
With this app, kids can learn valuable lessons using virtual money. If they make a regrettable choice, they aren’t risking any real cash. Despite the fun factor, kids can learn money basics, appreciate the importance of making wise decisions in the here and now, and develop a positive relationship with their money.
Created by the National Center for Families Learning, which is a non-profit whose mission is to eradicate poverty through education, and sponsored by Dollar General, Renegade Buddies is a fun game designed to teach kids how to save money.
Its premise is as follows: You zip around the city on a buggy, grabbing items along the way. You’re also tasked with collecting coupons and coins. The objective? To get the best deal on products in your shopping cart. When trying to shop for the best deal, you’ll have to factor in your coupons and the value of each item against the price.
Buy It Right
Kids naturally want to mimic the grownups around them. How often have you seen a child push a mini shopping cart around a market, dropping items into it? Buy It Right gives young ones the satisfaction of making a purchase and teaches them money basics. Replete with a handy calculator and play money, players can set prices on items, buy and sell, and learn how to best use and value money.
A highly rated and reviewed platform that’s designed for kids of all ages, FamZoo has two major features: prepaid cards, and a robust family finance app. Parents can assign chores and tasks to their kids, and designate rewards. Kids, in turn, can set up different saving accounts based on goals and what’s important to them. Kids can also split up their earnings. A further incentive to save for the kids? Parents can decide to boost savings by paying an “interest rate.”
With the prepaid card, parents control the accounts and decide on the money rules. Family members can move money among the accounts, and set up alerts. You can also track and reimburse family members for expenses.
Cost: $5.99 a month. (If you opt to pre-pay, it’s $30 a year.)
If you’d like a simpler app that focuses on chores and rewards, you might want to check out iAllowance. An App Store favorite, it assigns chores to kids and sets payments to allowances on autopay. Kids can also earn rewards that you set up, such as an ice cream treat, a special trip to the arcade, or an extra hour playing video games.
A board game classic, both kids and parents can play this game in which players earn income, pay their bills, and make deals on property. All players are given the same amount of money when they begin. Players can also take out a small loan, which they must pay back.
Each round is pretty quick — about 15 minutes or so — so this could easily be played during the busy school week. While Pay Day was created back in the ‘70s, and there have been several updated versions, this throwback game can still teach kids what really goes into being a grown up and earning a paycheck.
There’s no better time to teach your kids financial literacy than now. With the slew of resources available for youth these days, including apps and games, it’s easier than ever for parents to help their kids learn basic money management skills.
Jackie Lam is a personal finance writer. Her work has appeared in Investopedia, Magnify Money and The Bold Italic, and she’s been featured in Money, Kiplinger, Forbes and Woman’s Day. She runs Cheapsters.org, a blog to help freelancers and artists with their money, and to balance their passion projects and careers.