A “Lets Pretend” Game to Help Teach Your Grade Schooler to Manage Money

I’m spending the month preparing for my 2014 Grandma Rie’s Money Camp session which will be held at the end of July this year. This year’s camp changed location to take advantage of a Federal Reserve tour, tours of my own banks as well as a great location for a busy garage sale to house their annual kid business.

The main theme is going to be all about saving. Why save, where to save (that is where the bank tours come in) and how to save. Part of the lessons will involve learning how to track their money, and introduction to the B word (budget). To demonstrate why people need to save and why folks need to plan and manage their money, we are going to try out a pretend play game I made up.

Today, I’m sharing that with you, in case you want to try it but also to see if you have any suggestions that I can incorporate to make it more interesting to my 7 and 10 year old grand-kids.

Lets get started.


Head of Household Pretend Play Game


Money Camp attendees will pretend that they are the head of their household, earning a salary and paying all the bills.

The monthly paycheck will be automatically deposited to the bank, after income taxes are taken out.

A participant will need to withdraw cash from the bank to use for cash purchases (only gasoline, food and discretionary purchases from ‘the store’ or ‘the mall’ are paid with cash).

All non-cash expenses are paid monthly after receiving a bill from the postman.

Consequences or rewards are awarded depending on how well the group did in managing to stay afloat financially.  The game is stacked against being able to stay afloat – with only a couple hundred dollars of income over expenses.

Object of the game.

This game is supposed to help the players experience what it is like to pay the bills of a typical 4 person family on the average salary of a recent college graduate. It will be used first without a budget and later to introduce budgeting (this post describes the first iteration). The game will also help reinforce how to write a check and record it in the check register as well as the importance of tracking your money.


Put up signs for the different areas (Bank, Store, Gas, Mall, Home).  I made these with markers and white paper, nothing fancy.

Stock the ‘store’ with food, and necessities and a few tempting items.  I plan to let the kids help stock it from stuff around the house, like canned goods, bread, cereal boxes, spices, band-aids and etc.

Gather enough play money in different denominations to cover the monthly income and to have enough to make change when needed.

Use a foot scooter (or some other toy you have or even a box) as a car and instruct children on indoor use.

Use a box for ‘mail box for the postman to deposit mail and the household to put the paid bills.

Gather blank checks and a check register and envelopes to use to pay the bills


Players will take turn getting the gasoline (once a week using the scooter), being the banker, delivering the mail, going to the mall or the store, but only the players who can read/write/add and subtract will pay the bills. Money Camp leader will be time keeper and announce when a new week starts as well as ‘mail’ the bills. In the second iteration, the Money Camp leader may introduce some mayhem (air conditioner breaks, car needs new tires, etc).

Getting the gasoline.

Carefully steer the foot scooter to the area of the room with the gasoline sign and hose. Pretend to fill the tank, then pay the station $20 in cash for each week’s gasoline. Don’t spend more than $20 per week or you will not have enough money to last the month.

Being the banker.

Help the customer write out a withdrawal slip. Deduct the amount from the monthly pay left in the account. Track the balance in the account. Give change when needed.

Delivering the mail.

The postman will take the mail given to him/her by the Money Camp leader and deliver it to the house’s mailbox. He/she will take any letters the house has to go out that are in the box and deposit them in the post office. The Money Camp leader will then take them to the bank so that the amounts of the bills are subtracted from the household bank account/monthly income.

Going to the store.

One player will be the money keeper on each trip to the store. At the store, only buy things the family needs to eat for the week. Only spend $200 each week at the store or you will not have enough money to last the month.

Being the camp leader:

Act as timekeeper by announcing the start of a new week each 15 minutes. Deliver the paid bills to the bank and help the banker subtract the amounts from the accounts cash balance. Designate players to fill the various roles as needed. Keep the peace.

Getting paid.

The household income (net of taxes) is automatically deposited in the bank account.  The household income is $50,000 per year.

Paying the bills:

The designated bill payer must be able to read/write/add and subtract. Multiple people can pay different bills, but only one person works on each bill. bills are paid with old checks from defunct accounts of the camp leader.

Bills and amounts are based on a combination of my own personal experience and statistics on national American average amounts.

Bills include:

Bill description Monthly Amt Pay type
Home Mortgage 800 Check
Car Payment 624 Check
Groceries 800 cash
Water 30 Check
Sewer 40 Check
Electric 100 Check
Gas 40 Check
Internet 15 Check
Phone 60 Check
Satellite TV/Cable 50 Check
Trash 20 Check
Clothes 50 on cc
Gasoline 400 cash
Car Insurance 51 Check
Heath Insurance 300 Check
Income taxes deducted
Personal care 100 on cc
Home Owners association 10 Check


  • The family MUST buy food from ‘the store’ 4 times a month.
  • The family MUST buy gasoline from the gas station (GAS) 4 times a month
  • All bills must be paid.
  • The family MAY optionally decide to buy something extra, go out to eat, go to a movie, etc (at the mall). The family MUST spend $100 on personal care (hair cuts, massages, clothes cleaning, etc) and MUST spend $50 on new clothing at the mall each month.


If the household runs out of money before the end of the month, the game ends and all players skip their next snacks and have to sit go outside (unless raining) away from the things in the house like the ac, the tv, heat, water, etc for several minutes while the camp leader tells them why (electric is turned off, water is turned off, natural gas is turned off because bills weren’t paid.

If the car payment isn’t paid, the camp leader must re-possess the scooter and no one uses it the rest of the day.

If the month ends with the household having excess money, it is deposited in the bank account and everyone gets a treat and a high five.

I hope you readers can help me out with any pieces and parts I may have forgotten, or point me in a different direction if you have some better ideas.

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