With teaching not being the world’s highest-paid profession, you probably know how to live on a budget. Why not use your experience to influence your students toward sound financial decisions?
Here’s a Top Ten list of ideas for maximizing frugality influence in your classroom:
1. Tell your students where you shop. If someone admires your outfit, don’t be embarrassed to say you got it at a thrift store—or to mention that the store has clothes for shoppers their age. If you buy store-brand food, bring an occasional box—store name prominently displayed—to share with the class.
2. Hold a “new life for old things” class on mending clothes or toys. Or have kids bring in worn-out clothes to recycle into quilts, tote bags, or different outfits (jeans into cutoffs, anyone?).
3. Organize a swap meet. Ask everyone to bring books, toys, or accessories they no longer use. Let each student make a “booth” at his or her desk, and set them free to bargain (“I’ll give you three paperbacks for a hardback”). The kids will go home with new possessions—without having spent a cent.
4. When a holiday is coming up, designate a few class periods as card- and gift-making days. Do it early in the season, before families start buying these things.
5. Design math problems that highlight the undesirability of debt and credit: “If Jamal buys three designer shirts with a credit card that has a twelve percent interest rate, how long will it take him to pay that back? How much more will he have spent than if he’d bought without credit?”
6. Assign an essay or speech on a topic such as “If I Had a Hundred Dollars to Spend On Someone Else,” “Two Dreams Worth Saving Money For,” or “The Best Bargain I Ever Found.”
7. Invite a banker, financial adviser, or bankruptcy lawyer to speak to your class. Allow plenty of time for questions and answers.
8. If you keep a spare-change jar or coin bank, bring it to class and pass it around. Explain how even pennies add up. Then, start your own “class jar” and let students bring change to fill it. After a couple of months, tell the class how much has been collected. Let them vote on—and design a budget for—a party or special treat.
9. If a local store is having a well-publicized sale, hold a class discussion a couple of days before: “Would you shop there/buy the same things if it wasn’t a sale? How can sales tempt us to spend too much money? If you go to this sale, how can you make sure it really is a bargain for you?”
10. Assign some reading and/or show a documentary on advertising and its pitfalls. Brainstorm ideas on how to reduce advertising’s exposure and influence—and on how to stay aware of truly valuable things in life, whether or not those things are bought with money.