6 Alternative Ways to Play Monopoly (that will Teach Money Life Skills)

Looking for alternatives to Monopoly? Try out these 6 different ways to play Monopoly that will turn it into a kid's life skills game.

Even though there can be a lot of strategy to the game of Monopoly, the reality is, most of it still comes down to luck.

kids monopoly board game with text overlay "6 ways to play monopoly to turn it into a money lesson"

You can make bad purchase decisions – driving your cash down to nearly zero – but get saved last minute by landing on free parking (depending on how your household plays). Or jail suddenly becomes a valuable asset because it means you can no longer land on people’s properties and so you don’t owe any bills.

Wouldn’t we all just like to sit around all day and roll a dice?

It’s not exactly reality.

Let’s supplement the “luck” part of Monopoly play, and add in some thoughtful actions and decision-making to one of the best board games that teach life skills for kids.

Hint: these ideas will also help with how to speed up Monopoly. 

6 Ways to Play Monopoly to Turn it Into a Money Skills Game

Have you ever wondered how to make monopoly more realistic? You know, like real life?

I've got you covered!

We're going to hand your child a sucky, but all-too-common, financial situation to deal with (taken from the real book of life!) that will limit their ability in some way to play.

Talk about some life skills for children training! Making Monopoly better is as simple as introducing one of the following 6 financial hardships.

Pssst: this is a really, really interesting Ted Talk about a man who played a round of Monopoly with his kids, using REAL money (his $10,000 experiment). Given how “unreal” money is in the world today, this made me think. 

Financial Hardship #1: Low Credit Score

Dose of Reality: Having a low credit score will definitely put a damper on trying to buy property in real life.

Anyone ever try to get a mortgage with a 530-credit score? It’s basically impossible. I like how in Monopoly the player must pay back the bank the mortgage + 10%…but it’s not realistic how Monopoly assumes each player has a really great credit history and can mortgage their homes to begin with to get a quick infusion of cash.

How it affects their Play: You need to secure a co-signer (another player) each time you want to purchase a property. If you go bankrupt, they’ll be responsible for buying that property from you to give you the cash you need. If no one wants to co-sign with you? You’re out of luck. No deal.

Financial Hardship #2: Pile of Student Loans

Dose of Reality: It’s hard to become a real estate mogul when you pop out the college gates in debt. Lots of debt.

Student loans can be a great investment in your future – I came out of college with $36,000, myself. However, it’s critical for your child to realize that taking out student loans is going to change and/or limit the way they can live right out of college. There will be sacrifices they’ll need to make to their lifestyle in order to pay them back.

How it affects your play: For the first two rounds of the board, each piece of property you land on you must pay half the cost of to the bank…to go towards your student loans. That’s because before you can think of purchasing property, you’ve got to pay down that debt and put yourself in better financial standing to be a property owner.

Financial Hardship #3: Starting Up a Business

Dose of Reality: Starting up a small business is time-consuming, and there’s rarely enough consistent cash to take a salary from it at least for the first few years.

We business owners know and understand that owning a business can reap rewards – both lifestyle and financial – far beyond what we could find at a 9-5 job. BUT, we also know that in the beginning (and maybe even in the middle), income can be quite inconsistent.

How it affects your play: When you pass Go, the amount you collect is not $200 each time. You roll your dice, and multiply the amount you get by 20. That is your income each time you pass Go. So, if you roll a 12, you get $240 – woohoo! But if you roll a 2? You get just $40.

Financial Hardship #4: Being in Debt to Someone You Know

Dose of Reality: While it may seem like a great idea to take a loan from family and friends, in real life, doing so can strain your relationship.

This one’s juicy — one of those life skills every child should know so they can hopefully avoid! It’s wonderful to have family and friends to fall back on for loans when the going gets tough, especially in your early 20s when you’re just starting out. But it can also strain relationships and make things feel, well, a bit…icky.

How it affects your play: The player to your left is the person whom you owe $500 to. Have them hand you over $500 of their money. Here’s the catch – since you borrowed that $500 from them, they have $500 less in their lives and their game play. You can pay them back as quickly or as slowly as you’d like. But don’t be surprised if they want to be paid back on the “quick” side, since their ability to live their life (aka, play the game) has been diminished.

Financial Hardship #5: Getting Laid Off

Dose of Reality: Layoffs happen. Meaning paychecks stop, and sometimes rather suddenly.

You’re reading the blog of a 4-time, lay-off veteran. That’s right – my husband and I have collectively been laid off 4 times in the last 10 years. Ouch. So, this one is close to my heart!

How it affects your play: Your pay when you pass “Go” is reduced to a percentage of what you would get in unemployment insurance. Roll your dice. This is the number of board rounds you’ll only receive $60 when you pass “Go”.

Financial Hardship #6: Creditors Creeping Up from Your Past

Dose of Reality: Zombie debt is a real thing – creditors you thought had forgotten about you will come to find you again (oftentimes when you’re trying to do something big in your life, like buy a home).

Past debts can really affect our current and future money decisions. Generally, it limits what we can and cannot buy, and if we can get a loan for something like a car or a home. Now’s the time to learn this lesson instead of after poor money management decisions have been made and your child is stuck dealing with it.

How it affects your play: Each time you pass “Go”, you’ll need to also draw one card from the Zombie Debt pile. Good luck to you.

You won't find these on a basic life skills list, but your child will learn lots of money lessons during this game (and the frustrations might be high). Here are some questions to ask your child about what they learned + start that money dialogue:

  • How did your particular financial hardship affect your ability to play the game?
  • What were you and were you not able to do?
  • What were you surprised that you weren’t able to do?
  • What were you surprised that you were still able to do?

Don't feel like changing the way you play? Here are the skills learned from Monopoly, just as it is.

Skills Learned from Monopoly

Playing the game of Monopoly as is, your child can pick up on the following skills:

  1. Counting Money: Each person is given an amount of money to start with (Monopoly starting money is two $500, four $100, one $50, one $20, two $10, one $5, and five $1). They have to count money throughout as they figure out how much they have left, count up money they're paid by players in rent, and especially if they serve as the banker.
  2. Prioritizing Money: Like in life, you're given a limited supply of money. Your kids will need to learn how to prioritize spending that money (either to buy property, on rent, to buy homes, etc.).
  3. Landlord/Renter Relationship: Your kids get a taste of the renter/landlord relationship, and how a renter pays money to the landlord. They might start wondering how to become a landlord in real life!
  4. Cash is Important: the first time your child gets mortgaged to the hilt, they'll figure out that they should have kept more cash on hand.
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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2016 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Amanda's kid money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money, CA.gov, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Read more here.
4 replies
    • Amanda L. Grossman says:

      Hi Susan!

      I’m sorry — your comment was caught in spam. Just found it.

      The Zombie Debt cards are on page #4 of the free printable. You can get the link by clicking on the rectangular boxes to download.

      Enjoy! I’d love to hear more about how you guys used this!

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