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23 Powerful Teen Money Challenges (Oh, the Learning!)

Your teen's about to self-discover all kinds of important money lessons with these fun teen money challenges.

How do you get teenagers excited about learning to manage their money? Wellllll…one way is by giving them some fun teen money challenges to do.

girl teen in striped shirt taking money challenge out of envelope, text overlay "powerful teen money challenges"

I’m talking about thought-provoking and FUN money challenges designed specifically with your teen in mind.

To help them:

  • View the time-value of money (and understand what the heck that means)
  • Find new, fun ways to save money
  • Learn the value of money
  • Look at money in totally new ways

I created these because let’s face it: they can read money books for teens, and you can talk to them all day about how important money is.

But until they take ACTION by handling their own money in new and financially responsible ways, they’re not going to internalize the lessons.

Teen Money Challenges

These money challenges are going to stretch your teenager’s thinking about money in the areas of budgeting, saving money, managing it, and more.

Hint: many of these can also make great fun daily challenges for students to do at school.

colorful, fun box showing all the pages in the teen money challenges, text overlay "how do you make money more "real" for your teen? 23 challenges that'll link your teen's everyday life to money"

Teen Budget Challenges

These money challenges will:

  • stretch their thinking on budgeting
  • teach them specific budgeting strategies
  • get them more excited about doing a budget in the first place

1. Free Teen Hangout Challenge

Brainstorm three ideas for how to hang out with your group of friends, or one friend, without spending any money.

Here’s three resources to help:

2. What Can $10 Buy? (Price Awareness Challenge)

Have your teen brainstorm/research/go to the store and physically find and write down three different things that $10 can buy.

Things like food, stationary, clothing, car accessories, books, etc.

Help guide your teen by asking:

  • Do certain stores offer more options for $10-or-less items than others?
  • Are certain categories easier to find items that are $10-or-less than others?
  • How long does it take you to get $10 (either hours worked, or time to wait for allowance, or chores to do for chore commissions)?
  • Which items seem “worth” it to you, and which items don’t seem worth it to spend your $10 on?

3. Needs Vs. Wants Highlighter Challenge

Does your teenager have budget worksheet that they use?

If not, here’s free teen budget worksheets, and my own is right here:

This challenge is two-part. Have your teen open the Challenge Envelope #1 at the beginning of the week. Then, open up Challenge Envelope #2 at the end.

  • Challenge Envelope #1: Save every single receipt for this entire week, in this envelope.
  • Challenge Envelope #2: Pick out two different colored highlighters or markers. Highlight which purchases were needs, and which purchases were wants. Add up your total spending for needs, and your total spending for wants. Then, add up your total spent across all receipts. Figure out what % was spent on needs, and what % was spent on wants.

Math Example: If you spent $45 on wants out of the total $66 you spent this week, then you would divide $45/$66 to find you spent 68% of your money on wants last week.

Lots more teen budget challenges in the full product, fyi.

colorful, fun box showing all the pages in the teen money challenges, text overlay "how do you make money more "real" for your teen? 23 challenges that'll link your teen's everyday life to money"

Teen Money Saving Challenges

In this section, you’ll find ways to challenge your teen to think differently about saving money, and ways to help them save more money.

1. Savings Rate Chaser Challenge

Help teens find their savings account (if they don't already know which bank it's at), and then find out the interest rate (APY – Annual Percentage Yield).

How does this interest rate compare to interest rates offered by other banks? Could they earn more elsewhere?

Have them take their savings account balance, and find out how much they’ll earn in interest at their current bank account after one more year. Then, have them find out how much they’ll earn if they switched banks to the highest interest rate they could find.

Here are the tools to use:

Is it worth it to switch savings accounts? What other benefits is their current bank offering that might make them not switch?

2. House Savings Challenge

Task your teenager with these three things:

  1. Write down at least 5 different things in your home that cost money to run or use.
  2. Brainstorm 2 ways your family could save money on these things.
  3. Do one thing to save your family money this week.

3. “Be Resourceful” Challenge

Have your teenager write down something that they want, but can’t afford (or aren’t allowed) to purchase.

Now, have them think about what emotional, or useful, or pleasurable needs/wants will be met by this thing (whether this is true or not is not relevant to this exercise – sometimes, we all just want what we want, amiright?).

Will it fulfill:

  • A hunger/thirst
  • A desire to “be cool/look cool”
  • A want to be entertained
  • A need to give a gift and show someone else that you care
  • etc.

Don’t be afraid to use the “why” exercise here. When your teen writes what they want to buy, have them write down why, then read that answer, and have them ask themselves “why” again. Do this at least 3 rounds to get further down to the core emotional need/want they’re trying to fulfill.

For example, let's say your teen wants the latest iPhone.

Here could be the “why's” that get down to the emotional want/need at play here (this is just my stab at something a teen might think…I'm sure your teen will come up with something great!):

  • Why is this important to you (#1): Because it's the best iPhone on the market, and everyone has it, so I want one.
  • Why is that important to you (#2): Because it has this really cool feature called SharePlay where I can be watching TV and be on FaceTime with my friends at the same time. My current iPhone doesn't have that.
  • Why is that important to you (#3): Because I don't get enough time with my friends and I feel like I'm missing out on stuff they find that's cool to watch. This is a way to share that with them and keep up.

Now, have them write out something else they already own/have access to that fulfills this same emotional need/want.

From the example above:

  • How else could you satisfy that emotional need/want instead of buying a new iPhone?: Have more in-person time with my friends where we watch the “coolest” stuff together instead of do commentary on a phone while we watch it.

This will take a lot of brainstorming, and they might not see the connection right away. But it’s there! And finding the connection will build their resourcefulness muscles…a skill they will definitely need when they're trying to stretch that early-20s paycheck.

4. Give-Your-Age Challenge

I remember my Aunt Anita started this fun birthday gift-giving thing where she gave me $1 for every year that I was alive. It ended sometime in my late 20s (I'd make a fortune now!).

This is sort of the same thing, but bent on helping your teen become more charitable.

Challenge your teen to do this monthly. Each month, they need to (at least) donate the amount of years they are to a charity of their choice.

So, if they’re 13, then they need to donate at least $13 this month. And 17-year-olds will need to donate $17.

5. Savings & Income Ladder Challenge

When someone chooses to save a % of their money no matter what amount they have coming in the door – as their income increases, so will the amount they save.

It's a beautiful thing that I'd love them to make the connection with early on (before their income goes wayyyy up from their first job-job and they don't have the savings percentage habit in place).

Let’s say your teen chooses to save 10% of their “income” (any money they have coming in).

Have them fill out how much money that will be at their current income, and how much they’d save each week when their income increases to these specific amounts.

  • Your teen’s current income/week: ______
  • $100/week: ______
  • $350/week: ______
  • $750/week: ______
  • $1,500/week: ______
  • $2500/week: ______

Check out the full product for more teen saving money challenges.

colorful, fun box showing all the pages in the teen money challenges, text overlay "how do you make money more "real" for your teen? 23 challenges that'll link your teen's everyday life to money"

Spending Teen Money Challenges

Spending money is something that teenagers need to learn how to do wisely. But we often overlook teaching them how to actually spend their money in favor of how to save it.

Not anymore!

Check out these spending teen money challenges.

1. 24-Hour Rule Challenge

This is a challenge your teen will do while in a store – so it’s best to write it down ahead of time and hand it to them while shopping (or use the printable).

When they find something they really, really want, have them write it down on a sheet of paper with the date and time.

Then, they’re to not buy it. Instead, they are to wait for 24 hours before making a decision.

24 hours later, ask them if they still want it or not? If they do still want it, is it just as badly or less badly?

2. Life Energy Challenge

How much time does your teen need in order to afford a certain purchase? This can be an eye-opening challenge for them.

Have them write down something that they want, plus how much it will cost.

Then, have them calculate how much time they need to be able to afford it.

For example, if they get an allowance once a week, then they would calculate this to see how many allowance cycles (one week each) they need to be able to afford it: the cost of what they want/their weekly allowance amount.

If they earn a paycheck and will need to work 27 hours to afford it (taking the amount they earn per hour/ the total cost), then that’s the “life energy” they’re going to have to trade to get what they want.

After they figure this out, do they still want the item? Is it worth it to them?

3. Tradeoffs Challenge

Your teen will list two things that they want to buy. Then, they need to list what they would get by getting the one on the left – the perks, the benefits, the uses, etc.

What will they get by buying the thing on the right?

Now, switch their thinking by asking them to look at each of the perks/benefits in the other way – what you would lose out on by choosing the other option. The trade-offs. 

Which option do they want to buy after doing this exercise?

4. Get-It-Cheaper Challenge

There are many ways you can purchase something cheaper:

  • You can use a coupon
  • You can shop at different stores for it
  • You can see if it’s cheaper online than in a physical store

Have your teen brainstorm one thing they want to buy and write down how much it usually costs $_____.  

Now, have them research and brainstorm one way to get what they want, cheaper.

How much would they save by doing that?  

Was the time investment to research cheaper options worth it? What else could they have done in that time?

5. Maintenance Cost Challenge

Lots of purchases – like cars, pets, dry-clean-only clothes, etc. – have costs that will continue on far past the initial purchase.

Have your teenager list out 3-5 things that they want to purchase. Then, have them brainstorm what maintenance costs there will be after the purchase.

Like with a cell phone, they will have a monthly bill to pay. Or with their first car purchase, they’ll have to also pay for gas and insurance each month. Then there's possible repairs and upkeep, such as oil changes.

They likely won’t be thinking about these extra spending responsibilities!

Encourage them to really drill down here – for example, if they purchase a plant, they’ll have to pay for water to water it (yes, I know that would be a teeny-tiny cost…but it gets them seeing the connection between money and everyday world).

colorful, fun box showing all the pages in the teen money challenges, text overlay "how do you make money more "real" for your teen? 23 challenges that'll link your teen's everyday life to money"

Which of these teen money challenges are you MOST dying to have your own teen do? Which do you think they'll be excited about? I'd love to hear your thoughts below.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 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.

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