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We have all been at the checkout counter at least once and the fear is evident in the rookie clerk's eyes because counting back change seems like an impossible task. Learning math and money skills at a young age is vital for lifelong confidence with both. Board games can make learning about money fun, but it is important to pick the right match for the age. Purchasing a game too easy for your kids can be boring, and if the game is too hard, that's not fun, either.
Most people think of Monopoly and The Game of Life as the best board games for teaching money. While they are both popular, well-known games, there are a lot more options available than those classics.
Let's take a more in-depth look, beyond the themed monopoly games, at other great board games that teach kids about money.
Best for Math Skills: Buy It Right
Buy It Right is a popular game among teachers and homeschoolers. It exercises lots of different math skills, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and decimals. An adult (or older student with the required skills) should be present to ensure the math is done correctly. The toy money looks very realistic and the game includes a calculator. Kids set their prices and buy and sell items making their way around the board. Buy It Right is intended for 4th through 6th graders but can be tailored to make it easier for younger children. Getting hands-on experience with coins, paper money, and using a calculator will benefit kids both in school and in life.
Best Classic Game: Pay Day
Pay Day was created back in 1975 and already it's considered a classic. One of the best aspects of the game is that it only takes 15 minutes or so to play a round, a stark contrast to Monopoly's seemingly endless gameplay. In those 15 minutes, players will earn a paycheck, pay outstanding bills, and have the opportunity to make deals on property and earn money from it (passive income for the win!). It can be hard for kids to grasp the concept of a paycheck and paying bills with it as so much money management now happens on screen rather than on paper. Pay Day can help correct that. There are a few Windfall opportunities during each round to help players pay for all of the expenses. Windfalls are exciting, but they do make the game much easier to win. Pay Day is designed for ages eight and up and requires two to four players.
Best Game for Teens: Thrive Time for Teens
Thrive Time takes players through different stages of life and money. From being a student with a part-time job to investing and starting a business, players will learn about accumulating debt or being patient and paying with cash. Thrive Time is the teen version of Rich Dad Poor Dad's Cashflow; however, they are not made by the same company. It comes with 120 playing cards and play cash. It also includes a balance sheet that helps players keep track of income and expenses. Teens will learn about the importance of passive income. It is a great game to get you thinking about money and different strategies on how to make it.
Best for Teaching Debt Freedom: Act Your Wage
Dave Ramsey is a celebrity in the personal finance world, and he has created a board game to help teach the basic money management principles he promotes. At the beginning of every Act Your Wage game, you will draw a life card and three debit cards and from there you roll a die and move around the board, facing life's financial challenges. The goal, of course, is to eliminate debt, and players will follow Ramsey's strategies and advice to do so. It is a great conversation starter and helps demonstrate money management skills that can be applied to life. No prior knowledge of Dave Ramsey is needed to have fun learning about handling money responsibly.
Best for Learning Stocks: The Stock Exchange Game
The premise here is simple. Every trip around the board is one year in the life of the player, investing along the way before retirement. Take big risks early and then switch to safer buys late as retirement approaches. The Stock Exchange Game includes three modes of play, depending on how complicated you want the trading to get. Start with stocks, ETFs, and Bonds; step up to mergers, acquisitions, and options; or form into teams, and play the basic or advanced versions. The instructions are easy to follow and the game is best suited for ages 10 and up. Trading is coin based, so keeping track is easy. The player with the most money at retirement wins the game, just like in real life.
Best Coin Counting: Money Bags
Money Bags has a fantastic illustrated game board with a huge dollar sign as the spaces and lots of mechanical looking cartoon graphics (think handy helpers from Mickey Mouse Club House). Players will learn coin identification fast with this quick and fun game. Gameplay is simple, too. Spin the wheel to find out what coin you have to avoid and roll the die to move along the board, completing chores and earning money. There's lots of counting and exchanging of money involved. What's the goal? Be the player who winds up with the most money at the end of the game. It is recommended for ages 7, and up but with little help kids, 5 and up would enjoy playing, too.
Best for Ages Five and Up: The Allowance Game
The earlier you can teach money confidence to kids the better. The Allowance Game is designed for children as young as five. After a few rounds, kids will become familiar with counting money and saving it, too. The board is full of different chores to do to earn cash, so expect the kids to get lots of ideas about doing work around the house. Winning is entirely up to chance based on the roll of the dice. Games can be won in 15 to 30 minutes. The Allowance Game teaches more than money, though. It also teaches social skills and has spaces on the board like paying a library fine or for a broken window. Younger kids will get a kick out of this game whereas the older kids might not find it as enjoyable.