Thursday, July 30, 2015

H&R Block Budget Challenge: Get ready!

I truly believe financial literacy is one of important literacies our students should attain before they graduate high school. I have blogged about ideas to enhance this across the curriculum and consider it one of the thirteen essential literacies. 

Students are often taught, in a social studies class or a economics class, about the impact the decisions made by businesses and government have (and have had) on society and the economic climate. Students study capitalism, the Great Depression, War Bonds, government bail-outs of corporations, manufacturing, and other related events..

However, the area that is often overlooked is the personal finance component of financial literacy. Sometimes, how to develop a budget is taught in a math class when learning about spreadsheets. And I remember working in pairs in my high school health class while we developed a budget for a wedding. But there is not often a systemic curriculum for real-life applications of personal finance, especially in this digital age. Learning how to balance a checkbook is great, but what about online banking and investing? Planning for retirement? Paying taxes?

H&R Block provides a wonderful contest each year. the H&R Budget Challenge, that both helps students learn and practice personal financial literacy, as well as offers their teachers and themselves a chance to win grants and scholarships! 

The H&R Block Budget Challenge is a free online contest with the goal to teach students strong budgeting skills and fiscal discipline. The contest encourages students to learn personal finance in a fun, engaging way while competing against other classrooms and students for $3 million in classroom grants and student scholarships! These awards include 60 chances for classroom grants up to $5000, 132 chances of student scholarships of $20,000, and a grand prize student scholarship of $100,000.

The Budget Challenge is a teen financial literacy program in the form of an online game that simulates real life financial and personal money planning of budgets, retirement, taxes, and more. The Budget Challenge is open to students 14 years of age or over in grades 9-12. There are multiple start dates for the competition (first one starting September 10 and last one over April 21) so it would be easy to fit into your curriculum when you see fit. Answers to all your questions about the Budget Challenge may be found here:

Students will all need a personal email account, teachers are required to inform student parents/guardians about the program and prizes. and also subscribe to the educator mailing list for the contest.

There is both an iOS and and Android app available to help students keep track of their progress in the H & R Block Budget Challenge and students can also access the information through the Web site when using a computer or Chromebook.

Budget Challenge App screenshots


I know if I was signing my class up to participate in the H&R Block Budget Challenge, I would want to have them prepared with some background information.

There are online materials and sets of state standards to help teachers develop lessons and units dealing with personal finance into and across the curriculum. I have included resources in the my blog post, but I especially like the Council for Economic Education's set of standards for financial literacy which cover skills for grades 4, 8, 9 and 12.

  • Earning income
  • Buying goods and services
  • Using credit
  • Saving
  • Financial investing
  • Protecting and insuring

There are also apps and interactive online sites that can get your students ready for the H&R Block Budget Challenge!

Lesson plans created by teachers for previous years of the H&R Block Budget Challenge can be found on the Budget Challenge site here. These will give you some idea of the types of lessons that can be designed.

Thrive and Shine is a app that teaches teens and young adults about personal finance. It is available for the iOS and Android platforms as well as a Web app. The site includes a curriculum and ideas for teachers, too.

Thrive and Shine screenshot

Unleash the Loot! is an iPad app that is intended for grades 5-8, but would be fun for the high school students to play, too. It can help them realize the basics of personal literacy such as setting goals, budgeting, earning money, saving and spending, and giving to charity.

Unleash the Loot! screenshot

The online site includes interactive scenarios for kids and teens to work through to learn about personal financial literacy. This  site also offers tips and tricks, especially for teens, in the areas of earning, saving, spending, owing, tracking, giving, investing, and safeguarding.

The Practical Money Skills for Life site by Visa includes some short interactive games to help students budget. One is called "Road Trip for Savings" and you have to collect money by doing "chores" as you drive across the US. I never was able to get anywhere, running out of money for gas and insurance, but students would probably do just fine!

There are other games on the site including two well-created sports games, Financial Soccer and Financial Football (also available for iOS), that have students answering questions in order to advance up the field to score. For iOS and Android, there is a Plan'it Prom app for both iOS and Android to help students and parents budget for the prom!

I hope you sign up for the H&R Block Budget Challenge and encourage your students to participate!