Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Budget Basics

Standard 1: Fundamentals of Budgeting

Susan McHale | Published: July 13th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Financial Literacy, Social Studies
  • Course Course Personal Financial Literacy
  • Time Frame Time Frame 110 minutes
  • Duration More 2-3 class periods


Students will identify the elements of a budget. They will examine how life events and lifestyle affect and change budgeting needs (i.e., personal expenses, emergencies, saving for future goals, family vs. individual).

Essential Question(s)

What are the challenges and benefits of budgeting? How do budgets change when lifestyle changes?



Students view a short video clip that demonstrates a financial dilemma. They then brainstorm various solutions to the dilemma.


Students collectively brainstorm what teens might save money for. They also categorize their list items as short, medium, or long-term goals.


Students read about budgeting and annotate what they read. They discuss their reading and share out important information. Individually, students also create their own budgets.


Students understand how budgets change with lifestyle changes. Students examine different scenarios that exemplify different life circumstances and write suggestions for budgeting to accommodate these different life events.


After the completion of their individual budgets, students reflect on the challenges and benefits of maintaining a budget. There is also an optional vocabulary card sort to reinforce budgeting terminology.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • I Think, We Think handout (attached, one per student)

  • The Basics of Budgets reading (attached, one per student)

  • Five-Day Student Budget Template (attached, one per student)

  • Scenarios Handout (attached, one per student)

  • Scenarios Teacher Answer Key (attached)

  • Card Sort (attached, one per pair or group; optional)

  • Card Sort Teacher Answer Key (attached)


20 Minute(s)

Begin by using slides 2-4 of the attached Lesson Slides to introduce the title, the lesson objectives, and the essential questions of the lesson the students will answer.

Display slide 5. Tell students that they will view a video about a girl that has a potential financial problem. Play the video “Freelancing Fun.”

After students watch the video, ask how the student in the video could have better prepared for or prevented the emergency of the lost textbook. Call on volunteers for a few immediate responses.

Pass out the attached I Think, We Think handout. Introduce the I Think, We Think strategy, and ask students to write down their own thoughts, responding in the I Think box to the prompt on slide 5.

Display slide 6. Pair students, and have them discuss their I Think responses with each other. The pairs should then come to a consensus and complete a response in the We Think section of the handout. Call on pairs to share out their We Think responses. Allow about 15 minutes for this.


15 Minute(s)

Have students remain with their partners. As a second task, ask partners to define the term “budget” in their own terms on the back of their I Think, We Think handouts. Allow five to seven minutes for this activity. Call on a few volunteers to share their definition and then have all partners compare their definition with Webster-Merriam definition on slide 7. Discuss what they did or did not include in their definition.

Combine partners to form teams of four. Display slide 8. Ask the team to make a list of at least three ideas of what teens might typically save for. Allow about five minutes for brainstorming. Call on a few teams to share their list.

Display slide 9. Read aloud the information about short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. Ask teams to speculate, discuss, and label their ideas as something a teen might be able to save for immediately (short-term goal), something that might take a few months to achieve (medium-term goal), or something that might take a year or longer to achieve (long-term goals). Allow about five minutes for this discussion.

Give each team a few minutes to decide if their goal ideas are short-term, medium-term, or long-term. Ask groups to share their ideas and where they believe they might fit best. As teams share out their goals, place them in the appropriate goal category. Post these responses using the technology options explained above or on a whiteboard space.

Keep this list to refer to later on in the lesson.


30 Minute(s)

Pass out The Basics of Budgets reading found in the attachments. Display slide 10. Have students annotate this short reading about budgeting through the Stop and Jot strategy. 

After everyone has read about budgeting, call on volunteers in a general class discussion to share what they wrote in the margins as their summary. Go through each section carefully, repeating the gist of that part read by the students.

Pass out the Five-Day Budget Template found in the attachments. Display slide 11. Tell students that they will complete their own budget for five days. Show the list of brainstormed ideas for teens’ budgets from the Engage activity to transition to this next activity. Point out that earlier, this list was generated as goals that teens might save for. Tell students that there might be something on this list that they may want to save for. If so, they can add this goal to their own budget.

To model budgeting, ask students to reflect individually on their income or any money in their possession. Ask students to brainstorm what might be considered income (allowance, birthday money, part-time job) and what type of expenses students might have (gas money if driving, food like lunches, entertainment, cell phone bill, etc.)

Emphasize that when they spend money, they need to track it on their budget each day and categorize it. To reinforce how to categorize expenses, display slide 12. Through a class discussion, brainstorm how students might categorize the expenses listed on this slide.

Allow about 10 minutes for students to ask any further questions and to fill out what they have in income and any expenses they have incurred for today. Tell students that they will need five days of recording their budget.


30 Minute(s)

Display slide 13. How do budgets change with lifestyle changes? Pose this question to students to begin a class discussion. Ask them what a college student might budget for—and how would that be different for a family of four?

Have students return to their original teams from the Engage activity. Pass out the attached Scenarios Student Handout to every student. Display slide 14. Ask students to work together. As a group, they should read the scenario and brainstorm two budgeting items for each column in the scenario—budgeting for short-term or immediate needs, medium-term, and long-term goals. For each scenario, there should be six total responses. Allow 20-25 minutes for this assignment.

As most groups are nearing completion, call on different group members to share a sample of their responses from the first scenario. Ask members to explain their reasoning or rationale for their budget items and the goal category they chose. Continue with the rest of the scenarios in the same manner.


15 Minute(s)

Students should have filled out their individual budgeting handouts after five days. As noted earlier, the teacher can allow ten minutes every day of classroom time for students to input their information. The budgeting handout can also be used solely as a homework assignment with a due date..

Once the assignment is completed, ask students to complete a Two-Minute Paper or reflection with the following questions (also listed on slide 15).

  • What was useful about completing a budget?

  • What was challenging about completing this budget?

  • How likely are you to use a budget to track expenses or save for a future goal? Explain.