Learning finance through childhood games

By Monica Dunn

My family played a lot of made-up games growing up – my favorite was one I called “Society.”

Everyone got a job or two, a certain amount of rocks for currency and an area of the yard to be your “house”. I always picked to be the banker because I didn’t trust anybody else to be honest with the money and make wise monetary policy choices to keep the currency value stable. This was my earliest memory of personal finance.

Whenever I was in fifth grade, my dad got my brother and me play “checkbooks” to start learning how to balance a checkbook and make economic choices.  That was the before the days of online checking, so it was a bit more challenging than today!

This was also the year I got my first safe. I was keeping my money in random spots throughout my room. My mom noticed and could not convince me to keep my money in the bank. Instead, she bought me a safe to keep my money. I became my own bank. I kept a careful record of what I was putting in my safe and taking out.

I even used the envelope system before personal finance expert Dave Ramsey starting teaching it. Learn more about how to do this here.

I had envelopes titled: “Emergency Funds”, which got 10 percent of any income I received and “Spend” got 50 percent. I put 20 percent in the “Save” envelope; 10 percent in the “Give” folder; and 10 percent in the “To See The World” envelope. I also had a bucket for change and a special box for unique change like the golden dollars.

These early experiences helped me learn the foundations of personal finance and create healthy and wise financial habits. These habits were tested at the end of my junior year, starting my senior year. I saved up in my “To See The World” envelope for years to study abroad.

I had created a perfectly planned budget with room for error too. However, I did not take into consideration the exchange fees to get currency. I also had expenses related to a flight hiccup, so by the end of my semester, I was scraping by with my parents helping me out at the very end.

I worked the entire summer after, so I was fine then. However, next semester I was fully on my own financially. I quickly had to learn how to make a minimum wage budget stretch to cover gas, rent, entertainment for a college kid. Learning to keep an emergency fund in my savings, and put extra money back for a rainy day has been transformative to my financial success to this point.

Now, as I’m preparing to start my first job, I am continuing to think ahead to the additional expenses that come from moving across country and renting an apartment for the first time on my own.

Monica Dunn is a graduating senior in broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri.

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