Teaching the Value of Money with Games

Today I am literally ripping a transcription out of one of our recent blogs – all about how I used Roblox to help get my daughter to understand the value of money. The podcast in question can be found here – https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/e1hr3lp

Lots of people have used gamification around banking and around money, but it’s always about how to save, how to invest, and how to essentially make sure banks have more of your money. It’s safe to say that most banks when they release something about gamifying finances, it’s about learning how to put more money in a bank and how to live off that money.

What people don’t seem to do is think about how you instil in children what the value of money is. When I was a kid, I got pocket money at the end of every week. My dad would give me some pocket money and I never understood the value of it because I didn’t have to do chores. The money was just given to me. I almost felt as if I had a right to this money at the end of each week. Now I’m not complaining, but I didn’t earn that money. So it meant nothing to me and it got spent immediately. I might save a few pounds up to buy a transformer or something, but I didn’t keep hold of that money and think “I’m gonna be careful with this”.

It wasn’t until I had a paper round where I had to deliver hundreds of free newspapers and get paid like £4.50 for delivering 300 papers or something. It was an insanely low amount of money, but I earned it and I felt I earned it. And I think a lot of my back issues are due to earning that four pounds a week!

And I think that’s where we. Sometimes we lose sight of why people can be bad with money. Now I’m bad with money. Don’t get me wrong. I’m terrible with money. My wife will tell you if I was left to my own devices, I’ll be surrounded by guitars, XBoxes and pizza boxes and no money in the bank. It wasn’t until much later in my life that I really considered the value of money.

Now, I have kids and when the eldest was still small, she didn’t get pocket money – the youngest still doesn’t. Instead, we would just give them money when they needed it, within reason. But, I started to realize that, they had no concept of the value of money.

So with my eldest I had started to help her understand it in a safe way, because it’s all well and good saying, “sit down and learn about the value of money”, but you can’t until you’ve lost it, you don’t understand what you have until you lose it very often. And that’s quite unsafe when it comes to money.

Roblox to the Rescue!

So what I did subtly in the background was use the game called Roblox that she would play a lot.  In Roblox, you use real money to buy Robux, which you can then spend on in-game items and the like. What would happen would be she would spend it all really quickly and then cry.

And she used to do this quite a lot, but slowly she began to understand that if it’s gone, it’s gone. There’s no more, I’m not going to give her more the same day. If it goes, I might give some in a week or two’s time, but there was no schedule to when I gave her money. It would be when I felt she had earned it or she come and ask me that it’s just the right moment.

After a while, she got a better and better understanding. If she spent all of that money, she wouldn’t have any left. And if something better came along a bit later, she wouldn’t be able to buy.

Some of the games that she played would allow you to generate other types of in-game currency. It wasn’t the one that you paid for, but in the games, she played it would allow her to buy pets or other items that she was interested in. So what started to happen was she would have to earn money by doing things in the game, and then have to do trading. And so she started to understand how, if you had a neon rideable, unicorn, this was more valuable than three cats or four cats or five cats and a dog or whatever it may be.

This is where more valuable lessons started to happen. Not everyone played fair and she got conned a few times. This was when the next bit lightbulb moment happened. After losing items that she had worked hard to earn, she suddenly began to understand their value! She also learned how to get better at trading! She actually became a pretty hard negotiator.

For me, this was a wonderfully safe way for her to learn how to value money, not how to manage it as much as to understand what it’s worth to her.

Now we can see this translating into how she views money in the real world. She understands that the money she gets for pocket money was not only earned by her doing chores but that we had to earn it to give it to her – that it holds value to not just her.

She knows that we have to work to earn that money and that when we gave it to her, it’s coming out of our pockets, it wasn’t just free magic money in the air.

So I think that’s a long-winded way of saying I would use gamification and games to teach kids how to value money, how to value the work that goes into earning money and then worry about how to manage that money.

I don’t think kids can manage money if they don’t realize that it’s valuable and it’s not just something they are given. And I think we have a world now where video games are one of the biggest revenue streams in the world. A lot of this is due to the concept of in-game purchases. Rather than getting angry about it, we should embrace it and use it as a safe way to teach kids the value of money – where losing it has fewer real-world consequences but still might hurt!

We don’t have to create big gamified systems. The games exist. What we need to do is change the way we think about them. And I think parents need to get into the right mindset. Instead of going “ God, you want to buy this newest thing in Fortnite. You want the chicken head? Well, here’s the money. Just get on with it. I’ll keep you quiet for a bit.”

Instead,  make them earn it. They have to tidy their room. Don’t give them pocket money, make them tidy their room and then give them the money to buy the chicken head or whatever it is, make them value that because otherwise, even if it’s pixels.

How do you use games to teach your kids valuable lessons?

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