Shoestring Budget: A Board Game
This educational board game was designed and developed in the Simulation and Gaming course I took during my Edtech M.A. in 2011.
To teach budgeting skills to high school students
I was the designer and developer. I chose the game components and created graphics and the game board in Photoshop. I also wrote the instructions for the rule book. My colleague, Lila Azouz, was the researcher who provided the content for the game and the game cards. Together, we collaborated on designing the layout of the game board and on writing the documentation for the game.
Detailed Project Report
The game design document which accompanied our Shoestring Budget game was written by Lila Azouz and myself. It contains the following information:
Learning how to manage money, budget for fix and variable expenses, avoid debt and plan for ones future are essential lifelong skills. Learning through the simulation of the board game, the players will learn to pay bills, save for unexpected expenses, make wise decisions in order to collect quality stars (points) and learn to balance their budget without the use of a credit card. This game will hopefully provide a foundation for students to transfer what they learn in school and apply critical judgment, problem solving, and achieve their potential to improve their lives. It will help high school students prepare to go to college and live on their own while living on a tight budget.
This game fits under the MELs cross-curricular program where students will learn a content specific game that is geared to developing lifelong skills as well as math skills. It covers seven of the nine cross-curricular competencies:
Competency 1: Uses information
- The player will take the information on the cards about the expenses and income and will use this information to play the game.
- The player will use the fixed budget card to plan out their budget and allocate the 1000$ they receive at the start of the game.
Competency 2: Solves problems
- The player will have a set amount of money provided at the beginning of the game, and they will need to pay for their fixed expenses, and make decisions about how to handle the unexpected expenses they will incur while not getting themselves into debt.
- When the player has too many expense cards that become debt cards when they don’t have the money, they will have to decide whether they will trade their quality stars or pay off their debts in the next round.
Competency 3: Exercises critical judgment
- When faced with a card that has a quality options, they will have to use their critical judgment to decide what they will choose.
- If they land on a section where they can change paths, they must decide whether to take the risk for the shortcut filled with traps or to take the longer route with more chance cards.
Competency 4: Uses creativity
- The players will need to be creative in order to plan and balance their money and use trading to optimize their funds.
Competency 7: Achieves his/her potential
- By ending the game with a balanced budget, a certain number of quality points and no debt, the players will be able to live a comfortable life without external money stresses.
Competency 8: Cooperates with others
- Playing this board game in a group teaches students how to collaborate with each other.
Competency 9: Communicates appropriately
- The players will be able to use appropriate vocabulary relating to budgeting budgets (e.g.: fixed expenses, variable expenses, debt, income, savings, emergency fund, bills, etc.)
- The players will be able to make requests by trading quality points with the bank.
Learners and Context of Use
This game is geared towards high school students aged 16-17 in grade eleven (Secondary 5) in the Quebec school system who are about to graduate and head either to CEGEP or university. It can also be used in other provinces as well. This game is designed to help student start thinking about living on their own and dealing with the basic life expenses.
This game would be used in high school either in a math class or within a Leadership and Planning course or in a career development course. This game will be a good activity to do in a classroom to help get students thinking about their future and preparing them for life’s expenses in order for them to make good decisions and not get into debt. The game will play up to 4 players so you would need several boards to divide the class up in groups.
Before Starting the Game
It would be best for the teacher or facilitator to introduce the vocabulary related to budgeting, money and debt. Also, having students understand the difference between a variable and a fixed expense is a great way to teach students about the unexpected expenses that can happen in life and teach them some skills or tips on how to prepare for such things.
Upon Game Completion
A debriefing would be a good activity to do as a class. They can discuss how they dealt with their budgets, whether they found it difficult to live on a 1000$ a month, and how did they go about budgeting their money.
Object of the Game
The goal of the game is to pay all the fixed and variable expenses, with the most amount of savings, or no debt, or the least amount of debt possible, before the end of the month. If there is a tie, the one with the most amount of quality points would win.
The game comprises of the following materials:
- One Game board
- Shoestring Budget Player Card
- Player Pieces and a Month Tracker Piece
- Chance Cards
- Expense Cards
- A Bank Box
- Money Tokens (100$, 50$, 25$, 10$)
- Quality Star Pieces
- Bank Information and Quality Star Trading Information Card
- One Six-sided Die
- The Rulebook
- A Board Game Box
Take a look at the details and illustrations of each game material component:
One game board
A fold-able thin 18”x8” rectangular board, with the colour-printed pathway game board design carefully taped onto it’s surface. The design of the board elements was created entirely in Adobe Photoshop.
Shoestring budget Player card
An 8.5”x4.5” paper which each player gets at the beginning of the game. It contains details of the desired budget, tuition amount, savings, and a quality star accumulation section. A job-aid was added later reviewing the token amounts and quality star trading system.
Player Pieces and a Month Tracker Piece
There are five transparent plastic cube-shaped player pieces available in the following colours; magenta, green, blue, orange, yellow. The month tracker piece is a yellow transparent plastic cube-shaped markers, to be used to track the elapsed months/rounds at the top of the board.
A standard sized card pack, colour-coded green. The back of the card says “Chance!” accompanying an image of a coin being flipped, signifying chance. These cards are used as a way to introduce the variables of chance-income and chance-expenses into the game.
A standard sized card pack, colour-coded red. The back of the card says “Expense!” accompanying an image of a pile of coins and bills, signifying money. These cards are used as a way to introduce variable expenses into the game.
A Bank Box
A 8.75”x5.25”x2.75” lidded box in which the game money tokens, 100$ bills, and quality stars are kept. In the lid, a job-aid is used to list the values of each token, and explain the quality star trading system.
Money Tokens (100$, 50$, 25$, 10$)
The 100$ amounts are in the form of a standard-sized play card with the image of a Canadian 100$ bill on its surface. The remaining tokens are 1” diameter poker tokens; 50$ tokens are red, 25$ tokens are blue and the 10$ tokens are white.
Quality Star Pieces
A number of small dark yellow 1cm shiny plastic prisms with flat bottom surfaces to be used to represent quality star points.
Bank Information and Quality Star Trading Information Card
A job-aid placed inside the bank box, which states the value of the money tokens and explains the quality star trading system. It lists the values of each quantity of accumulated quality stars during and after each round if they were to be traded for money with the bank in either case.
One six-sided Die
A standard six-sided white-coloured die with black dots denoting the numbers on each side of the die.
A 8.5”x5.5” booklet of 8 pages listing the aim of the game, time required, the setup and the rules of the three versions of the game (one-round, multiple round, full game).
A Board Game Box
A grey metallic-coloured cardboard lidded shoebox containing the entirety of the above game components.
The time required for setup and the explanation of the game rules would take approximately five minutes.
The time required for playing one round (a month) of the game is approximately 20 minutes.
More than One Round
If the players wish to play more than one round (more than one month) the duration would approximate 20 minutes multiplied by the number of rounds.
If the players wish to continue the game through all twelve months which comprise a year, the game would take approximately 240 minutes or 4 hours.
The Setup and Rules
The Setup of the Game:
- Open the box and take out the board, cards, and ancillary pieces.
- Place the board on a flat and level surface.
- Shuffle and place the chance cards in the corner location on the board labelled “Chance Cards.”
- Shuffle and place the expense cards in the corner location on the board labelled “Expense Cards.”
- Have each player choose a player piece according to colour.
- Place the player pieces at the start location on the board labelled “Start Here.”
- Place the die at the center of the board.
- Setup the bank box: ensure that all the “50$ Tokens”, “25$ Tokens”, “10$ Tokens”, and “Quality Star Pieces” are placed in each of the four corresponding divided compartments labelled “50$ Tokens”, “25$ Tokens”, “10$ Tokens”, and “Quality Stars.”
- Distribute the money tokens to the players (Totaling 1000$ for each player) in the amounts of: 5 x 100$ Bills (500$), 4 x 50$ Tokens (200$), 8 x 25$ Tokens (200$), 10 x 10$ Tokens (100$).
- Distribute a Shoestring Budget Player Card to each player.
- Read out the rules in the rule book and ensure that all the players understand how the game works.
The Rules for a One Round Game:
- Before starting the game, elect a player to represent the Bank to distribute the money tokens to each player, and oversee the Bank Transactions throughout the game.
- To begin the game, each player rolls the die. Whoever gets the highest roll plays first. Then the order of turns per player goes clockwise around the board.
- At the beginning of each player’s turn, the player rolls the die and advances their player piece by the corresponding number of steps.
- The player must follow the directions on the step they landed on, and then follow any subsequent directions on the chance or expense cards that they may pick up.
- If a chance or expense card that you pick up gives you the ability to choose between options, choose wisely as you may be able to get “quality stars” and/or save money on certain expenses.
- If you land on a spot that gives you quality stars, or choose an option on a chance or expense card that gives you quality stars, pick up the stated number of quality stars from the bank compartment labelled “Quality Stars.”
- At the beginning of a turn, you may trade in your accumulated quality stars for their corresponding amounts with the bank, as per the Quality Star Trading Information Card posted beside the bank.
- If you are able to save quality stars till the end of the game, the trading value differs; please refer to the Quality Star Trading Information Card.
- Pay off any expense cards before your turn is up. If you pay off an expense card, place it in the “expense card discard pile.”
- If you collect an expense card that you cannot pay, save it as a debt. You may pay debts off during any of your subsequent turns.
- During your turn, you may trade chance income cards into money tokens at the bank. When you have traded in your chance income card, place it in the “chance card discard pile.”
- When a player reaches the end of the board pathway, the One Round Game (representing a month) is over. Each player then must ensure that all fixed expenses on their Shoestring Budget Player Card are payed, all quality stars are traded in, and all amounts are tallied up.
- The player who has paid all their fixed and variable expenses, with the least amount of debt, or the most amount of savings, wins the game.
See the entire rule book for details on multiple round games and the full game rules.
Process and Initial Ideas
The researcher and developer discussed ideas which interested both parties and was seen as a viable topic for a high-school level audience. Various ideas came up, namely in the personal development aspect of education. It was important to reflect on what was truly valuable educational content, and to focus on content that was not already covered in high degrees at school already. We spoke about what we would have liked to learn in school, and came to the conclusion that a life-skill such as budgeting would be a viable and important topic to cover.
We agreed upon a set schedule for face-to-face and Skype team meetings and placed our relevant documents, research and ideas into Google Docs to be able to collaborate and cooperate in an effective synchronous and/or asynchronous manner. Milestones were discussed and agreed-upon, as well as roles and responsibilities of each member. As the brainstorming became more advanced and visual templates of a possible board game type and layout was discussed, the game began to take shape. As incongruencies and problems arose in our game design, we discussed and refined our ideas in order to find solutions.
At first we wanted to do a game that required some kind of personal development but were not sure on what subject. We then came up with a number of ideas but none satisfied both of us. After further discussion, money management and budget planning stuck as it is something both team members enjoy and agreed on. We thought it would be very beneficial for students especially in a time like today with the economic crisis and debt problems. We felt it was a good idea for people to learn how to manage money at an early age, especially when they will soon move out and face the challenges of the real world.
We obtained feedback on the idea from multiple sources. The first is through personal experiences and discussions among our team and fellow classmates. In addition, we spoke with the professor to discuss our ideas and intentions where we received positive feedback. The budgeting idea was sparked from a conversation held between the researcher and a high school English teacher friend who said that she often taught her students how to make budgets in her class and said that it was not a skill often taught in her school.
Process in Creating Playable Prototype
After considerable research and discussing what content and objectives we wanted to include, we went through the step by step process explained in the document “First Steps in Board Game Design” provided by the professor.
During one meeting, our team used a large Bristol board and cut up a bunch of white cue cards into two different sizes (card sizes for the chance and expense cards and small squares to place on the board in order to play around with the flow of the game). We then went through step 4 of game design, called “aligning” where we went through all the content and game structures to decide what was needed and where to place items on the board to ensure enough elements were used for conflict, control, closure and contrivance.
The researcher looked for existing games in order to decide if our idea for the game was viable or not. The MELs website was consulted to see what competencies or courses our project would fit under.
At first it was possible to fit it under the “Personal development elements common to all subjects in the subject area”, but because it had math skills it was able to go under the umbrella of the “Cross-Curricular Program” and it matched 7 of the 9 competencies. After reading this document, it was clear that this board game had an important role to play, so the search continued for existing board games.
As for the content, a web search was conducted for various content using key words like: budget, budget template, living expenses, student living costs, teenagers and debt, and managing money. In addition, the idea for this game was enhanced by a TV show the researcher liked to watch called, ‘Till Debt Do Us Part.”
The researcher conducted a search on both Google and boardgamegeek.com. The researcher was able to identify 19 board games that included themes like budgeting, money management, debt. Some of these games provided a good foundation to help us with our games, for example the game Managing Your Money (1969. http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/10092/managing-your-money) provided us with ideas about how to go about making our cards. The game Pay Day (1975. http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/1797/pay-day) gave us ideas about creating a one month cycle, which we expanded on to create rounds of one month for up to a year. The game Another Day, Another Dollar had a similar learning objective to the game we were creating. However, the researcher was unable to find a game that did exactly what our team intended to do, so it was a perfect opportunity to create such a game.
Second Round of Feedback
The researcher pooled all information gathered onto a shared Google document that the developer had access to. Once the researcher found all the existing games, the team met to discuss the most important ones and how they can be useful in our game design. It was important not to copy any existing game. We had various meetings where we discussed the content to be included, and linked our game design ideas with our understanding of learning theories and how the particular content we chose would be learned best via the game.
We learned about scope of topic versus depth of topic able to be covered in the game, meaning that there had to be a compromise between a lot of simple content or less but more in-depth content. We also learned about elegance in having the game elements correspond to actual elements or processes of the learning of the content itself. We learned that the simpler the better, though there must also be an element of challenge to create the right sense of flow. We learned about the importance of transparent terms or language of the game content, the use of standard game language to aid in understanding the game. We also learned about the importance of matching the amount of time required to play a game, and the instructional objectives of the game to be covered; there is usually an optimal amount of time needed to truly cover the intended objective. Board game elements have to be strategically placed and have a certain number in order to maximize the potential to reach the optimal time-range of a round.
About.com (2011). Budget Worksheet for College Students. Financial Planning. Retrieved September 2011, from http://financialplan.about.com/library/n_collbudget.htm
Concordia University. Manage Your Finances. Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.concordia.ca/admissions/tuition-and-fees/manage-your-finances
Ewing, E. (2008)Ten of the best … ways to stretch your student budget. The Gardian. Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/aug/14/studentfinance.clearing
Lakehead University (2011). Financing Your Education and Budget Tips. Student Awards and Financial Aid. Retrieved September 2011, from http://financialaid.lakeheadu.ca/?display=page&pageid=18
Lazarony. L. (2008). 12 Money management skills for college students. Bankrate.com. Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/sav/20000814b.asp
McGill University. (2011). Cost of living Estimated Annual Cost of Living. First Year Office. Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.mcgill.ca/firstyear/moneymatters/costofliving
Ministere de L’Educations, du Loisir et du Sport. (2008). Cross-Curricular Competencies Secondary Cycle Two. Quebec Education Program. Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.mels.gouv.qc.ca./sections/parcoursFormation/pdf/54156_QEP_Chapitre3_LOW.pdf
Money Management Works. (2011). Teen Finance. Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.money-management-works.com/teen-finance.html
MoneyProblems.ca. (2011). And More on Budgeting: Tips on Saving Money. Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.moneyproblems.ca/tips-on-saving-money.htm
OCAD University. (2011). Budgeting Tips. Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.ocad.ca/students/financial_matters/financial_planning/budgeting_tips.htm
Regent College. (2011, July). Sample Budget. Prospective Students. Retrieved September 2011, from (http://www.regent-college.edu/prospectus/financing/sample_budget.html
The University of British Columbia. Cost of Living. Prospective Students. Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/tuition-fees-cost-living/cost-living
Tushar Mathur (2010). Student Budgeting Tips. Everything Finance. Retrieved September 2011, from http://everythingfinanceblog.com/2010/01/student-budgeting-tips.html
University of Toronto. Sample Student Annual Budget. Financial Matters Parents and Families of Students. Retrieved September 2011, from http://family.utoronto.ca/Financial-Matters/Estimate-Costs.htm
University of Victoria. (2011). Annual Costs. Financial Aid. Retrieved September 2011, from http://registrar.uvic.ca/safa/annual-costs.html
Vaz-Oxlade, G. (2011). Get Your Finances Organized in 12 Steps. Slice How To. Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.slice.ca/Advice/SliceBlog/BlogPost.aspx?sectionid=42&postid=28244
Vaz-Oxlade, G. (2011). Three lame reasons for not saving. MoneySense. Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.moneysense.ca/2011/09/20/three-lame-reasons-for-not-saving/
Existing Board Games
Menu Math Money Game: http://thefunwaytolearn.com/Menu-Math-Money-Game-REM4701.htm?categoryId=-1
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