OppLoans Q&A with Paul Vasey of CashCrunch Games: Part 2

Paul Vasey CashCrunch Q & A

Paul Vasey is the founder of CashCrunch Games. Originally from the UK, he taught Business Studies for 12 years, and holds a Business Education Degree from Nottingham Trent University. Since deciding to leave the classroom and start walking the walk, Paul has dedicated his time and energy to teaching personal finance concepts to kids and teens through active, engaged gameplay. He currently lives in California and is affiliated with Centsai.com.

Can learning to save money be fun? Actually, yes! Paul Vasey of CashCrunch Games tells us how in Part 2 of our OppLoans Q & A. If you missed Part 1, check it out to learn the story behind CashCrunch and why you should make the “best decision” for every dollar you spend!

Paul, what kind of stories have you heard from teachers using CashCrunch as a teaching tool for students. What about the other resources you produce for teachers?

First of all, kids learn through games because it makes the subject relevant to them. Let’s take this at its most basic level. If I started talking to you about personal finance and just read an article that I’d written to you aloud for half an hour, you might glaze over. But if I started talking to you about something you know—like Chicago, since that’s where you’re based, or about how you bought a hot dog the other day, or a deep dish pizza and how much that pizza cost—it all becomes very realistic for you. You’d become interested because you’ve lived it. We could talk about how much the different deep dish pizza options cost—for instance, a 12-inch pie versus a 15-inch or a 17-inch—or how much the different toppings cost, like pepperoni or pineapple. All of a sudden, you’ve got something to talk about.

When you put this into a game situation, it’s the same. Kids have skin in the game; they have some kind of experience; they’re an expert. When talking about savings and cost, the kids can now say, “Oh yeah, I remember when I had to do that.” They understand it. If you use that experience as a base to work from, you can get kids to start talking about something. If they don’t feel that they’re experts they won’t want to talk—unless you establish an open classroom culture, but even then, some still aren’t confident. But now teachers can use pizza toppings to talk about the variable cost of pepperoni versus vegetarian versus pineapple. Kids will talk about pizza because they understand pizza. It’s a great way to bring these things in real terms into the classroom.

Teachers will tell me that, with CashCrunch, the kids aren’t just sitting there and listening to them the whole time; they’re figuring things out for themselves. They can start playing the game, and they can make mistakes. They’re learning so many different things from playing a game, because they’ve lived it. At the very least, it’s not a teacher, and it’s not a textbook. It’s something different.

If people walk away from playing CashCrunch having learned one thing, what would you want that thing to be?

Think twice before spending. Is what you’re buying a need, or is it a want? If you are thirsty, do you need a milkshake, or will water quench your thirst? Like the Presidential debates, you asked for one point, I will give you two: Your paycheck is not your budget. Save first, then spend accordingly later.

You're about to launch CashCrunch Junior! Tell us more about that.

CashCrunch Junior is a physical board game for ages 7 to 12. The focus of the game is for the player to track their money, strive to save, and think about their spending.

As mentioned earlier, the biggest problem that households face is a lack of an Emergency Fund due to poor money habits, naivety, and discipline in their savings behavior. CashCrunch Junior focuses on the savings aspect, and on making the player realize the amount of money that they have spent throughout the game.

The player receives $15 to start the game. Each time they go past a corner on the board, it represents a week, and they receive $2. Upon rolling the dice, they will land on either an Income, Expense, Oh Boy, or Activity card. Depending on what card they land on, players will either receive or pay money, complete an activity, or make a decision. Upon receiving money, it goes into a space on the board called Mo Money. If money is paid out, it is taken from Mo Money and placed into Debbie Debt. At the end of the round, the player places the money from Debbie Debt into the Debbie Debt Vault. This reminds the player how much they have spent for the game, which is quite often a surprise to them.

The winner of the game is the one who has the most money in Sammy Savings. Players can transfer as much or as little into Sammy Savings as they want, so long as there is always at least $5 in Mo Money. This action shows the players how easy it is to save, and helps them to realize that their allowance and savings are not their budget—just like in real life. If you save first and spend later, you are not spending your paycheck, and you will always have something to put into your Emergency Fund.

The game can be played at school, but also at home. In fact, I would encourage it to be played at home, not just to learn about the basics of money, but as a way of spending time with your kids, getting a conversation going, and creating family time.

What is the biggest difference between creating an educational game for children and one for ages 13+?

The best way I can describe it is through an analogy. If a person took up golf, and they were a true beginner, they would need to learn their stance, grip and swing. Their main focus would be on just hitting the ball and getting the basics. Once they have got most of that sorted, they just want to hit ball after ball—see how hard they can hit it, how far they can hit it, and be left alone to teach themselves. However, they don’t really want to learn about the etiquette, or the finer parts of the game—distance, slope of the greens, wind, air temperature, etc. All that other stuff comes later. Juniors need to learn the basics, 13+ want to be left to hit the ball, and older kids and adults want to know how to fine tune their game.