How to Teach Personal Finance Without a Budget

Looking for free ways to bring financial literacy instruction to your classroom? We’ve got you.

The movement to teach financial literacy in high school is gaining ground. However, some states continue to lag behind, leaving many students with little or no personal finance instruction. In these cases, teachers may wish to step in, but it’s tough when the training, guidance, and money isn’t there to support them.

The good news is that a greater availability of resources (shout out to nonprofits, government agencies, and financial institutions) provides educators with access to free, high-quality teaching materials.

Ready to give your students the knowledge and skills they need for financial success? Here are the top resources to help you do it.

Where to Find Free Financial Literacy Materials

National Endowment for Financial Education

NEFE helps educators bring financial literacy to their classrooms with school-based education programs. The High School Financial Planning Program supports K-12 teachers, while the CashCourse online tool is best for college educators.

Jump$tart Coalition

Jump$tart provides a no-cost teacher training initiative that’s designed to ensure consistency and rigor in national training programs. Jump$tart, a national nonprofit with local chapters in 49 states, also hosts the National Educator Conference, which brings together educators, resources, support, and expertise on financial education. Even better, educators can attend the conference on fully funded scholarships.


Moneythink is a nonprofit that works to increase the financial capability of young people by training college-age volunteers to become financial mentors for high school students.

InCharge Education Foundation

InCharge is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering consumers through personal finance education. Schools and universities can partner with InCharge on customized programming about topics that include starting a savings account, avoiding over-borrowing on student loans, and comparing cell phone plans.

Money Smart

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is the independent government agency that insures deposits and supervises financial institutions. Through its Money Smart program, it provides tools to help people of all ages increase their financial skills. Among the resources it offers are free lesson plans that are available for download.


A product of the Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission, MyMoney.Gov contains a number of resources that educators may find useful for teaching financial education. The site includes in-depth lesson plans covering financial principles and has a tools page with links to online calculators and worksheets.

Better Money Habits

Better Money Habits is a collaboration between Bank of America and Khan Academy. It features animated videos that cover financial literacy basics (credit, debt, saving and budgeting) as well as specific topics such as home ownership, retirement, and college.

Practical Money Skills

Practical Money Skills is Visa’s financial literacy initiative. It provides free lesson plans and fun, interactive games.


OppU (that’s us!) is the financial literacy arm of OppLoans. The centerpiece of OppU is a standards-aligned, online financial literacy curriculum that covers the fundamentals of personal finance through interactive videos and quizzes. Users create a profile and advance through four modules: spending, budgeting and saving, credit, and debt and loans. OppU also publishes financial literacy tips and materials (worksheets, ebooks, and videos) through its blog, OppU Answers. All material is free to use and contains no advertising.


And don’t forget apps! Apps for teaching financial literacy are a great tool for tech-savvy students. Start with a simple saving app like PiggyBot, a digital piggy bank that can be useful for young students to practice reaching savings goals. Or try a budgeting app, like YNAB, for more advanced students who are earning an income and balancing their expenses.

California Council on Economic Education

The breadth of resources available to educators is impressive, but it’s really only scratching the surface. Many groups offer a robust array of in-depth support too.

One such organization is the California Council on Economic Education (CCEE). CCEE offers a number of free teacher-development resources to help educators incorporate economics and personal finance into their classroom instruction. The organization also hosts both state and national student contests that allow teachers and students to gain financial knowledge through experiential learning.

Here’s a closer look at the resources and programs that CCEE offers.

Master Teacher in Personal Finance

This course is designed to provide teachers with content knowledge in personal finance and high-quality, active lessons and other resources (videos, podcasts, infographics, readings, and online courses) for teaching personal finance. It is divided into individual sessions with content instruction, lesson development, and instruction.

Financial Smarts for Teachers

This professional-development program is for all K-12 teachers and focuses on building their personal financial capability. It uses a curriculum jointly developed by CCEE, CalCPA, and the California Jump$tart Coalition titled Financial Smarts for Teachers. Teacher-specific personal finance topics include budgeting on a 10-month pay cycle, specific loan or housing programs available to educators, teacher retirement, and more.

Never Too Young Personal Finance for Young Learners

Never Too Young is an elementary school-level curriculum program designed to teach a real-world understanding of personal finance and economics.

Personal Finance Challenge

The National Personal Finance Challenge is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge of personal finance by connecting with other students across their state in an online competition. The 10 highest-scoring teams are then invited to the state championships where they compete for the national title and an all-expenses-paid trip to the competition city.

Financial Advisor Contest

This unique-to-California competition is for high school students. Participants act as financial advisors and provide services to fictional clients. Working with professionals from CFA Society Los Angeles, students prepare a presentation that addresses the needs and goals of their fictional client in a competition with other teams at the Los Angeles Federal Reserve Branch. The top teams win cash prizes, but everyone leaves with a richer understanding of personal finance!


EconEdLink is a free online resource that contains economics and personal finance resources for K-12 educators. Materials include lesson plans, webinars, and news-related activities.

Tips from an Educator

Josh Mitton is the chief programs officer at the California Council on Economic Education. He trains educators to teach personal finance, so basically he’s a teacher of teachers. Want to know what he tells them? Here are the top five tips (as well as a bonus one) that he shares to help educators better connect to their students. Hint: he stresses the importance of creating a solid budget.

1. Be realistic—not discouraging.
2. Relate, relate, relate to the students’ interests and concerns—not yours.
3. Address behavioral strategies and challenges of personal finance choices.
4. Anchor concepts around a single thing, such as a budget, for instance. You can teach a variety of personal finance concepts and their roles, but it integrates around the budget and relates back to the budget.
5. Teach budgets as a proactive, positive, guiding force in one’s financial life. A budget is a spending plan, a roadmap of your priorities, a tool to help you achieve your goals and live the life you want.

Bonus tip: Always encourage action. No matter how old you are, you are never going to be as young as you are now. Now is always a good time to take a step in the right direction.

Bottom Line

There are lots of ways that educators can bring financial literacy instruction to the classroom. Nonprofits, government agencies, and financial institutions all develop free, high-quality resources designed to help educators teach personal finance. So if your school doesn’t provide budget or training for financial literacy, don’t despair—there are lots of resources out there for you to use.


Joshua Mitton

Joshua Mitton is the chief program officer at California Council on Economic Education. After reading his first economics textbook in a single weekend, Joshua went on to obtain a B.A. in applied economics from Idaho State University. He relocated with his family to Southern California to pursue graduate studies at Cal State Fullerton, which he is due to complete this fall. During his time there he worked as a graduate assistant for the Center for Economic Education and gained a taste for expanding others’ understanding of economic and personal finance principles and concepts as well as applying it in their lives to their own success.

How do you teach personal finance? Tell us on Twitter at @OppUniversity.

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