If you asked your students what’s the most fun thing they could possibly spend their money on, what do you think they’d say? A Disney Plus subscription? The iPhone 20 (that’s the latest one, right)? A lifetime supply of peanut butter M&M’S?
We’re not going to lie—all of those things are super fun. But they’re not quite the answer we’re hoping for. What are we talking about, then? Drumroll please . . .
That’s right: The holiday season isn’t the only time of year when giving is important. It’s always a big deal! In fact, we thought it was such a big deal that we made it the grand finale of the Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum—because one of the best things about being able to manage your money like a pro is using those skills to make a huge difference in someone else’s life.
So, while you’re working through Chapter 12 of Foundations—or if you just need some extra inspiration to give your students at any time—here are five of the best ways you can encourage your students to give!
1. Performing Random Acts of Kindness
If you’ve ever had a stranger pay for your Starbucks latte, or if you’ve covered the order of the person behind you at the drive-through, then you know that random acts of kindness are an instant mood booster for both the giver and receiver. Your students might be surprised by how much fun it is to bring a little unexpected joy to someone’s day, whether they get to see the other person’s reaction or not!
Are you a teacher? Help your students win with money today!
Here are some ideas to get them started:
- Leave a huge tip for your server at a restaurant.
- Give away your umbrella to someone who doesn’t have one in a thunderstorm.
- Pay someone’s bus or cab fare.
- Make care packages and hand them out to the homeless.
- Hide money or gift cards in places where strangers can find them.
- Buy flowers and hand them out on a busy sidewalk.
- Anonymously send a gift basket to someone who needs some cheering up.
- Leave a nice note and $5 for coffee on someone’s car windshield.
Then, once they’ve completed their acts of kindness, you can have students journal about their experiences and share them with the class.
The first of The Five Foundations we teach is to save up a $500 emergency fund, but sometimes that’s a whopping goal for a teenager (especially if they don’t have a job yet). But they don’t need to wait until they have all that money in their bank account to be generous! There’s always the gift that money can’t buy: time. (But honestly, sometimes we wish money could buy time. Wouldn’t that make life just a bit easier?)
Ask your students to create a list of ways they could volunteer their time. Here are some ideas to get them thinking:
- Offer to organize someone’s closet or filing cabinets.
- Coordinate—or donate to—a blood drive, toy drive, canned goods drive, book drive, shoe drive, etc.
- Get some family members on board and serve food at a local homeless shelter.
- Babysit for a tired mom for free.
- Entertain kids at a children’s hospital by reading or playing games with them.
- Run errands for someone who’s sick or elderly.
- Do a construction project with Habitat for Humanity.
- Shelve books at the library (this one might require some training!).
- Mentor someone younger—either through Big Brothers Big Sisters of America or on your own.
Some of those options could even be done as a group activity with the entire class. What a fun way to give back to the community and build community in the classroom at the same time!
And of course, remind your students that even if they haven’t hit their financial goals yet, they shouldn’t avoid giving money altogether. There’s always room at the top of the budget for generosity, even if it’s just a few dollars. Making a habit of giving now will help your students be even more generous later on when they’re rolling in the dough (or, you know, working a steady job).
3. Donating to a Charity of Their Choice
There are tons of incredible charities out there, and with so many of them offering quick online payment options, changing someone’s life is just a click away. Ask your students to spend some time researching different charitable organizations. Encourage them to dig deeper than just what they see on the website’s homepage: What is the organization’s mission statement? What are its values? How did it get started? Who are the people being helped? Then, if any of the charities hit home with your students, encourage them to think about donating.
Here are some well-known charities your students could look into:
- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
- Goodwill Industries International
- American Red Cross
- Make-A-Wish Foundation of America
- Special Olympics
4. Using Their Gifts or Talents
It can be extremely rewarding for your students to use their strengths to bless others. If they have a talent they could actually get paid for, like lawn care or graphic design, then offering to use those talents for free could be a great way for them to give and sharpen their skills. We put this in a separate category from volunteering because, in most cases, they’ll need to put money toward the equipment or materials involved.
Here are a few examples:
- If you’re good at cooking or baking, you could make some meals for a family in need.
- If you’re good at knitting, crocheting or sewing, you could make blankets or clothing items for people in the hospital.
- If you’re good at photography, you could offer to take and edit family photos or professional headshots.
- If you’re good at art, you could create some original pieces for someone who’s moving into a new home.
- If you’re good at building websites, you could build one for a local small business or other organization.
- If you’re good at teaching, you could teach classes at a community center or tutor younger students.
Ask your students to take some time to think about their biggest strengths and talents. Then, have them brainstorm in groups about creative ways they could use those talents to make someone’s life easier or better.
5. Helping Someone in Their Class
Remind your students that generosity can also make a huge difference in the lives of the people they see every day: their classmates. High school definitely isn’t easy, and with today’s levels of anxiety and depression in American teens, who knows how much a kind word or thoughtful gesture could impact someone! Some students might prefer to do this anonymously, but that doesn’t mean the kindness would go unnoticed or that they wouldn’t grow from the experience.
Here are some ways they could help:
- Leave encouraging notes on classmates’ lockers or cars.
- Go to lunch with someone new and pay for their food.
- Give someone a ride to school. (Licensed students only, please!)
- Offer to help someone understand a math problem or something else they’re struggling with.
- Bring in donuts or other treats for the class.
- Help someone carry their books.
- Listen when someone needs to talk.
- Invite someone to do something fun with you and your friends.
- Give your teacher a surprise—like some flowers, a hundred dollar bill, or a Caribbean cruise (seriously though, you teachers deserve it).
Every year, thousands of students learn life-changing financial literacy skills through our Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum. Your students can be next! The curriculum simplifies big topics like debt, insurance, taxes, real estate and the global economy. Make sure your students are ready to enter their future with confidence and tackle their finances head on!