NGPF Featured Lesson: Needs vs. Wants

Nov 20, 2014
Activity, Budgeting, Lesson Idea, Financial Literacy, Purchase Decisions

From Jessica Endlich Winkler, NGPF’s resident budget guru:

Our unit on Budgeting is a long one, but students will legitimately have all the tools they need to complete a thorough, well planned, strategic budget for living as an independent adult. The final lesson in completing this process is for each student to determine their Needs vs. Wants.

I think students will find it interesting to start by watching a video, analyzing an infographic, OR reading an article (all options in one resource!) on how the average American spends their paycheck. Then, every finance guru has their own recommendation for how budgeting should be done responsibly — Suze tells a viewer whether she can afford a $1200 tote, and an About Money article describes Elizabeth Warren‘s 50/30/20 Rule of Thumb.  

With so much advice to follow, we throw the students into My Discretionary Spending Plan, a Next Gen Personal Finance original activity. After differentiating between their own wants and needs, students go back to their original Salary-Based Budgeting (also an NGPF original) and make revisions, as they have been for every lesson in the Budgeting unit.

Given the focus on budget revision throughout this unit, we developed 5 potential culminating activities students can complete as a summative assessment.

We hope you find this 7-part series on budgeting informative AND engaging for your high school or college students! Send us feedback on the unit at

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.