Simulation: Living Paycheck to Paycheck (Spent)

Feb 26, 2016
Activity, Purchase Decisions, Insurance, Employment, Writing assignment

On a recent NGPF podcast (released next week), Helaine Olen mentioned an online game called Spent (click to play the game!) (click to play the game), which I am finally getting a chance to play. The tagline on their home page is “It’s Just Stuff. Until You Don’t Have It.”

I have created a set of questions for students to accompany the game.

Here’s their opening challenge:

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 3.17.54 PM

I accepted the challenge which is to make it through the month with $1,000 in savings and no job.

  • Step 1: Find a Job: Waiter, Temp or 2nd Shift Warehouse
  • Step 2: The game then throws life’s expenses at you that require choices (while you are keeping an eye on your cash balance): health insurance, rent, field trips, computer classes, grocery bills, car problems, credit card balances and other unexpected expenses that life brings

Full disclosure: I ran out of money on Day 17. This game will provide students with empathy and the challenges that come from living paycheck to paycheck. I could literally sense my blood pressure rising as I saw my cash balances dwindle facing an uncertain future.

A great activity for your students that can be combined with a written reflection with questions like this:

  • What job did you choose?
  • What was the most difficult choice(s) you had to make when it came to expenses?
  • What was  your emotional state as the game progressed?
  • Did any of the facts that popped up on the screen as you played surprise you?
  • Did you ever reach out to friends for help? Why or Why not?
  • What did you learn from playing this game?


Looking for more games/simulations like this? Check out the NGPF Interactive Library here.



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.