Using a Classroom Economy

All class cash is kept in this lockbox.  The assistant wears the key and manages the money.
Our classroom runs on an economy and I absolutely love it (the kids do, too!).  You can totally adapt it to work for you but over the years, I feel like I've found what works best for my classroom.  If you have any questions, leave a comment and I'll answer!

The biggest thing is that it really is student-run.  With a full class and a million responsibilities, it is pretty fabulous that it can be delegated to the students.  Also, they appreciate the responsibility and I'd say it increases their buy-in.

Each month, my students get $200 class cash.  They get paid the first week of the month and they must pay $60 rent.  I *love* this because it's a valuable tool to teach financial responsibility.
Each student gets a mini clothespin with their name on it and it just clips to the job they've been selected to hold.
If they'd like to apply for a class job, those students who I hire receive an additional stipend.  I use the class job cards from Oh Hey ELA and you can grab them HERE.  

Holding a class job, in our room, is optional because it IS an added responsibility.  If a student is feeling overwhelmed, then they don't need to apply.  Typically, I have all students apply but I do stress that it is not a requirement.

I have students complete a job application every two months, which is how long they hold that particular job.  I've found that two months is a sweet spot because they have enough time to get really good at it BUT also have an opportunity to try other jobs throughout the year as well.

You can find the applications that we use HERE. Not everyone will get hired.  Like the real world, I tell them that I'm looking for completeness, neatness, creativity, and spelling.  I also take into consideration their behavior and work ethic.  They WANT jobs so this is a hidden layer of accountability and motivation to perform.
I love using these half sheets!  You can grab it HERE.
In our class, year after year, the coveted position is *usually* teacher's assistant.  Because of demand and interest, I typically hire two people for this job.  My assistants handle the task of paying out the $200, collecting rent, and distributing salaries to those who held jobs the previous two months.  I don't pay for the job until the end of the two month cycle; students know that they can be fired if they're not doing their part.

The teacher's assistant is the only person who handles the money; he/she collects fines or citations, pays out for bonuses, and keeps the lockbox organized.  We have THIS box and love it.  It came with two keys; we are down to one and guard it with our lives!

And yes, students pay fines but they can also get bonuses.  I fine for everything from messy book boxes to shouting out to a poor substitute teacher report.  But, I also award bonuses for anything that is exemplary but also if a team wins a game or if the class receives a compliment.

Ultimately, it's the tangible piece of behavior management in our classroom.

Now, students collect and maintain their own money throughout the year.  They can bring in their own wallet or I provide a cover and a legal sized envelope.  Everything we use is in THIS resource.  All money stays IN class and in their pencil boxes.

So... what do we DO with the money?  Good question.

Three times a year, we hold a huge class auction.  I email and ask/beg parents to send in any donations.  I don't want NEW stuff.  I tell my kids to clean their closets, dig through the garage, or go through old games.  One man's trash is another man's treasure.  They absolutely LOVE buying each other's treasures and it cleans out houses.  Winning!  We get board games, stuffed animals, home goods, and sports equipment.

Also, every two months (when jobs change), I open a student store.  It opens for the last ten minutes of the day on a Friday and students can use their money to buy goodies like Flair pens, stickers, slime, or any other dollar store trinkets I accumulate.  I don't sell food or candy and I don't make them spend money on class essentials (in other words: the store is just bonus buys). 
Market Day!
Finally, at the end of the year, we hold a huge grade level-wide Market Day but that's another post for another day!

Now, for some common questions I get...

What if students don't have enough money to pay rent or a fine?
Rent is rarely a problem because they've just been paid $200.  If they can't pay a fine, they'll usually ask a friend for a loan (which I don't necessarily encourage but I know it happens because fifth graders are savvy and some even charge interest).  If that avenue doesn't work or doesn't happen, they'll come tell me.  The assistant will jot it on a sticky note that stays in the cash box and as soon as that student gets a bonus or payment, they must pay off their debt first.  It happens but we use it as a learning experience and rarely happens twice.

What class cash do you use?
We use THIS and I make a boat load of copies at the beginning of the year.  Some gets trashed or lost so I always need to make extra copies.  I also do light green and neon green; each year I alternate, which cuts down on the shenanigans of sharing from one year's class to the next.  Again, they're savvy!

Do students record what they receive or buy?
No.  In order for this system to work for me, it has to be efficient and in the moment.  Given the group of kids, I occasionally introduce checkbooks and how to maintain a register.  In that case, they DO record but again, it has to be quick.
They love managing their money and our whole fifth grade team uses the same cash.
Can students share money?
I really discourage sharing money or buying things at auctions in a joint fashion.  They know that I'm not going to settle financial disputes so if they do decide to buy something together or put their money together, it's really on them to make a good choice.  Again, this sometimes leads to life lessons!

Do you do Class Dojo?
I do not.  If you do, you could easily tie this into their point system, allotting a certain amount of dollars for a given set of points.  I have 33 students so Dojo has never efficient enough for me.  Class cash is quick and in the moment.

Basically, we love it and I love it and watching them grow in their financial literacy and real world money sense is fabulous!


7 comments

  1. Hi there! I was just wondering how often you collect fines? Do you collect them when you pay salaries or on the spot?

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    1. I collect fines throughout the day and right in the moment. The student will bring the fine to the teacher's assistant, who will put it in the cash box!

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  2. Hello Jill. I am going to give Classroom Economy a try this coming school year. I was wondering what you do with the money that the students have left over at the end of the year? Does it all get spent by them?

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  3. Hi! I purchased your classroom economy and am excited to use it this year. I had a question about the auction. How does that work? Do you price the items, do you do a silent auction or a teacher led oral auction?

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  4. Hello! What if none of your students apply for a particular job? Do you just leave it empty for two months? Thank you!

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  5. I am wandering if you would share your letter to parents? I have asked a few times and I have not received one donation. I am sure you have a much more persuasive letter.

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  6. What type of fines do you have? Thanks so much.

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