Money Smart Budget Activities for Teens & Adults with Disabilities

MoneySmart Budget Activities for Students with Special Needs

Yes, the best things in life are free, but one of the most crucial life skills for reaching independence is learning how to budget. Lessons about money and budgeting aren’t always included in special education curriculum, but this important life skill is a necessary component if your students are striving towards independence or even group living.

For example, do your students know the difference between a sound suggestion and a salesperson’s persuasion? Salespeople can do a great job of convincing you that you need something—it’s what they get paid for! But this sales persuasion is different than genuine advice. Explaining these nuances to your students with special needs can be the difference between a smart shopper and a compulsive spender. It will also help your students determine the difference between want and need. Use sound judgement when making purchases. Just because a friendly, chatty salesperson tells you that you need something, doesn’t mean you have to buy it!

Try out this “You Should Totally Buy it!” Money Smart budget activity with your students and see if they know the difference between want and need.


“This Looks Great on You! You Should Totally Buy it!” But should you? 

It’s the job of a salesperson to persuade you into thinking you need something you actually don’t. Learning these nuances is particularly important for teens/adults with disabilities to avoid being compulsive shoppers. Check out this five-point “don’t buy it” checklist:

You shouldn’t buy it if:

1. It’s not in the plan: Before you shop, it’s best to leave the house with a spending plan that reflects what you can afford. If it’s not in the plan, don’t buy it!

2. You don’t actually “need” it: It’s always easy to come up with reasons why you might want a product, but a smart shopper is able to differentiate between “want” and “need.”

3. The salesperson told you to buy it: It’s their job to make you want to buy. They live for the sale, but can you live with the sale?

4. It has to be NOW: There is nothing wrong with saying no or postponing a decision to buy something. Giving yourself some time will allow you to think about it more rationally.

5. You just don’t want to miss out: It’s a hard truth, but sometimes you can’t have everything you want. Understanding this is key for smart purchases


It’s not just budgeting, it’s financial abuse prevention

It’s a hard truth that people with disabilities are more likely to be financially abused or financial exploitation. In fact, in a recent survey, 31% of people with disabilities who were victims of abuse, reported experiencing financial abuse. Giving your students the Money Smart budgeting tools to make good decisions about their money is a big step toward preventing financial abuse.

Check out this short story from

Everybody looks like a friend to Kevin Farley. From the people who come to the grocery store where he works, to shopkeepers and strangers on the street. Kevin is 49 and is on the autism spectrum. He can work and perform many daily tasks, but lacks the social skills that adults use to interact—and to protect themselves. That vulnerability may have cost him a significant inheritance. In a lawsuit filed in Texas, the people first designated to look after Kevin’s parents’ estate are alleged to have spent most of the money put aside for his care.

Financial knowledge is especially critical in our society where consumer spending and debt are at record levels, and bankruptcies are commonplace. It is also critical for students to be able to recognize and evaluate the sales ploys thrown at them, whether shopping in person or through the mass media. Being a savvy shopper and a wise money manager requires students to evaluate their needs and wants and to make judgments on how to best meet both. Learn more about independent living skills and educating your students with our MoneySmart Curriculum.


Budgeting Activities for Students with Special Needs: These Money Smart budget skills are for students with autism, intellectual disabilities, and more! Activities from Money Smart curriculum teach crucial budget skills.

Categories: Autism , Developmental Disabilities , Life Skills , School To Work Skills , Social Skills & Fitting In , Special Education , Transition Skills