Crafting a Balanced Classroom Economy: Your Complete Guide to Setting Prices

Posted by:
Katie G.
August 7, 2023
4 minute read

A well-implemented classroom economy is an effective way to instill financial literacy, encourage responsible behavior, and build interpersonal skills. However, if you find yourself worried about how to price everything appropriately, you are in the right place! That is the number one question that we get from teachers! In this article you’ll hear from ClassEquity teachers and see our pricing recommendations to help you determine prices for the different elements of your classroom economy.

Pro tip: Make a copy of our Classroom Economy Pricing Worksheet to follow along building out your prices and walk away ready to go!

Recommendation summary.

	K-2	3-5	6-12 Bonuses	$1-5	$5-20	$5-20 Fines	$1-3	$5-20	$5-20 Salaries	$2/week($8/month)	$25/week ($100/month)	$250/week($1,000/month) Expenses	Optional	$80/month	$800/month Store items	$1-10	$20-200	$20-400 			 Base spending money	$8/month	$20/month	$200/month

1. Bonuses:

Bonuses are a powerful motivator. They reward exemplary behavior, high achievement, and a commitment to values.

"I ask my students how much they think something is valued at - for bonuses, fines, and items to buy. The kids love when I'm like, 'I just saw this. How much of a bonus do you think I should put on that?' It's funny how they value the money, and it fits into what I would have put it at or if not a higher price," says Michelle H, shedding light on involving students in the process.

Remember, bonuses can also be issued for upholding the class's social contract, as Melissa I. notes, "A student that goes out of their way to turn another's day around = $3/$15 for 'above and beyond the social contract/ today's best example of kindness.'"

|  | K-2 | 3-5 | 6-12 | | --- | --- | --- | --- | | Bonuses | $1-5 | $5-20 | $5-20 |
Recommended Bonus Prices

2. Fines:

Fines can effectively discourage behavior that isn’t productive to your classroom culture, but they are also optional and should be used in a way that inspires accountability and change, not as a punishment. If you choose to use them, strive to send at least 5 bonuses for every one fine. If you’d like the data but don’t want to take away money, you can set fine values equal to zero. Or, you can skip them all together.

Cassy B. shares ways to ensure fines aren’t a culture killer. “We had conversations about what those behaviors look and sound like, and we also discussed what happens when a situation might present itself as a "learning moment" and not an instance of malicious or harmful intent.” Cassy B.

Several ClassEquity teachers recommended issuing a warning first, and then increasing the value of the fine if the student is repeating the behavior. For example, maybe the first time a student uses their phone in class it’s a $20 fine, but if it’s their third time the phone is out they have to pay $200.

Our fine pricing recommendations:  |  | K-2 | 3-5 | 6-12 | | --- | --- | --- | --- | | Fines | $1-3 | $5-20 | $5-20 |
Recommended Fine Prices

3. Job Salaries:

Students can apply for classroom jobs and earn salaries for their hard work. This helps students take responsibility for classroom routines, practice leadership skills, and take pride in their roles. Not to mention, classroom jobs make your life easier! Decide if you plan to pay your students weekly, biweekly, or monthly.

If you are new to jobs, we recommend hiring every student as a "Student", as this is their main job of course! Now, students have enough money to pay their monthly expenses (see next section), but it's no added work on your end. Then as you are comfortable, you can add in bonus jobs for students to apply to.

Doug Z. points out that they also provide an opportunity for performance-based raises, saying, "as the year progresses we give them a chance to earn a higher paycheck."

Our salary recommendations:  |  | K-2 | 3-5 | 6-12 | | --- | --- | --- | --- | | Salaries | $2/week($8/month) | $25/week ($100/month) | $250/week($1,000/month) |
Recommended Job Salaries

4. Rent/Expenses:

Students use their income to pay expenses, such as rent for their desks. This allows students to see the impact of their decisions to save, spend, and budget to learn financial literacy through experience. It's important to emphasize that if students don't have enough to pay their expenses- that is okay! They are always welcome in our classrooms and will never be denied access to resources.

This is an area that we see teachers get creative! Add in a seasonal bill like AC or heating, charge students for wifi, or even have they pay for subscriptions like ClassEquity!

Another favorite is disaster insurance. Offer the opportunity to buy disaster insurance in the store or as an expense. Randomly announce that a natural disaster has occurred. If a student has purchased insurance, they are exempt, but any student that has not purchased it is responsible for paying a hefty fee.

|  | K-2 | 3-5 | 6-12 | | --- | --- | --- | --- | | Expenses | Optional ($2/month if included) | $80/month | $800/month |
Recommended Expense Prices

5. Store Prices:

A classroom store is an excellent way for students to 'spend' their hard-earned classroom dollars. We love experiential and privilege based rewards because they allow students to take control over their choices. And as an added bonus they’re free for you! Popular options are pie a teacher in the face, swap seats for a day, or a 5 minute brain break.

Austin O. shares, "I have a 'Mental Health Day' as a store item for those days when students just don't have it and need to put their heads down and relax. It was used way more than I thought it would be, so I had to increase the price."

Recommended Store Prices

Remember, implementing a classroom economy is about more than just setting up a system; it's about teaching students important life skills. Make sure to regularly revisit your pricing structure to evaluate if your economy is running smoothly and adjust prices if needed. Use this as an ongoing conversation with your students about value, responsibility, and the power of money. Happy planning!

Looking for a more hands-on experience? Check out our Classroom Economy Pricing Worksheet for step by step guidance on determining your settings and prices.