Teach your kids how to budget using this holiday-themed pie activity

Teaching your kids about budgeting and smart spending can be as easy as pie. And equally delicious. With home baking kicking into overdrive this holiday season, follow this simple recipe for financial wisdom. You can also print out this pie budgeting activity!

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1. PIE PREP 

Together with your kids, visit the local bakery and ask for the price of a whole apple pie. For the purposes of these instructions, let’s say a 10-inch pie sells for $25. Tell your friendly neighborhood baker thanks, but you’ll take a couple cookies and a cup of coffee instead. You’ll need to be on your A-game (for Apple) for what comes next.

2. HIT THE COOKBOOKS! 

Together, search the web or your own family recipes for a tasty (and simple) apple pie recipe. Copy out all the ingredients. This classic double-crust recipe is perfect. (Here’s a good opportunity, if your kids are old enough and your arithmetic sharp enough, to discuss fractions—a math skill that will come in handy one day when your little ones are considering APRs on credit cards and expense ratios on index funds.)

3. PLAY THE (SUPER)MARKET 

Before you start shopping, tell your kids they’re on a mission: Find all the ingredients to bake your own pie for less than the $25 the bakery charges. (Let’s assume, for the sake of simplicity, that you have spices and flavorings in your pantry.) Start in the produce section—or better yet, the farmers market! For this recipe, you’ll need 3½ pounds of apples. At $1.50/pound, that’ll cost you $5.25. Don’t fill your basket yet; simply note the cost beside the ingredient on your recipe. Continue down the list until you’ve priced each item.

4. CRUNCH THE NUMBERS 

While you munch a few granny smiths, find a comfy café or picnic table nearby and put your heads together to add up the prices your kids found. Did they come in under budget? Good for them! Proceed to Step 5. If they exceeded $25, even by a few cents, go to Step 6.

5. BUY LOW! 

Return to the market and purchase what you need. If there’s any money left over, you might even consider buying something extra—like ice cream (who doesn’t love to live à la mode?). Once your cart is full, skip to Step 7 to get cooking.

6. SAVING DOUGH 

Time for a lesson in economizing. Back in the market, begin with the most expensive item on your list. Have your kids look for a cheaper alternative. Take butter. Can you buy two individual sticks instead of the entire one-pound box? Or flour. Can you swap out that hand-milled organic for a generic brand? Do what it takes to cut your expenses to $25 or less.

7. COOKING LESSONS

Back home, review the steps you took together to make your pie budget. First you came up with a limit for how much you were willing or able to spend; then you listed all the things you’d need to buy; next, you priced them; only after you’d brought your expenses under budget did you purchase the ingredients. Congratulate your kids: They’ve learned all the basic steps they need to take to budget their money—for anything, from toys to college expenses to utility bills.

8. GET ROLLING 

And peeling and baking! When your apple pie is ready, slice it up hot (but not too hot, or the filling may be too loose!) and celebrate your accomplishment! Pretty sweet, eh?