Dollars & Sense Blog

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Top 4 Back-to-School Budgeting Tips for Teens

With back-to-school shopping in full swing and a new school year around the corner, now is the perfect time to talk with your teenager about budgeting and saving. The conversation can be tricky, so we asked some of our favorite parent and teacher experts for their best tips. Check out these four brilliantly simple ideas for teaching students how to save money: 1.     Put your teen’s technology obsession to use: download a money-saving app like Red Laser for back-to-school shopping. “When back-to-school shopping, you can save money by making sure you are getting the best price possible for your items. The Red Laser app can help you save big on your student’s technology needs, dorm supplies and more.” –      Vicki Davis, Cool Cat Teacher 2.     Get your teen a prepaid credit card for back-to-school shopping. It’s a good way to test the waters before setting them up with a real…

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Teens Showcase the Importance of Financial Literacy at DECA ICDC

Highlighting the importance of financial literacy in a showcase of educational prowess, teams of high school students nationwide competed for more than $70,000 in college scholarships and cash prizes during the inaugural H&R Block Dollars & Sense Financial Literacy Promotion Project. Competitors created campaigns designed to educate their peers or the general public on critically important personal finance skills and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of financial literacy. The finals were held May 4-6 at the DECA International Career Development Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Amanda Guglielmo and Madison Light from South Forsyth High School in Cumming, Georgia won first place and each received a $5,000 scholarship. Second place went to Sarah Cadman, Keegan Tansey and Ashley Cain from Kingston CVI High School in Kingston, Ontario, who each received a $3,000 scholarship. In third place, taking home $2,000 scholarships each, were Jordyn Dunn, Brenna Franck and Brandon Schimming from Penta-Oak Harbor…


Teachers and Students Answer: How Big is a Billion?

Exactly how big IS a billion? Well, Emily McDonnell’s class figured it’s 15,432 years worth of lunch trays at Bonner Springs (Kan.) Elementary. The students of Billie Watson’s class at Annoor Academy in Knoxville, Tenn. determined it equals an hourly salary of $114,115.25 for every hour of every day for an entire year. For the sports and history buffs out there, Amanda Bowles’ students at East Coweta High School in Sharpsburg, Ga., determined that a billion pitches would be thrown over the course of 1,906 Major League Baseball seasons – or, enough to take our national pastime back to the Roman Empire of the second century! These brilliant takes are the grand prize winners of our “How Big is a Billion?” contest. Inspired by the H&R Block “Get Your Billion Back” commercials, we asked teachers and their students around the country to creatively illustrate the concept of $1 billion (the…


Teens and Personal Finance – Surprising Survey Results

At H&R Block Dollars & Sense, we’re constantly looking for new ways to help teach teens about personal finance. Our parents used to call it “knowing the value of a dollar,” but in today’s world managing finances can be a lot more complex. From applying for tax credits online to smartphone investing apps, some of us may not even feel qualified to talk to our own children, or our students, about money. That’s okay. At H&R Block Dollars & Sense, we work directly with parents, teachers, schools and teenagers to provide tips, tools and incentives to make the conversation about financial education much easier. And following the nearly five years of offering advice, grants and scholarships, we thought it was time to check in to see how they’re doing. In February of this year we surveyed over 1,000 teens ages 13-17 and found some surprising results. Whether you’re a teen,…


H&R Block Dollars & Sense Rewards Teachers Who Champion Personal Finance

As part of our ongoing commitment to teachers, H&R Block Dollars & Sense has partnered with WeAreTeachers to create a personal finance lesson plan contest. Any teacher who participates by submitting or downloading a lesson plan will receive a $15 discount on their 2013 tax preparation at a local H&R Block! Here’s how the contest works: teachers submit their best lesson plans on personal finance online. Ten finalists will be selected by a panel of teachers and Dollars & Sense staffers. Teachers with the top three lesson plans will divvy up $5,000 in classroom grants to fund ongoing personal finance education. Any teacher who wants to download one of these lesson plans can do so by visiting our contest page on or our Pinterest board. For more information or to submit a lesson plan, click here.


Introducing Scott Gamm: Family Finance Advisor

We’ve got news! The H&R Block Dollars & Sense team is pleased to announce our new Family Finance Advisor: Mr. Scott Gamm. Scott is an exceptionally accomplished college senior whose book, MORE MONEY, PLEASE: The Financial Secrets You Never Learned in School, has been helping young people grasp the basics of personal finance since April of this year. “This book puts the most important concepts into simple steps and understandable terms,” says Scott. “It’s written for young people, but has insights and advice for anyone who is looking to improve their money smarts.” Color us impressed — so impressed, we asked him to work with us. Scott has appeared on NBC’s “Today,” MSNBC, CNN, “Inside Edition” and all over the internet as a specialist in investing and personal finance. Whether you’re a teacher, a parent, or just a concerned citizen, stay tuned to the H&R Block Dollars & Sense Facebook page for Scott’s articles…

How to Teach Your Teen Personal Finance

Parents, you know that personal finance isn’t the most enthralling topic for teens, but it is an essential one. So, how do you broach the subject without boring your teen to death? We’ll show you how in two easy steps: Step 1: Teach them without them knowing it Get them playing Gen i Revolution, a free online game that has been played by more than 90,000 teens. With Gen i Revolution, your teen can compete against their friends in a series of 15 missions to learn concepts like budgeting, how credit works and making important career choices. If your teen’s an expert gamer and beats Gen i Revolution quickly, tell them to check out “Beyond the Mission” or “Murktide Invasion.” Beyond the Mission is a series of missions your teen must complete on their way to mastering critical personal finance topics. Each mission, should they choose to accept it, involves a storyline tied…


New Tools for Teachers

Here’s an interesting fact: only four U.S. states require students to complete at least a one-semester course in personal finance to graduate high school. There are, however, plenty of teachers out there who are going above and beyond the call of duty to teach their students about personal finance. Teachers, some of you may be familiar with Gen i Revolution, the free online role-playing game that has helped more than 90,000 students learn about money matters. H&R Block Dollars & Sense and the Council for Economic Education (CEE) have created two new minigames to complement the ever-popular Gen I Revolution. Let us introduce “Beyond the Mission” and “Murktide Invasion.” “Beyond the Mission” is a series of missions student must complete on their way to mastering critical personal finance topics. Each mission involves a storyline tied to personal finance and a series of decision points. Students will learn important financial concepts…

Beat the Bookstore Blues

Tuition is expensive enough, so don’t tack on the unnecessary expense of new textbooks. There are plenty of ways to get the books teens need for class without busting your budget. Rent textbooks A lot of school bookstores provide the option to rent textbooks. It can cost almost 50 percent less than buying a book full price, provided that the student remembers to give it back at the end of the semester. If they don’t return it, most bookstores will charge the full price. Buy used books School forums: tell teens to check around on Facebook to see if their school has a “Free or For Sale” forum, or a “Textbook Exchange” page. Not only can they find inexpensive books for sale, but they might even find notes or tips for the class in the margins. Websites Websites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Alibris,, Coursesmart, or have a large collection of used textbooks for…

College Preparations

Getting even the most basic things ready for your college-bound teen can be hard on your bank account. Here are some ways that you and your teen can cut the budget and make the whole experience easier: Banking Your teen will likely need an ATM card to get money for groceries and dining. One mistake many families make is to keep the account at their home bank when the teen is going to be many states away. The catch is the non-local ATM fees. If your teen doesn’t use a local bank and uses the wrong ATM, it could be an additional fee of up to $6 and more per withdrawal! Look into local credit unions and see if they have shared branches at your teen’s college of choice so you can avoid those pesky fees. Transportation Transportation can also be difficult, money-wise, for college-goers. Gas, insurance and car repairs…