In- "cent" -ives

6, 7, 8

Through a discussion of impulse spending and opportunity cost, students learn about the value of careful decisions and perseverance related to reaching goals.

PrintOne 20-minute lesson

The learner will:

  • define impulse spending, buyer's remorse, and opportunity cost.
  • compare the meanings of incentives and goals.
  • relate goal setting to perseverance.
  • write five personal goals.
  • student journals
Home Connection 

Students write five goals for themselves and bring them to the following class period. At home tonight, students discuss goals with their families. Students may ask family members about personal and family goals (short-term and long-term). They may determine whether the family has clearly spelled out goals or if they are understood but not expressed. Encourage them to find out if more goals are related to money, personal performance, or the common good.


Learning to Give lesson "Thinking about Money and Goals" /units/money-smart-teens-9-12/thinking-about-money-and-goals-9-12


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Recall the previous discussion about goals. Ask the students if they have ever set goals in their own lives. Some of these goals may be lifelong, while others may be already met related to homework or saving money. Discuss different goals people set. Some people set goals on New Year's Eve, called resolutions [firm decisions to act on a specific goal]. These resolutions frequently have to do with goals for fitness or use of time or use of money. Ask the students if they ever set these goals, and if so, how do they keep them?

  2. Write impulse spending [buying without considering the benefits and consequences] on the board. Ask students to raise their hands if they have ever purchased something (or know of someone who has purchased something) when they probably shouldn't have done so, given their financial situation at the time.

  3. Write buyer's remorse on the board. Ask students if anyone can define the term. [Buyer's remorse is regretting a purchase after the fact.] Ask for volunteers to share an example of when they may have experienced impulse spending or buyer's remorse.

  4. Pose the following questions and discuss: “What benefits did you see when you made the decision to spend? What costs (monetary and other) did you perceive? Each decision has an opportunity cost. What was the opportunity cost to Martin Luther King, Jr.?"

  5. Tell the students, "The perceived benefits and costs that we consider when making any economic decision are called incentives." Ask the students to share what incentives encourage them to purchase something (It will be fun, taste good, make me look good, etc.).

  6. Write the word goals on the board. Ask students, “What do goals and incentives have in common?” (Goals act as incentives that help us achieve something in the future like buying the goods and services we want the most or donating to a charity or saving for other things we want.) Ask the students if they or their families have any goals. Does setting goals help them make better decisions?

  7. Tell the students that setting goals and sticking with them is an act of perseverance. Ask students to list some benefits of sticking with and achieving one's (savings) goals (getting more, getting what you really want, long-term satisfaction, pride of achieving what you set out to do, etc.).

  8. Ask students to identify the opportunity cost [what option you give up] of setting a goal. When setting a goal, thinking about opportunity costs helps you make a more careful decision.

  9. Have the students write five goals in their journals before the next class period. These may be goals about personal heath, spending, education, giving, or another area. They should consider incentives and opportunity costs involved. If there isn't time to write the goals now, the students may write them as a homework assignment and bring the five goals to the next class period.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Give an example of how philanthropy can transcend cultures.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify and give examples of stewardship in cultural traditions around the world.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.
      3. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.