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Build a Bank Activity


May 20, 2021 - Sara Keinath,


Many facilitators understand the need for teaching financial literacy, but finding ways to do this in a hands-on experiential way can be tough. This activity can be used when teaching the concepts of save (saving money), spend (having a spending plan), share (thinking about how we share our money with others), and invest (encouraging basic investing principles).


Learning about saving, spending, sharing, and investing money by making a simple bank with four compartments


In this financial literacy activity, participants create their own bank to take home and practice making decisions about how they use money. They will explore the concepts of saving, spending, sharing, and investing their money. This activity pairs well with other lessons on managing money, such as many of the activities in the National 4-H curriculum Reading Makes Cents where the group reads a children’s book and has a discussion afterward on some of the concepts that deal with money.


After completing this activity, the participants will be able to:

  • Explain four different ways to use money (save, spend, share, and invest).
  • Make a bank to take home.
  • Practice making decisions with their money when they get home.


  • Decision making
  • Wise use of resources
  • Self-responsibility


  • 16-ounce deli container (one per participant) (available from food service supply stores)
  • “Build a Bank” template (one per participant) (Download Activity file for template, or print just the color template or just the black and white template)
  • Cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks or tape
  • Markers
  • Art supplies (stickers, googly eyes, and other items for decorating the finished banks)


  • Ages 9 to 12


  • Beginning


30 minutes


A room with tables and chairs


Before the meeting:

  1. Review the background information and activity directions.
  2. Print off the “Build a Bank” templates for each participant on cardstock.
  3. Distribute scissors, glue sticks or tape, markers, and art supplies, either on one side of the room or scattered on various tables around the room.

During the meeting:

  1. Ask participants if anyone has ever had a piggy bank before; follow up with questions about what they did with the money they saved or how they made decisions about what to do with that money.
  2. Explain that while a piggy bank has only one compartment, today they will be making a bank with four compartments. If you have not already covered the four ways to use money, use this opportunity to explain the differences.
  • Save: to set aside money for a longer term goal (put together with other money to be able to afford something more expensive)
  • Spend: to set aside money to use right away or within a certain time frame (that is, until the next influx of money)
  • Share: to set aside money to donate to a cause the participant believes in
  • Invest: to set aside money to be used in a way that brings back more money (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, entrepreneurial ventures, and other ways)
  1. Hand out the templates to participants and demonstrate how the pieces will go together. It is helpful to have a finished bank for this purpose. Read aloud or paraphrase the following:
  • Cut out the circle on the outside line and tape or glue it to the top of the bank.
  • Cut out the four rectangles on the dark outside lines.
  • Using a marker, label each section of the four rectangles with one of the following words on each rectangle: save, spend, share, invest.
  • Fold each rectangle down the middle on the dotted line with the words on the inside.
  • Look for the symbols in each corner. Glue the matching symbols together (back to back). Each piece will be glued to two other pieces (each half glued to its matching half) to create the dividers that stand up inside the deli container.
  • Decorate the paper dividers and the rest of the deli container with stickers and other decorations to truly make the bank your own.
  • Place the dividers into the deli container.


  • If you have extra time or the participants grasp the concepts very quickly, consider adding additional information about each concept.
    • SAVE: Add a goal-setting component to the discussion. Ask participants to set goals for how much they will save over the next month or year and what they are saving for. This is a great opportunity to talk about SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound). Participants may even want to set goals for each compartment. They could record these goals on the paper dividers to help keep them visible.
    • SPEND: Add a spending plan component to the discussion. Ask participants to brainstorm different categories of how they spend their money
    • SHARE: Add a decision-making component to the discussion. Ask participants to research various organizations they may be interested in giving money to. Facilitate discussion about how to make those decisions. Make a list of qualities that are important to participants and help them rank each organization for each quality.
    • INVEST: Add some investment education to the discussion. Ask participants to calculate sample compound interest or talk about risk management.


Ask the group the following questions:

  • How would you explain the four different ways we can use our money to someone who wasn’t here for this activity? What are some examples of each of these?
  • If you were given $10 tomorrow, how would you decide how much to put in each compartment? How do you think your answers might change in 6 months? In a year?
  • Why is it important to divide up our money into categories or compartments?
  • Why is it important to think about how we will use money before we even have the money?
  • Why did you decide to decorate your bank the way you did?
  • What is something that you might save your money for? How long will it take to the save the amount you need?
  • What causes are you interested in? Beyond giving money, how else can you support that cause?


National 4-H Council. Money fundamentals: A youth guide to learning about money.

National 4-H Council. (2014). My financial future: A financial literacy curriculum.

National 4-H Council. (n.d.). Reading makes cents: Learning about money concepts through children’s literature.


Also see the Clover Cents video about this activity!



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