Tip #578: BudgetLand, the Game

“Never base your budget requests on realistic assumptions, as this could lead to a decrease in your funding.”  Scott Adams

It is helpful if new employees understand how their agency budget is administered. Since the operating budget affects employee salaries and resources, information about it is typically of great interest to them.

With this in mind, Lindsay Blang of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and I created a game based on the concept of Candyland for use in a new employee orientation program. We decided that we would essentially follow the same rules, with everyone at the table competing against each other.

A board game requires: a board, activity cards, playing pieces, dice, and directions/rules how to play the game.

I found a free template for a game board on the web. I just had to make some adjustments so that the players wouldn’t finish the game too quickly.

Then I had to designate and label spaces where the players would have to pick an activity card. When the game board template was completed, I made color copies and then had them laminated. Game boards- check!

Lindsay, who handled the budget for a division at that time, identified real budget-related information and monetary amounts that we could put on the activity cards.

The “payment” cards were budget requests to do such things as: purchase desktop computers and associated software for contractors; remodel offices in a new location; install phone lines in the new location; move staff to the new location; repair printers; purchase uniforms; cover lump sum payments for an unplanned number of retirements; respond to a new federal mandate; etc.

The “collection” cards were situations in which paid charges and fees were less than expected and generated refunds. A specific amount of money would be given to the player if, for example: an amount of money on a purchase order was not used; savings resulted from a change in electronic devices; less travel funds were used than had been expected; a lean initiative generated savings; etc.

I entered the activities onto a Word game card template and created a BudgetLand logo to go on the opposite side of the cards. I printed them on light cardstock paper and then used a paper cutter to cut them out. Activity cards- check!

A budget board game also requires money.

We didn’t purchase play money because we couldn’t get it in all of the denominations we needed. Consequently, I volunteered to create and print the play money we needed. This was actually the most time consuming part of this game development project.

Lindsay decided that we would use denominations of $500; $1,000; $5000; $10,000; $20,000; and $50,000. I created 2″ x 3″ templates for each denomination that had BudgetLand logos, the BudgetLand name, and the denomination in a circle in the center. There was absolutely no possibility of confusion with actual money!

Each denomination was printed in a different color. Lindsay had told me how much play money we would need for each person. Since she was the financial specialist, she did the calculations to determine how many copies of each denomination I would need to make.

I spent hours at the color printer and more hours using the paper cutter to cut them out. It took more time to collate and sort each denomination, and finally create bundles of all of the denominations for each table group. We needed 10 bundles of assorted denominations since we anticipated 50 new hires, with five seated at a table. Play money- check!

There were a number of websites that offered inexpensive colored game pieces and dice, so those were easy to acquire. Check and check!

I placed a table’s worth of playing pieces, activity cards, dice and play money into a plastic baggie, making enough baggies for each of the tables.

We printed out the rules of the game, saying that the player who still had money at the end of the game would be the winner. However, the kicker was that they would still need to surrender all of their remaining money! As Lindsay would explain to them, all funds unused by the end of the fiscal year had to go back into the General Fund for all state agencies.

We have used the game several times. The new hires always find the game a creative and engaging way to learn about the agency operating budget. They have a lot of fun with it. So do Lindsay and I!

May your learning be sweet.



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