This series of posts presents several of my active assignments from the required freshman class Biblical Interpretation and Spiritual Formation. (To see the first article in this series, click HERE.) This one has the students examine their use of time and money, and usually students are surprised at the results. Here are the instructions.

  1. Compile a chart that lists all the money you spent in the past three months. Make totals of all the various categories, such as food, college expenses, entertainment, etc.
  2. Compile a chart listing how you spent your time for the last two weeks, down to the half-hour. Make totals of all the various categories.
  3. Extra credit option: You are not required to do this, but if you want five points of extra credit show these charts to your parents (or someone else who provides substantial financial support for your education) and discuss them. Ask them which areas they think you are doing well in and which areas you can improve. Any surprises come from these charts? What did you learn about your use of time and money?
  4. Answer the following questions (do not turn in your charts)
  • Assign yourself a grade based on the self grading rubric.
  • What are the most surprising results of these charts?
  • In which areas are you doing well and which areas do you think you can improve?
  • How do you decide how much to give (or not to give) to the church?
  • Describe the discussion with your parents if you completed the extra credit option.

This assignment helps students see where their money and time is going, and many of them are surprised to see the results. One of the most common surprises for students is how much many they spend on food (especially when most of them live on campus and eat in the cafeteria for their meals): those small bills from Taco Bell, Starbucks, and Chipotle add up quickly! For those students who complete the extra credit option, it is always interesting to read their summaries. Some parents are surprised at how well their children are managing their time and money, but others are shocked. Over the years a few students have even told me that their parents made them repay some money that they had frittered away!

When this assignment is due we have a discussion in class about giving to the church, especially as poor college students. I encourage them to start good habits now and at the very least to give sufficiently so that they notice some money is gone. I had a pastor once urge us to “give until it hurts”, which I think is a helpful way of stating the matter. Another issue arises when students live off of money from their parents, who have already given to God out of that money. Should the students then give to God again? Unfortunately, I don’t have any good answers to that. Perhaps they can request that their parents allow them the privilege of giving to God (the parents give slightly less to God and more to the student, with the understanding that the student will give some to God)? Any other ideas?