Published on August 28th, 2015 | by Liz Strauss

Timelord Economics: How to Make a “Money Smart Week” Event Awesome

I had all my events for the spring planned. Everything was going to be beautiful. We were going to have “Cookie Day.” (A teen idea) I was so proud of myself for having everything done in advance.

Then my director comes to me and says, “We really need to have a Money Smart Week event for teens this year.”


I’m sure plenty of librarians can relate.

Here’s the thing, though. My teens don’t come to anything that remotely sounds like a lecture or like they’re going to learn.This kind of leaves things like Money Smart Week events out.

But, then again, he’s the boss. So, conundrum. How to get teens to actually come to a Money Smart Week event?

Enter the Doctor to save the day, like he does so often.

How would a time traveler be trained in money management? There would be a lot of things to consider. What if you land in a time (or on a distant planet) where they didn’t have money? Where they had a barter system? You’d better know how that worked. What if you landed someplace where everything was handled electronically? You’d still better be able to keep track of what you have.

The event I came up with took teens on an expedition through time (though, sadly, not through space – maybe next year) to the dawn of money, to the old west, and back to our present day.

At the dawn of money, they made barter bead bracelets. I provided hemp beading cord, a variety of beads, and basic instructions for a simple woven bracelet, made kind of like the leather bracelet found here:


In the Old West, teens played a trading game that reminded me a little of Oregon Trail. The teens were given cards with different resources on them and then had to trade with each other to come up with a complete set. Resources included: water, clothing, chickens, horses, a doctor, tools, and wheat.

The last game involved balancing a modern checkbook. I gave them the following scenario:

“Follow along the list of transactions below and figure out how much money the Doctor has left in his account to purchase the necessary tools and equipment to fix his TARDIS and get back to a time and place where no one uses money.”

My listed expenses included geektastic things like jammy dodgers and fezzes, but since we all know the Doctor never has any money, the end balance was zero. So they had to figure out a way to make it themselves.

That’s when they got a papercraft TARDIS (like the one found here: to complete. These were printed out on cardstock and pre-slit.

At the end of the program, each participant who registered got a printout of their name in Galifreyan. (Here is a good translator: The ones who didn’t register just got a generic printout of “Timelord.” I think one teen liked this better.
We had twenty-one teens at this event, an out-of-this-world number for our small library. Hopefully they accidentally learned something while they were here, and not just that their Teen Librarian is a geek.

About the Author

Liz is the Teen Librarian at Dover Public Library in Dover, Ohio. She has an MLIS from Kent State University and a BA in English and Art from Muskingum University.She is a member of the Ohio Library Council and the American Libraries Association. When not planning fabulously geeky programs (Silent Library: Super Hero Edition anyone?), or helping patrons with technology, Liz likes to read, write, draw, crochet, and play Minecraft. She can be contacted at More information about her wonderful little library can be found on the website she helped design at

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