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Website review by Erin Brereton, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2012
Budget Hero

Budget Hero

Great jumping-off point for lessons on U.S. government and politics

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Based on 1 review
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Subjects & Skills
Social Studies, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Kids get a non-partisan view of how spending-related decisions involving issues that interest them will alter the budget.

Cons: Some information may be too complex for young children; the game is engaging, but users may not play it multiple times.

Bottom Line: Budget Hero is a fun educational tool that can help teens learn about public policy, resource spending, and balancing the federal budget.

The simulation game provides a personalized experience. Students expand or trim tax breaks and spending cuts that will affect issues they feel are important. They’ll experience the concerns, frustrations, and occasional triumphs involved in trying to balance the federal budget firsthand.

Teachers can use the simulation game as a jumping-off point to talk about U.S. politics and the cause-and-effect relationship between tax and funding decisions and the national debt level. Information about how the game uses the Congressional Budget Office budget model, and forecast data can also be used to discuss probability and other similar concepts. 

Additional information may be needed to explain how the major political parties are structured and who makes what decisions. But the game should help kids better understand how parties make decisions and support certain issues based on their beliefs and goals, and the effect those choices can have on the federal budget.

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Editor's Note: The 2012 edition of the Budget Hero game has been retired. However, users are encouraged to visit the site to leave feedback for possible future versions of the game.

Budget Hero is a browser-based game that illustrates how U.S. federal budget money is spent. Kids select three causes that interest them from options like national security, health and wellness, and energy independence. Players then view the effect their spending increases and decreases will have on the U.S. budget deficit, surplus, and debt level over the next decade. Buildings grow and decrease in line with monetary decisions; gauges also show where the level of debt and other considerations stand.

Budget Hero also provides a considerable amount of information about spending and tax policies and programs. Users can click on each potential expense to read about the pros and cons involved in either boosting or reducing the program, and can also raise or lower taxes to try to balance the budget.

Before playing, students can watch a brief intro that explains how the federal budget and game generally work. However, the monetary and political concepts involved may be a little too complex for younger kids who haven’t learned much in school yet about the government. High schoolers, though, should be able to grasp the theories. The game can help them learn to balance their personal opinions and priorities with the factual information that’s offered to judge the risks and rewards involved in each decision. 

Budget Hero often involves difficult choices. Seeing the immediate effect certain cuts or increases will have on the budget’s bottom line can help reinforce some important spending concepts, including how to balance (and stick to) a household budget and how to identify and prioritize needs over emotional arguments.

Overall Rating


Players get a personalized experience because the game lets them choose to expand or cut funding and taxes that relate to issues they care about. They’ll see how their decisions immediately affect the budget.


Teens visually see the impact reducing or expanding policies will have on the federal budget for a decade. They can read about each program’s background and learn about public policy, government, and decision-making.


Kids can also access a list of more than 30 sources for additional budget, policy, and government information. Registered users can also see how their potential budget compares to other users' plans.

Community Rating

Featured review by
Cathy C. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Cedar Hill Elementary School
Basking Ridge, United States
Excellent tool to connect to US government unit
Budget Hero is an excellent way to gain further understanding of how government works, and the considerations that need to be taken into account when making budget choices. I appreciate how the activity requires you to choose up to three stands (Democrat/Republican, Green, Energy Efficiency, Reduced government) at the start. The pros and cons included with each budget choice were a huge source of valuable information, but the students lost some interest while reading. Budget Hero is highly effective in ...
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