Years ago I worked some pretty menial jobs that required I pour cold water on my face every now and then just to make sure I didn't slip off into LaLa Land from the humdrum of the tasks. Being a fairly competitive person and to combat the monotony, I would often set up games with myself so that I could stay motivated. I'm convinced this practice helped me to weather those unpleasant jobs. I also used this approach to help me stay disciplined to save more money and get-out-debt.
Gamification has been around for a while now. Due to our growing video game generation, many have turned to gaming interfaces to appeal to users and get em to complete a desired task / goal.
We see this when Subway sends out an email with an offer to “Play our Hunger Games Sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to Hawaii” or with online companies like SaveUp, which help motivate folks to save more money through games and sweepstakes.
It's a novel idea. And, for those of us who are competitive and somewhat ADHDish, it can make unpleasant or boring tasks a bit more tolerable.
Gamify your finances to help you achieve your goals
When I was first getting out of debt, I made frugality into a game. I knew that I would have to live a lot differently than I had been living. But as you know, change can be hard.
Today, I still gamify my finances to keep motivated. Practically, this plays as follows:
- To curb my spending on discretionary items, I will take out a $20 bill at the beginning of every month from the ATM and see if I can make it last til the end of the month (or try not even spend it all – which has never happened). This is fun to do and really challenges your desires. “Do I really need this?“
- To cut clothing expenses, I have been trying to go a year without purchasing any new clothes. Now, I'm starting to look a bit scraggly (although I have received a few gifts of clothes at Christmas and my birthday) – but rarely do I spend on clothes. When I was getting out of debt, I made it a goal to only shop thrift stores for my clothes. It was a fun challenge. While I may not make it the whole year without clothes shopping – I'm sure I will as I get older and start to worry less about my looks and exit the working world. This is another good competitive way to check over-consumption at the door.
- To trim the eating out budget and to keep eating healthy, I make it a point to visit Chipotle or Qdobe only once a week (typically on Fridays). Many of you don't eat out at all – and I commend you for that. But I do appreciate the occasional burrito from these fine establishments, so it is a challenge for me to limit the visits.
- To limit entertainment expenses, I have been trying to go as long as possible without purchasing movies. Currently I'm on a record-setting pace to watch 2-3 Redbox movies a month without having to pay for 'em (since late last year using their free coupon codes Redbox sends out via email) Obviously, there's other ways to curb entertainment costs, like playing board games or finding creative things to do with your significant other.
- To lessen transportation costs, I'm seeing how far I can drive my paid-off, 195,000 mile Saturn Aura. As I've mentioned previously, I'm already duct-taping the bad boy – but this is another way I'm having fun with giving myself a challenge to stay undisturbed by images of nicer rides and 0-down, sign-and-drive offers (which I find rather unappealing anyways – buy that thing with cash!).
I'd be interested in hearing how you stay motivated with your finances. Are there games you're playing with yourself to stay on track?