5 Ways to Save More by Gamifying Your Finances

gamify your finances to save moneyYears 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. 

On gamification

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

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  1. I play a game similar to #1 with my son in college for his discretionary spending. Each week, I automatically load his prepaid card with his discretionary spend budget for misc college expenses. At the end of the week, I sweep any amount left over onto a savings card that I personally pay a VERY generous parent-defined interest rate on. That way, he’s rewarded handsomely with hefty compound interest every time he comes in under budget. It has proven to be a very effective system for staying on budget and building savings – beats the living heck out of using a credit card.

  2. I love gamification, it can be applied to anything really. It’s helped me manage my finances, lose weight and even with my businesses.

    I never spend my change, only bills. I then put the change in a big piggy bank with the plan to not touch it until it’s full! The last time I moved I did roll up the coins and had about $2,000 in there.

    I find that I’m less likely to break a bill then use “spare change” to buy something. Then by saving the change it adds up over time.

    I actually bought James Bond’s watch with all those pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters a few years back.

  3. I game every goal I can. It keeps me focused, engaged and entertained. I track net worth, savings rates, how much I read and write, and am currently tracking my efforts at getting rid of stuff (goal: 500 items in 31 days). It just plain works…and it’s fun to boot.

  4. I totally gamify the use of my car. I always get oil changes around 3k mile mark so I’m always playing “stretch out the oil change” by finding alternative transportation.

    The graphs in Mint.com cause instant gamification in my head.

  5. Interesting ideas. Now that I think about it, the spreadsheet I keep every month on my finances is kind of a game. It is always fun to see how much my net worth goes up every month. It is even more fun to see when my spending was reduced from the month before.

    • Love spreadsheets!

  6. great ideas. i however usually spend what $ is in my wallet, $20 or $1. And clothes, every single pair of my sons shorts from last summer do not fit. walmart/goodwill. kids expenses can suck you dry!

    • I do too. Have they found a way to stop kids growth spurts yet? :)

  7. Try your local library. There is so much there you can check out for FREE!

    • I agree Shirley!

  8. Love this, and we do similar things. When we go to Chipotle, often I’ll get a side of rice, and a side of guacamole. I’m saving money, eating cleaner, and the Chipotle people often give me a huge heaping side of rice, I’m pretty sure it’s because they think I must be homeless being I’m placing such a small order. :-)

    • Haha, that’s a great idea! I’ve heard they sometimes give those free if you order separately.

    • Nice to have parents ;)

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