Saving money has long been a popular resolution, but in 2021, as a pandemic that sent millions into financial insecurity rages on, the pressure is on. The task of building up savings might feel particularly dreary after these strange and estranged holidays where we mostly didn’t travel to see family, mostly didn’t take a winter weekend getaway to a tropical destination, and might have barely had a break from our burnout jobs — if we’re lucky enough to be employed.
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It makes sense that saving money doesn’t sound like much fun right now — but that doesn’t mean it cannot or should not be fun. Might we suggest bringing an element of play to your savings plan? When possible, make saving a game. This brings some joy to the journey of saving, taking some of the edge off the end result.
“When it comes to playing a money-saving game, the biggest adrenaline rush happens during the journey, as you are seeing your results play out in real-time,” said Chelsea Clarke, a business strategist and founder of HerPaperRoute who grew her savings to six figures in 2020. “As you tackle each week’s savings goal you get to watch your savings pile up in front of your eyes. And this is the thrill that makes saving money so addictive. Saving money is a habit that takes some time to break into, so making it fun this way will encourage you to keep going.”
104 Card Savings
To do this, you’ll need one 52-deck of playing cards per player. So, if you’re playing with your spouse, you’ll need two decks — or 104 cards.
“Get a deck of cards and the buy-in of your partner [or whomever you’re playing with],” said Ksenia Yudina, CFA and CEO of UNest. “Next, give a money value to each type of card in the deck (in dollars, not cents). Each Sunday, you both draw a card and that is the savings goal for the week. Use a mason jar to collect each week’s savings and make it [a] competition. If you or your partner are unable to achieve the weekly goal, the loser has to clean the house or scrub the toilet bowl.”
Remember to be transparent with your partner about the motivations behind the savings. “Is it [a] vacation, a new TV, retirement or for your children?” Yudina said. “At the end of the deck, you’ll have certainly created a healthier savings pot — and the house is most likely clean.”
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The ‘Would I Rather’ Game
“With the [‘would I rather’] savings game, before I buy something, I ask myself if I would rather have the item in question or the money in my savings account,” said Jon Dulin, founder of Compounding Pennies. “If I want the item, I buy it. If I decide I want the money, I put the item back and transfer the amount it costs into a savings account. It’s that simple and works great; I’ve found that it doesn’t completely stop me from buying things, which is great because if it did, there would be the eventual snap back of the proverbial rubber band.”
The Stretch Your Dollar Challenge
As Clarke mentioned, saving can give you an adrenaline rush. And an easy way to get that rush is to use a special event like a family outing or a date night on the horizon where you usually dish out some cash to celebrate.
Bonnie McIntosh, principal consultant at ACE Community Health Inc., recommends you take the more challenging path by seeing how creative you can be with just $5 or $10 to spend.
“You can challenge yourself or even get family and friends involved in the budget challenge,” McIntosh said. “The key is to save the money that you don’t spend while getting creative with meaningful gifts that you choose to give to people, and the fun things that you choose to do.”
Use a Habit Tracker
“I use a free habit tracker printable (you can get them from Pinterest – just search for ‘free habit tracker’ or ‘free savings tracker’),” said Christine Wilcox, a chartered accountant and a budgeting and home management blogger. “Then decide on your timeframe (e.g. 30 days), and your goal (e.g. save $5 per day, or spend nothing today). Put your habit tracker somewhere you see it regularly, like your kitchen bench, and then get started.”
Wilcox admitted that though it sounds like a habit tracker wouldn’t make much of a difference, it can if you actually use it. “You’ll be surprised how motivated you are to keep going once you start coloring in the tracker,” she said.
Make It a Competition
“One way that I used to make saving fun was by creating a competition with a friend,” said George Birrell, CPA and founder of TaxHub. “We both started a new account at the same time and decided to see who could save the most by certain points in time. Whoever had the lowest at each given point had to buy a round of drinks for the two of us when we were next at a bar/restaurant. We made it a round of drinks because it’s affordable and doing something bigger would’ve been defeating the purpose of saving (at least back then it did because we were still in university). It also avoided putting the losing person too far back that they couldn’t catch up by the next checkpoint.”
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The Electricity Bill Game (Great With Kids!)
This might not actually be called the “electricity bill game” — and understandably so, as that does not sound like much fun, but it can be great if you have young children.
“As a parent, you can create a challenge where you aim to decrease your electricity consumption by 10% over the next month,” said Sandy Yong, aka The Money Master. “This will be an encouraging way to not leave the lights on when no one is in the room. Another way is to unplug phone chargers or appliances when they are not in use. This way it will teach your kids to be more mindful about the energy consumption that they use on a daily basis and not be wasteful. This is a positive and fun way to have everyone involved and feel good about saving the environment as well.”
Reward Your Good Habits With Fun, Free Activities
“One great way to motivate yourself to save money is to reward yourself every time you make good choices,” said Michael Bonebright, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “Rather than buying yourself a present, you can gift yourself free time to do whatever you want. So, for example, if you pay all your bills on time, reward yourself with an hour of video gaming. Or when you put money in your savings account, tell yourself you’ve earned an hour of reading. The reward itself doesn’t matter; the goal is to trick your brain into associating good money habits with being rewarded.”
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