Many of us love a good game, as illustrated by the number and variety of sporting events found broadcast on numerous television and radio channels daily. The human race seems to enjoy a challenge, healthy competition, and the ability to watch their modern day gladiators go head-to-head in everything from hockey to baseball and tennis to auto sports. Still others seem to enjoy playing psychological games or testing their wits in mental activities or card games.
It seems that the average person enjoys games in numerous aspects of their life but tends to ignore the ability to step up to the challenge of playing games when it comes to money. Sure, the stock market is kind of like a game. But even there, most of us nowadays just leave it to our retirement account managers to pick our funds for us and manage the money we’ve worked so hard to accumulate.
So why can’t we find games in saving money? The answer is we can! There are numerous ways to make saving money fun by challenging ourselves with games. Here are a few ways in which I have enjoyed developing little games to or fun ways to challenge myself over the years and that you might find interesting and helpful in assisting you to save as well.
Your vehicle can be a great place to start with a simple money-saving game or two. Growing up, I used to watch my grandfather write down his mileage after he filled the car up with fuel. He would then write the number of gallons of gas he put in the car as well as the corresponding price. Doing so after each fill up, he could gauge the fuel mileage his car was getting.
Of course such savings might seem a minor detail in the overall scheme of money saving, but it’s a great way to get used to tracking expenses and usage. It is also a good way to gauge regular fuel mileage and detect any fuel consumption issues.
My dear grandfather would also drive across town to save a penny per gallon on gasoline. These days however, there are websites such as GasBuddy.com that make finding cheap fuel easier.
Utilities can be a ton of fun when it comes to playing money saving games. Trying to decrease your controllable bills such as water/sewer, electric, and gas month over month, season over season, and year over year can challenge you not only to save money but to conserve natural resources and help the environment as well. Tracking these utility costs and usage can also help you learn how and where you use certain utilities most and how much certain aspects of your lifestyle contribute to utility consumption.
You can may also want to shut off certain, unused portions of your home at various points in the year to see how you can reduce energy use in unnecessary spaces or unplug appliances not in use to see what affect this has on your overall energy consumption.
Your Budget & Expenses
As with utilities, you can turn beating your regular budgetary requirements or expected expenses into a game. You can challenge yourself to best last month’s set budget amount or try to outdo your numbers from last year.
When I first started tracking my expenses, I did so out of necessity. After my parents divorced, it was decreed by the court system that for my college education, each party (my mother, my father and I) were responsible for a third of the costs. This meant that I needed to record each expense during the course of my college career.
At first, this was a royal pain in the behind, but I soon grew fond of the activity, and it grew to become a habit — tracking each and every penny I spent and upon what I spent it. Not only did this provide me the opportunity to try to beat previous expenditure totals, but acted as a financial journal of sorts. I recently found it quite interesting, if not a little frustrating looking back to my expenses during the year 2000 to find that I was spending 99 cents a gallon on gas and $24 each bi-weekly pay period upon my employer sponsored health insurance.
Oh, how times have changed!
Savings & Investments
You may not view your savings or investment portfolio as a game, and I tend to agree that the safety and security of your financial future is serious business. This however, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little fun with this aspect of your personal finances.
Similar to your expenses, savings can be tracked and compared over various timeframes. You can set goals and then try to beat them. You can even do fun little activities to encourage savings around your household such as set up a “swear jar” into which family members must pay a fine each time they utter a regrettable word or phrase.
For everyday saving fun, you may decide to purchase a cool piggy bank to encourage your kids to save (my son has a “Hummer” vehicle piggy bank, the lights, horn and wheels of which all operate when money is placed inside).
When it comes to the enjoyment of larger savings and investment opportunities and activities, you may choose to view your portfolio as a type of casino gambling — since really there are amazing similarities. When you enter a casino, you choose a game at which to try your luck, similar to picking a particular stock, mutual fund, etc. In either realm, you really can’t be sure what your returns may be and depending on your decision, knowledge, and amount invested, the risk and return upon your investment could swing wildly in either direction. You must then decide how long to play the game, whether to try your hand at something else, and when the best time is to cash out and take your winnings or cut your losses. Then you may tip your dealer (in investing this might be considered the possible sales commission paid to your brokerage or investor) and then you must consider the tax implications of your winnings or losses. And similar to a casino, in investing of late, the odds of the games seem to be skewed largely in the house’s favor!
The author is not a licensed financial professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. For financial advice, readers should consult a licensed financial advisor. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.