Zero savings, piles of debt, no workable budget, and no emergency fund are financial holes that will swallow your life. There's no way around it: saving money for emergencies (or for buying a home or retiring) is vital to your financial security. In fact, finance experts recommend keeping a savings account that can cover your and your family's expenses for about 3-6 months.
Now, don't let this number get you down! Getting in good financial shape sounds like about as much fun as achieving a six pack by summer-but that's probably because you haven’t tried gaming your way to your #moneygoals.
Some smarty pants redditors have figured out how to turn saving into gaming. This strategy of gamification uses techniques to engage people in everyday tasks with the awesome goal of making them way more fun. This idea works amazingly well for mundane things like saving money, which can feel like a real drag sometimes.
But the truth is that saving money doesn't have to be hard at all. All you need is some motivation.
One "redditor" with the fantastic username BloopyBleepy (hereafter referred to as "BB"), has developed a way to gamify the saving process and can attest to the fact that gamification can really help you achieve your financial goals. BB makes tips at work and takes home his income every day. In ten years of working like this, BB was never able to put money aside for any purpose.
This is because, as you may have experienced yourself, it's very easy to spend money when you receive cash in small amounts. Getting paid this way also makes it difficult to budget because you never see the how much money you’re making over time, only the daily work-spend cycle. After a decade of living in the dark, BB finally came up with a way to gamify the saving process. In his first month of playing this new game, he managed to save almost $1,500!
BB’s method is very straightforward: he set a goal of saving $55 daily from the tips he received at work. Using his basic Excel knowledge, he created a spreadsheet and set up a few formulas to track his savings. He divided the categories into: (1) daily goal, (2) actual amount saved, and (3) how "on track" he was based on his daily target. Essentially, he set up a challenge to hit a daily target.
One important element of gamification is having fun with what you're doing. BB made the spreadsheet fun by color-coding the "on track" column to reflect his performance daily. He used green for "on track" (hitting the $55 target) and red for "off track." He says that "It actually became fun to know how much money I needed to put away every day to see the little box turn green, and even more fun to know I was well over my goal." Seeing that little green box and knowing what it meant gave him the desire and motivation to save every day, which resulted in his savings growing very quickly. Others in the thread were genuinely surprised that BB was able to save such an incredible sum of money using such a simple method. Simple math says that after one month of saving $55 a day, his total would be $1,650, and after one year, $20,075. For added incentive, redditor YouAreAllWeirdos suggested that BB add more colors, set up the cells to auto-color by value, and create a way to track average savings by week. This is definitely a great way to see the bigger picture.
Another contributor to the thread encouraged others to try another of BB's methods, which was to let to let himself have little luxuries every so often. How can a tiny bit of splurging actually help you stick to your savings plan? The contributor explains: "A candy bar two or three times a week, a paperback book once a month, some music now and then. I found if I cut down to the absolute necessities I'd go mad because it would feel like I was in prison or something. But allowing myself small, cheap luxuries was like a safety valve, it released the pressure."
Rewarding your efforts by treating yourself for reaching a predetermined milestone is great advice. In fact, it's an important part of the game. Getting a carrot for your hard work renews your determination and motivation to continue saving.
Others in the thread point out that setting high targets can discourage you, especially if you don't hit your target regularly. It might be better to set a slightly lower target as it will take off the pressure and you'll enjoy hitting and occasionally exceeding your goal.
The essence of gamifying saving money is to have fun while you're at it, so putting yourself under too much pressure can take the fun away and can be demotivating. On the other hand, achieving your daily goal can give you a sense of achievement. The important thing is to find a balance so that you don’t set too low a target that you'll become lazy or too high a target that you'll stress out. Feeling successful and putting money aside regularly is the number one rule to successful saving.
Setting up goals and rewards is crucial for getting yourself to stick to a budget and your plan to save. App developers have noted that rewards drive most people, so there are now lots of apps out there that gamify saving your money. Try out apps like SaveUp, SmartyPig, and Acorns and find out how much fun saving can be!
Using gamification to save money is a great way to gain confidence and master the steps to achieve your money goals. Focusing on small daily savings makes your eventual target much more attainable. At the end of the day, this is a simple and enjoyable way to form a habit that will make your finances so much more manageable. You can use this method to pay off loans and credit cards, put aside money for a budget-friendly vacation, or save for something big down the road.
Although saving money can be difficult and forcing yourself to cut your spending might be a pain, you can teach yourself how to save using gamification. Choose an app or a simple spreadsheet style that tickles your fancy and get on track to achieving your money goals. You'll be squeaking over the finish line dropping victory quotes before you know it!