Gamification Can Help You Save Money
Zero savings, piles of debt, no workable budget, and no emergency fund are financial holes that will swallow your life.CrisMC / Shutterstock
Saving money is never easy, especially when you're on a budget. But this Redditor and the folks over at r/personalfinance know just the trick to making saving simple, fast, and fun.
Their secret? Gamify your savings.
Reddit knows him as BloopyBleepy, but we just call him Rob.
After a decade of living in the dark, Rob decided to turn his savings struggle into a game. In his first month of playing, he managed to save almost $1,500!
The best part is, everyone can learn to gamify their savings, and really boost their savings. Here's how it all happened.
The Saving Struggle
Rob works for tips and takes his income home every day. In ten years of working, Rob had been unable to save any money. At all.
It's not because he doesn't make enough money. On the contrary, the tips are good and he's making plenty to survive on. Rob's issue is that his income is heavily cash-based.
When your income is cash-based — like workers who earn tips — your income varies each night. You normally walk home with your pay in your pocket, and sometimes that money never hits your bank account before it gets spent. That makes planning and budgeting difficult.
Even for those of us with more regular pay structures, budgeting can be hard and controlling spending takes a lot of planning and self-control.
Cash issues aside, many people don't have anything in savings for emergency expenses — including 26% of Americans — and less than half of us have more than $500 saved! This is a crisis, and the solution is easy — start saving!
Let the games begin
The strategy of gamification uses techniques to engage people in everyday tasks with the goal of making them seem more fun. This idea works amazingly well for mundane things like saving money, which can feel like a real drag sometimes.
Rob's method is very straightforward. These are the basic steps:
1. Decide on your long-term goal
Rob set a goal of saving $1,500 over one month from the tips he recieved at work.
2. Break it into bite-sized pieces
Rob needed to save $50 a day to hit his goal in one month.
3. Track your progress
Rob set up a spreadsheet and tracked his savings over time. He also set up formulas to see his daily goal, the actual amount he saved, and how "on track" he was based on his daily target.
4. Make it a game
Rob treated his goal as a daily target he had to hit, and even color coded his "on track" column to reflect his daily performance.
This seems like a simple strategy but the game-mentality is a powerful driver. But it's important to give yourself a boost along the way, to keep up your momentum. Here's more strategies that Rob and others suggested.
1. Reward your progress
Rob set rewards for himself for reaching predetermined milestones. In fact, that was an essential part of the game. Getting a carrot for your hard work renews your determination and motivation to continue saving.
Deposit more than your minimum amount for ten days in a row? Take yourself out for a movie. Exceed your weekly savings goal by $100? Date night at your favorite restaurant. Hit your monthly goal? Hit a concert or go to your favorite club with some friends.
The important thing is to motivate yourself to keep up the hard work, without blowing all the money you saved.
2. Don't forget to treat yourself
Rob didn't give up every little luxury in his life to make his savings goals.
"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 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 pressure."
Saving for your future or toward a specific goal should be rewarding, not a punishment. It's okay to make small unnecessary purchases every once in a while, as long as you aren't splurging on big-ticket non-essentials.
3. Make your goal achievable
This is possibly the most important part of the game. Setting high targets can discourage you, especially if you don't hit your target regularly.
The essence of gamifying is to have fun while you're at it, so putting yourself under pressure can take the fun away and demotivate you. On the other hand, achieving your daily goal can give you a sense of achievement.
Feeling successful and putting money aside regularly is the number one rule to successful saving.
4. Get a high-yield savings account
Setting up a separate savings account to keep and track your savings is essential. If you can set it up at a different bank from your primary checking account, you won't have instant transfers between your accounts so it'll be harder to dip into it in a moment of weakness.
A high-yield savings account can also get you a high interest rate on your savings that will help you add to what you're already saving. Look for one with 2% or higher APY and a low minimum balance.
$1,500 over one month may sound like a lot, but for Rob, that was only about $50 each day. Even better, instead of that money disappearing into little, wasteful expenses, it was sitting there in his savings account for whenever he needed it.
If Rob keeps it up, he will go from $0 in savings to almost $20,000 in just one year.
According to Rob, "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.
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.