Nobody says “Woo! I love skydiving, playing the guitar and saving money.” In fact, for many people, especially those whose wardrobes resemble a massive landfill, saving money is like being forced to eat celery sticks at every meal. Might as well just shave your head and change your name to Gandhi while you’re at it, right?
Well, in case you haven’t heard, people are now gamifying everything they think they should be doing but hate—like housework, homework and not getting distracted by the internet. When you play a video game, you win points, compete against other players, try to beat a high score or try to complete a mission. Here are some ways you can make saving money feel the same… well, almost.
1. Challenge a friend
Singaporeans are always competing to snag the biggest cars, the highest PSLE scores and the richest husbands. It may get bloody at some point, but there’s nothing more motivating than someone elbowing you out of the way to snatch away the very same thing you’re reaching for.
Use this to your advantage and find another friend or family member who’s desperately trying to save cash and can play against you in a competition to save money. Pick a category of spending that both of you spend similar amounts on. For instance, if you work in the same office, you might decide to track your lunch expenses. If you’re both addicted to buying new clothes, track your shopping expenses. The person who spends the least in the highest number of categories each month wins and receives a (cheap) treat from the loser.
2. Beat your low score
Getting your name onto the list of high scores at the arcade is one of the biggest achievements of any 12-year-old boy’s life. But now it’s time to reverse that line of thinking and try to beat a low score instead.
Each month, keep track of your spending in various categories like “food”, “alcohol”, “entertainment”, “transport” and “shopping”. Take note of what your lowest score is in each one and then try to beat it each month. The idea is that over time, your average spending gets lower as you challenge yourself to beat new records.
Every time you manage to beat your low score in any of the categories, reward yourself—the only catch is that you must come up with a free (or almost free) way to do so. For example, if you beat your low score in the entertainment category, you get to binge-watch two episodes of your favourite, most time-wasting TV show.
3. Start a project and document it publicly online
Quietly stashing away cash can be hard when you don’t get any encouragement from others. There’s a reason people join American Idol, and most of the time it’s not for the love of music. If you’re ready to do some serious saving, come up with a plan that people will call you crazy for and then document it online for all the world to see. In this way you’re no longer “just” saving money. You’re working on a project and telling a story.
One good example of such a money saving project is the $5 challenge, which has participants trying to survive in Singapore on a measly $5 a day. Over in the US, this pair of friends pledged to go an entire year without buying a thing. If you thrive on sharing your exploits with others and receiving their feedback, this can be a great motivator.
4. Use an app
At the end of the day, most Singaporeans don’t want to have to go through the hassle of making up games for themselves. They do best when someone else tells them the rules. If that sounds like you, then you’ll be pleased to know that other people have done the dirty work and invented money-saving games that can be downloaded as apps to your smartphone.
SaveUp is an app that will have you tracking all your financial decisions by monitoring everything you do with your money and then giving or deducting points. If you save money and get through the month without busting your budget, you get points. Credits can be traded for stuff with actual monetary value.
SmartyPig lets you organise your savings goals in a less boring manner. Create a piggy bank for each saving goal you have, and the app will keep things organised as you distribute your money between the various goals. When you achieve a goal, you get actual rewards, which you could argue are way better than the congratulatory video you get to watch for beating a computer game.
Do you have any ideas for gamifying money-saving? Share them with us in the comments!