I Challenge You to Save: Gamify your saving goals to make them easier to reach
Saving plans aren’t exactly fun things to do. They never will either – after all, we set up saving plans to try and help our personal economies because our current way of life isn’t sustainable. While in some cases these plans have fun goals, like a trip, or a large purchase, in most cases the goal is as simple as keeping a roof over our heads and perhaps being safe in case of an emergency.
Due to this, saving money will always be a chore of sorts, and we will always, no matter what, wish we had a bank account with unlimited funds. However, there are ways to make the process of saving money just a little less jarring. One of the most common ways is that of gamification.
Gamifying things we don’t like
It’s a fact that humans like games and challenges. While we often think only kids engage in play, in truth the desire and tendency to do so follows us all the way to old age and then some. It’s due to this that over the last decade thousands of challenges have gained traction to help people lose weight, gain physical shape, learn a language, or a million other such goals.
The truth is, challenging yourself to reach your goals works and makes the process less painful. To help with this, plenty of challenges have appeared to try and help you save money. Most of these challenges share one thing: They’re time-limited, and they focus your savings on a specific area – be it raw amount saved, what to save on, or specific tasks to do. To help you get started on this path, here are a few of the most common saving challenges.
The basic one: Save X amount of money in Y time
It’s the most simple, yet effective challenge. Simply set an amount of money you must have saved, or added to your savings fund, by the end of the week. For a more effective system, have it last longer – say, a month –, with increasing saving goals each week. Having to get creative to save money will make it interesting, particularly if you’re trying this in a moment when you don’t need to urgently save money.
Focused challenges: Save X money on Y things
A better way to take a look at your finances, and where you might be overspending, is setting goals to save on specific areas of your budget. For example, saving $30 on food in a week can make you consider what you’re buying and why – and how much of it is really necessary. This can be applied to many areas – public transportation, gas, miscellaneous expenses – allowing you to take a deep look at one part of your budget at a time. A longer version of it would require you to save a certain amount of money on a utility in a month, which can in turn help you develop better habits when it comes to electricity, running water, or heating.
The pocket change challenge
I have a cousin who had the weirdest, yet somehow effective way to save money: Whenever she was handed cash in the form of coins, she’d put it in a huge jar at home and never take from it until it was full (or, I guess, unless she absolutely needed small change.)
The logic behind this is sound: We often underestimate the value of small change, particularly coins, but over time they do tend to add up. Putting your pocket change in a single fund gives you awareness of how it grows over time, both fostering healthier spending habits and helping you save money without noticing.
While I’ve never tried it, I know it worked well for my cousin, perhaps partly because being the lovable rogue she is she also demanded that her close friends and family (that would be me) hand her their pocket change when they were together. I wouldn’t recommend doing this, although if your friends and family let you, better for you.
Increasing your savings challenge
For those of you with a regular retirements fund or 401(k), this will help you get more money in the fund without noticing. The process is simple: Raise your contributions.
No joke, right? Who would’ve thought raising your contributions towards your retirement fund would make it grow faster? By stating that I’ve demonstrated what a genius I am, and thus by the end of the week I expect I’ll be named Secretary of the Treasury.
Alright, jokes aside, there’s a little detail here. Often we don’t raise our contributions because we think of them as huge things. Contributing 10% of sudden is, after all, a huge change.
So don’t contribute 10% more. Instead, contribute 1% more. Each month. During 10 months.
The slow pace will allow you to adapt to the change, while the small change itself will make it so you hardly notice it. Your retirement fund or bank account, however, will notice it over time. And so will your finances.