As kids, my sister and I were obsessed with this Sega Genesis game called Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind. We’d sit there, cross-legged on the basement floor while we took turns controlling Bubsy as he bounced from tree to tree collecting t-shirts and other items deemed valuable, like the earth’s supply of yarn balls.
Why did we do this? Because we were kids and home entertainment systems were new – and we were tired of playing “ring the neighbour’s door bell then hide in the bushes”. Not to mention that on a purely cognitive level, games that complete patterns enact reward circuitry in our brains, further motivating us to adopt certain behaviours. In plain English – solving puzzles gives us a dopamine boost.
Now for the really fun part – this little mind trick totally works when it comes to your finances, too.
Have Some Fiscal Fun With Finance Games
See, the average person doesn’t have fun with finances. Bills are gross – debt even grosser. However, making it a game adds immediacy to the rewards.
Here are a few different ways you can gamify your finances and make settling debt, saving money and paying bills a tad bit more enjoyable:
Build Your Own Game
The easiest way to inject a bit of enjoyment into settling your finances is to build yourself a scorecard of some sort. It may sound slightly remedial but on a psychological level, seeing a physical representation of your success is a great motivator.
You can do this with a spreadsheet; set a couple of goals like paying down a certain block of your debt or saving up a specific amount of money a month. Each time you reach your goal – let’s say $300 a month – reward yourself by putting $45 (15 per cent) in a “prize” account to spend on something for pleasure at a later date.
Sure it’s simple – but it’s a start. Trying beating your monthly savings or debt pay down and track it on your scorecard. Simply being aware of where your money is going can help you change your habits and patterns of spending.
Control Spending From Your Smartphone
Too tired to dream up your own game? There are plenty of ready-made apps to gamify your personal finances in a more sophisticated way than the ol’ spreadsheet trick.
PayOff.com: This website will house your personal balance sheets for free, securely liaising between your financial accounts to help track spending. You can set goals and through visualization, motivational strategies and rewards, the site helps you pay down your debt.
There are also plenty of “badges” to earn for reaching goals and even cash prices from the company and sponsors.
PiggyMojo.com: As its name suggests, this site takes a social piggybank approach. To set up your goal, PiggyMojo asks for you to find a saving partner. When you feel like impulse buying, instead transfer that money into your bank account and text PiggyMojo what item you didn’t buy and what you saved. The website then texts your partner and it keeps a friendly competition going.
The catch – the service doesn’t actually require your banking information to track your spending, instead requiring you to do your due diligence and deposit the funds yourself.
SaveUp.com: Much like PayOff, this website offers rewards for reaching certain goals. In the case of SaveUp you win credits every time you make a smart financial decision, like saving money or paying down debt. Those credits can in turn be used to play for prizes like a $100 gift card to a $50,000 mortgage payment.
It’s ingenious in that it offers real prizes and incentives for reaching targeted financial goals.
Keep Your Eye On The Prize
No matter what route you take, whether you design your own, download an app or sign up for a free savings website, you’re bound to find new ways to make savings a little more enjoyable. If you dread financial stuff, maybe gamification is for you. Personally, I’d love to go back in time and trade a few yarn balls in for some cold hard cash.