Do you have a savings goal that seems impossible to achieve? Turning saving into a game can become more enjoyable and motivating rather than a chore or a source of stress. Games can also be a social and community-building activity where other savers can support each other, share tips and strategies, and celebrate each other’s successes.
Most importantly, games can help you develop long-term savings habits and financial discipline. By challenging yourself to avoid non-essential purchases, stick to a budget, or find creative ways to save money, you are building the skills and habits that lead to overall financial well-being. So, set a goal, be clear about how it will positively impact your life and financial situation, and select a fun and doable game.
Here are some fun games to quickly build up that bank account.
In no-spend challenges, you will try to go for a certain period without spending money on non-essential items, such as dining out, entertainment, or shopping. The duration of the challenge can be a day, a week, a month, or longer. These challenges help rein in your spending so that you can start saving instead.
Specific items or stores. Here your no-spend challenge is focused on something specific, usually where refraining is difficult. This could mean not eating out, getting coffee on the way to work, or buying new shoes, books, or video games. The other option is to skip buying from a specific store like Target or Amazon or via advertisements that pop up on your social media feed.
How long can you go? Identify one or a few things you spend money on that can wait. How long can you go before you get the next haircut or buy new shampoo when you know three backups are under your sink?
Wait to buy. This tool is helpful during non-spend challenges. You will inevitably find items you want during your non-spend time. Instead of purchasing the item, put it on a list and return to it after the challenge. You may find that you didn’t need it after all.
These are games where participants work on budgeting skills and goals.
The “budgeting bingo” game. Create a bingo card with different budgeting goals or challenges in each square, such as “pack lunch instead of eating out” or “use coupons at the grocery store.” As you complete each challenge, mark off the corresponding square. The first person to get a bingo wins a prize, such as a small amount of money or a treat.
The “DIY challenge” game. Challenge yourself to make things at home instead of buying them, such as cleaning supplies, gifts, or clothing. This game can be a fun way to save money while learning new skills.
Would I rather? This game helps install a pause mechanism before making a purchase. Train yourself before every purchase to ask yourself, “Do I need this, or would I rather meet my savings goal?” It is helpful to be as specific as possible. For example, “Would I rather be riding the new bike I’ve been saving for?” Put the money you would have spent into your savings for an extra bonus!
Stretch your dollar. Here you will set a low amount for a date night, family outing, vacation, or gift exchange. Challenge yourself only to spend that amount and see how creative you can be while being frugal. Involve your partner or kids in this one!
Pantry challenge. Before your next trip to the grocery store, do an inventory of your food. Meal plan for the upcoming week based on what you already have, and only buy what you need. Do this exercise a couple of times a year or even monthly to save on groceries, ensure you are not letting food go to waste, and improve your meal planning skills.
These games are designed to help you save a specific amount of money.
The “saving jar” game. Set a savings goal and then put money into a jar each day or week until you reach your goal. It could be a quarter a day or $5 a week, depending on how much you want to save. Make this game more fun by decorating the jar or adding stickers to mark progress.
Save your $5 bills. In this game, any time you have a $5 bill, add it to your savings. Or change to $1, $10, or $20 bills, depending on your goal. It’s an excellent method if you receive tips as part of your work or side gig.
52-week games. This is a year-long saving game where you save a specific amount each week ($1 through $52). You can go in order from the lowest amount of $1 and work your way up, or start at $52 and save a dollar less each week. Another option is to write the numbers one through 52 on pieces of paper and randomly pick the amount per week. No matter how you do it, you will finish the year with $1,378 saved.
Deck of cards. Similar to the 52-week game, here you would pick a card from a deck each week and save that amount of money. To save $500, Jacks are worth $13, Queens $14, Kings $15, Aves $16, and the two Jokers $30 each. Or, to save $776, up the ante where Jacks are $20, Queens $30, Kings $40, and Aces mean saving $50.
Save the savings. Many stores will print the amount of money you saved that visit on your receipt. Challenge yourself to put that money into your savings account. These random amounts will quickly add up and can also improve your bargain-hunting skills. Just make sure only to buy what you need, not just because it is on sale.
Round up. Here, round up each time you make a purchase and save that money. For example, if something costs $5.20, you would put $.80 into savings. Some apps and savings accounts will do this for you.
You Don’t Need to Go It Alone
Savings games can be more fun and successful when you do them with others. Make it a competition with a friend or family member with rewards for the winner. Or, join money-saving communities that share tips, advice, and support for saving money. Find communities on Facebook, Instagram, or through apps such as YNAB’s More Money Challenge. Joining one or more of these online communities can be a fun way to connect with others who share your goals and learn additional ideas to keep you motivated.