Finding Fun Ways to Save Money

Make Saving Money a Fun Family Game

Toddlers Playing Cards
Photo: Lambert / Getty Images

Saving money doesn’t need to be a drag. There are plenty of fun ways to save money by creating games and challenges around your saving goals.

Check out these fun ways to save:

Create a Savings Competition

Call someone else who’s in a financial pinch: your sibling, your best friend, or your gym buddy. Challenge them to a save-off. The person who can save more money over the next month, or the next six months, wins the game.

You can negotiate how you define “saving more.” Is it measured by a raw number—awarded to whoever saves the highest amount of money? Or is it measured as a percentage of after-tax income? It could even be measured by each of your relative spending declines, as compared to how much each of you spent the previous year.

Regardless of how you select a savings metric, it’s essential that the winner doesn’t receive an expensive prize. You might agree that the winner gets the joy of being able to gloat. Or you might decide that the loser should perform some service for the winner, such as washing the winner’s car. If you decide the prize should involve a cash outlay, it could be as simple as the winner receiving a homemade meal.

Try having this challenge with your spouse. This time you can raise the prize-winning stakes!

A Net Worth Competition

Alternatively, you could challenge your competitor to see which of you can grow your total net worth over the span of the next few months. This way your focus is fixed on increasing your savings account, not slashing your bills. Your mindset shifts away from cost-cutting (a scarcity mentality), and towards growth and progress (an abundance mentality).

There are two ways to invoke a “net worth” challenge: either by setting a deadline (who can add the most to their bank balance in the next six months?) or by establishing a “finish line” (who can be the first to grow a net worth of $100,000?).

Make It a Game

Get your entire family involved and create a game to see who can find the most creative ways to save money. Have each person keep a record of the innovative ways they saved some cash or re-used an item.

Your son might start washing and re-using Ziploc bags. Your spouse might replace all the incandescent light bulbs with CFLs. Your daughter may begin mending her clothes or planting an herb garden.

Encourage creativity. Host a family meeting once a week where you give out little prizes: the Wackiest Way to Save Award, the Biggest Bang-for-Your-Buck Savings Award, the “Ah, Why Didn’t I Think of That?!” Award.

A Savings Thermometer

Draw a picture of a giant thermometer. Write your savings goal at the top. Tack it up somewhere that the whole family can see it—perhaps on the refrigerator or in the living room.

Each week, color the thermometer according to how much you’ve saved — in the same way that a school or sports fundraising team colors a thermometer to show how closely it’s approaching its fundraising goals.

The top of the thermometer should represent some prize that everyone in your family wants. This could be as cheap as a popcorn party or a trip to the zoo (especially if you have young children), or as much of a splurge as a $400 massage chair (which would probably appeal to an adult household).

Remember: the prize for filling the thermometer doesn’t need to eat away the entire savings goal. You might decide to launch a family savings goal of $1,000, but spend only $200 of that on a prize.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much money should you budget for fun every day?

One way to plan for recreational costs is to think about it in terms of budget percentages. The average American allocates less than 10% of their budget to entertainment, for example.

How do you have fun without spending money?

There are plenty of cheap and free hobbies that can help you save money in your free time. Hikers can freely use many parks and nature trails, for example. Libraries and other community resources can expand your options for free entertainment. Arts and crafts may require some start-up purchases, but they tend to be cheap hobbies after you've started.

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  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "How Does Consumer Spending Differ Among Households in California, Texas, and New York? A New BLS Data Product Can Tell Us," Page 3.

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