You know the concepts – live below your means, save 10% a payday, build an emergency fund, beef up your retirement funds – but it can still be hard to get in the savings habit.
Being financially literate doesn’t mean you will become financially successful. Much of wealth building is more psychological than knowledge based. Sometimes you have to psyc yourself into doing what you know you should be doing. Why not try to make a game of saving, to help get yourself in the savings habit?
Here are my suggestions, loosely based on what we did over a 40 year timeframe.
Set the rules.
Every game has rules. Your savings game should as well. Agree with your significant others on what they will be.
First, what will constitute winning the game? What is the end goal and how will you know when you get there? Build in team goal – you aren’t playing alone, winning should be a team effort too.
Define when you will save, how much you will save and how you can do it. It probably will be against the rules to save money by taking something away from others in the family. It may be within the rules to take on extra activities to earn more money.
Name your game, write down the rules, post a commonly visible playbook and scorecard so the whole family can see when the savings grow or shrink (yes sometimes they will). Include tips and techniques you can think of to use – just like any board game includes strategies for winning. Some of my strategies were things like creating a feeling of scarcity (by putting funds into budget buckets to use throughout the year) , making the extra money invisible (by auto deposits) and more.
Build in rewards.
Just like in Monopoly, where you get a payday when you pass Go or get to draw a community chest card when you land on the right square, build rewards into your saving game. When you hit a goal treat yourself and your family to a fun day, a special dessert, or a mini vacation. When someone shares a save, give them a reward, perhaps a public ‘atta boy’ or a handmade card – but make it something that is a reward for that person (people don’t all go for the same kinds of rewards!)
Start the competition.
Build your game so that, in addition to team effort, there are places for competition between teammates (aka family members). Who can save the biggest percent of their income? Who came up with a new way to save? Give points for reminding the family that the game is on.
Change it up.
Any game (even - or should I say especially – Monopoly :D) gets boring after a while. When your savings game seems dull, spice it up by re-inventing the rules that no longer seem to be working for you. Remind yourself of what you will do and how you will feel when you reach your goals. Set new goals and start new competitions.
Knowing where you are in the process of saving towards your goal can inspire you to persist. Persistence is the single most important predictor of success! Count your savings, draw a thermometer that you can update in red, just like the Salvation Army does when collecting each Christmas. Remind yourself and your family of the lifestyle changes you may have made to get to your current ‘score’. Stack up each individual’s savings points so they can see their individual progress. Keeping score is half the fun in playing!
Do you play a savings game to help you build wealth? What is yours like?