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10 ways to make saving money fun might just be the secret to maintaining your commitment to your big financial goals. Smart money moves aren’t always boring.
As we enter the second year of our debt payoff journey, I have noticed that my husband is less enthusiastic than he had been. I’m more invested than ever because we’re seeing progress, but he is seeing the long journey still ahead. I’ve been brainstorming ways to make this process more engaging, so you might as well benefit too.
The most important way to make saving money fun
The critical first step in gamifying your money mindset is to find a supportive accountability partner.
Changing a huge chunk of your life is not easy. Going it alone makes everything even more difficult. I would even venture to say that it may be close to impossible to pay off significant debt, save enough for retirement or meet other big goals without the buy-in of your spouse.
That’s not to discourage you from trying to make changes, but to acknowledge that it will probably be a very hard road. Persistence and patience will hopefully pay off in the end.
If you’re single or feeling alone in this journey, reach out to a friend, sibling, or another family member ask them to be your accountability partner. Even if they’re in a different financial place, having someone you trust on your side, supporting you, and encouraging you will be so important.
Beyond the support, having someone to compete against is the perfect way to make saving money fun. The competition aspect of the suggestions coming up can really help keep you in the mood for some debt payoff.
10 ways to make saving money fun
1. Set goals & rewards
If you don’t want to go all-in & create an actual “challenge” or “game” to save money, having goals and rewards written down will absolutely keep you motivated.
You can use this financial goals planner to help you get started: Financial Goal Planner
Page 4 has a monthly goal list, with rewards. Use this page to set smaller goals for the month ahead and list your reward for meeting that goal.
Keep your reward proportional to the goal – paying off a $200 credit card balance is not enough to warrant a reward that costs you $500. Instead, take $10 out of your grocery budget and buy a bottle of wine.
2. Track your progress
Find a chart to track your progress. Having a colorful, prominent reminder can be very motivating, especially if you’re a visual person.
Debt Free Charts has a whole section of printable charts that are free to download (and even more that are paid). I’ve used a couple of different charts from that website to help track our progress. My husband and I make a point to color in the squares together, because we are paying off this debt together.
3. “No spend month” challenge
A month is long enough to save some serious cash, but not so long that it feels impossible.
A “no spend challenge” can easily be customized to meet your goals or lifestyle. Some options include just paying your bills, paying bills + buying groceries, or not buying clothing or toys. Choose what areas you think you can cut out of your budget for a month.
Read more about 30-day challenges & download a free tracker here. Use the mood boost of checking off another day on your tracker to keep you motivated. We keep ours on the fridge, so both my husband and I see it multiple times a day. Since I’m home with the kids, it’s a near-constant reminder to watch my spending.
4. “No spend days” challenge
One easier way to make saving money fun is to limit your “no spend” challenges to just a few days.
Challenge your partner to make every Saturday a “no spend” day, especially if you tend to spend more recklessly on the weekends. You can choose the day of the week (or even days) that will make a difference in your pocket and in your habits.
Thinking “I can’t buy that today” should serve as a prompt for you to question your purchase. Paying attention to your spending impulses will help you overcome harmful habits eventually.
5. Loose change challenge
This challenge isn’t the most COVID-friendly, but it can be made safe through the proper precautions.
Make a game of who can collect the most change or cash in a certain amount of time, like a week or a month. Choose a cheap but meaningful reward for the winner and feel free to recruit additional competitors into the game.
The point of this challenge isn’t the money, but the mindset shift. You’re not going to get rich from collecting couch change, but looking for new opportunities to make or save money is an eye-opener.
6. “First to save” challenge
Make the rules what you want, but this challenge involves setting a savings goal and some ground rules.
One example of a “first to save” challenge is setting a goal of “saving” $200 in a month by coming in that much under budget for the month. You can see who can buy a week’s worth of groceries for the smallest amount (and put the leftover budgeted amount toward debt or savings). Or you could challenge your partner to save $100 in a week or less – the first one to make that by working side gigs wins.
7. Pantry challenge
Get creative and make a meal plan from your pantry. Just your pantry (and fridge and freezer), without grocery shopping.
Stretch your existing food supply as far as you can, to save even more. Reducing your grocery spending is a great way to keep a little extra in your pocket. A lot of people tend to stock up, but never actually deplete those supplies, which is basically a waste of money.
8. $ per week food challenge
Take turns grocery shopping & meal planning for the week with your accountability partner, with the intention of keeping costs under a set amount. Start off easy, like $150 per week, and slowly decrease the amount you are “allowed” to spend on groceries as you both get better at stretching your food dollars.
Search Pinterest for cheap or frugal recipe ideas as the challenge gets more involved. Reducing the amount of meat your family consumes also helps to keep costs down. Even if you don’t want to eliminate meat altogether, making it a part of the meal rather than the focus is cheaper.
9. Kids savings challenge
Get your kids involved too! Create a competition to earn as much as they can. Encourage them to sell old toys, work extra paid chores, or start a business like a lemonade stand.
Finding ways to make saving money fun for your kids can completely change the way they approach money as they become adults. My goal for my kids is to empower them to feel competent and confident when it comes to money, not afraid or unprepared.
Money is not the most important part of life, but it shouldn’t be your biggest fear either. Knowledge is power.
10. Annual savings challenge
There are many variations on the annual savings challenge. Choose a method that works for you and your budget. Some plans involve saving $50 per week, which isn’t always possible.
I definitely don’t have an extra $50/week to put into savings. If I found that money in my budget, it would absolutely go toward debt since we have a mini emergency fund already. Saving even $1 per week is so much better than going $1 more into debt.
You can add an extra $1 to the amount saved each week to accumulate almost $1400 over the year.
You can add an extra $5 to the amount saved each week. That will save nearly $7000 by the end of the year.
Save $20 a week to build your savings up to $1000 over the year.
Use this handy printable generator to customize your plan for the year.
This article also includes a random savings number plan, a $5,000/year plan, and a $10,000/year plan with printables.