If you think the words “budget” and “fun” don’t belong in the same sentence, perhaps you are looking at budgeting all wrong.
Sure, living on a budget isn’t as fun as going to an all-inclusive resort for a week wearing a new pair of shoes. But it doesn’t have to be drudgery either. In fact, if you make budgeting more of a game than an obligation, you might even look forward to the process.
If you’re competitive by nature, these five strategies can put spending and saving money in a whole new light.
1. See how long you can go without spending a cent
The easiest way to game yourself into saving money is seeing how long you can go without spending any money at all.
- No milk in the house? Can you wait a day before picking it up?
- Big meeting at the office tomorrow? Can you unearth an outfit from the back of your closet?
- Holiday party coming up? Can you re-gift something you’ve never used?
Think of this challenge in the same light as the workplace safety signs that announce how many days a factory has gone without an accident. But instead of measuring accidents, you’re tracking how many days you go without spending.
Once you buy something, reset the days to zero and try again to see if you can beat the previous record.
Obviously, monthly bills like the rent aren’t included, and you could exempt food purchases. However, if you have a large stockpile in the pantry and freezer, I vote for including food in your no-spending challenge.
2. Discover the money hidden in your house
Living on a budget is partially about finding money that can be used to supplement your income.
Make it a game to see how much money you can find lurking in the nooks and crannies of your house. I’m not talking about change in the couch here. I’m talking about all the stuff crammed into your closets you never use.
Find a couple of items — maybe old clothes or sports equipment — and list them on eBay or Craigslist. See what you can make. Then, find some more stuff the next week or month and see if you can make more.
Challenge your spouse or roommate to join in. Create a competition to see who can make the most money each month by selling off excess clutter. Up the ante by creating a reward — maybe the winner gets to relax while the loser does dishes for a week.
3. Challenge yourself to find a free fun activity every week
Entertainment can be a major budget leak. You go out for drinks and go a little wild with your tab. Or you take the kids to the budget movie and end up treating them to dinner before and ice cream after.
Fortunately, there are a ton of free activities, from festivals to library programs to nature centers. Rather than defaulting to your go-to, money-sucking entertainment option, challenge yourself to find something free to do every week or month.
The key is to avoid taking a free activity and turning it into a money-splurging event. You may tempted to think that because you’re saving money with the free entertainment, you can spend more elsewhere. Wrong. Try to make the outing truly free, or as close to it as humanly possible.
4. Find or create a budget accountability group
Everything is more fun when you do it with someone else. Budgeting is no different.
Slogging along on your own to manage money can be lonely. But if you have some people with similar goals cheering you along, you might find it easier to stay motivated.
Identify some like-minded friends and suggest you start a Facebook group or email chain in which you each check in every day, or maybe once a week. It’s an opportunity for everyone to share their goals and progress toward them.
If you don’t have a group of friends in the real world who’d be interested, look online. Check out personal finance blogs for virtual inspiration, or head to a message board to find those like-minded individuals you may be missing in the real world.
5. Ditch the pen and paper and use an app to keep on track
There are plenty of apps that can help you track and manage money. For some people, these can make the process of sticking to spending goals infinitely more fun than plugging numbers into a spreadsheet. We’ve reviewed some of these apps previously.
Urge is one helpful app. It lets you record every time you say no to a purchase and then “credits” that money toward a financial goal or dream purchase. Say no enough and, in theory, you should have money in the bank to buy whatever that thing is that you really want.
Do you dread budgeting or do you make it fun? Share your experiences in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
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