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.