How To Level Up and Gamify Your Finances

March 29, 2023

If you’ve ever had one of your parents get addicted to Candy Crush, you know that games can really suck you in. That’s because games are designed to be engrossing, to make you want to play them for hours on end. But what if we could take a similar tactic with something we often ignore? What if we could gamify our finances in order to crush our money goals?

Tons of people struggle to meet their personal finance goals. That’s because most of the time we don’t have a plan and our goals remain aspirational. Without breaking down our goals into actionable steps, no rubber meets the road and progress grinds to a halt. Plus, personal finance isn’t as stimulating as playing Fortnite. That’s where gamifying your finances can help.

Implementing elements from our favorite games can help us to reframe our relationship with our money. Adding a little fun to our finances can get us to take action when we otherwise wouldn’t.

How to Gamify Your Finances

If we want to pump some life into our personal finance journey, we need to figure out what makes games so fun and addicting. Once we understand that, we can apply those principles to gamify our finances in a similar fashion. 

1. Clearly Define Your Goals

When we play games, we usually have an objective that we need to achieve, like rescuing Princess Peach from Bowser, or defeating the Ender Dragon. This mission inspires us to keep playing the game until we’ve reached this goal!

The same is true in the non-fictional realm of personal finance. Having a *clearly defined* big overarching goal can help you to feel inspired to get your hands dirty. If it’s something you’re really passionate about, you’ll have more grit when it comes to drudging through the hard work that comes alongside tackling a big audacious financial goal.

For example, your goal might be to build $10,000 a month in passive income. That’s truly a killer goal! Will it be hard? Yes! But is it impossible? No! You just have to keep playing the money making/saving/investing game as hard as you can, and eventually you will achieve it. But having that clearly defined goal is the motivation you need to get after it. 

Short-term goals should be specific too. For example, your short-term goal could be to build just $12.99 in passive income per month. Why the exact amount of $12.99? Well, that’s how much a 6 pack of your favorite craft beer costs. Earning that much in passive income means free beer every month, for the rest of your life. FUN! 

2. Build in Some Competition

Whether it’s the first century B.C. watching Roman gladiators duke it out at the Coliseum, or watching our favorite football team win the Super Bowl, something about our human nature makes us love watching our team crush the opponents! 

While we don’t want you to compete with your friends “gladiator style,” a little healthy competition can help to give your personal finances a boost. Getting some friends involved for a low stakes money saving competition can help to get you excited about your financial goals!

Here are a few friendly competition ideas:

Small challenges like this can be a fun way to gamify your finances while still enjoying time with friends and family.

Remember to keep it friendly! It’s never a good idea to compete over salaries, possessions, or who contributes the most to their retirement accounts. Comparing yourself in these ways can be discouraging to everyone involved. Keep the competition light and friendly! 

Another great way to work in some competition is to compete against yourself. You can try and spend less in a certain expense category each month, challenge yourself to a no spend month, or try a pantry challenge. The most encouraging feeling ever is to watch yourself improve little by little over time. 

Bonus tip- Here’s a huge list of ways to save money. Try to gamify some of them!

3. Get Some Teammates 

Teamwork makes the dream work. Getting some friends or a partner involved can help you to feel more enthusiastic about your financial goals. This is a throwback, but I used to play Halo with a bunch of friends. It was a blast! But I could just never get into playing alone. Too boring. 

There’s a quote from Jim Rohn that says, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” There’s a lot of merit to that! We all do better when we work together to achieve a shared goal, plus there’s the added benefit of feeling like you belong to a community. This is also true when you gamify your finances.

We encourage you to talk more about personal finances with your partner, friends and family. Support each other, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. We all have a piece of the puzzle that can help someone else, and if we put all our pieces together, we’ll have an easier time achieving our goals. 

Our How To Money Facebook Group is the perfect online community to join if you’re interested in personal finance. It’s a supportive group of people at all different points in their money journey who just like to help each other out! Also, we have a killer newsletter that is fun and encouraging, too!

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4. Play level by level…

When we’re playing a video game, you don’t just jump right into the final boss fight without upgrading your gear, increasing your skill level, and embarking on an arduous journey. Think about how demoralizing it would be to try and take down the final bad guy with only your defaults!

We want to rack up some wins before the big fight at the end of the game, and no one wants to play something they aren’t good at, losing time and time again! 

The same should apply when gamifying our finances. You don’t just go from buried in $20k credit card debt to buying an investment property in a single afternoon. You need to check off some of the smaller tasks on the way to your biggest goal. Our advice? Don’t make it too difficult, and create opportunities for small wins along the way.

By breaking up our larger goals into smaller, more “doable” ones, the road ahead may seem much less daunting. For example, if you know you want to do some renovations to your home in a few years, the idea of saving $15,000 could sound impossible. But if you broke that cost up over 3 years and started saving now, it works out to just over $415 each month. 

With your goal looking less intimidating, you’re more likely to stay on track! 

Related: Creating a debt payoff plan, step by step.

5. Get rewards and level up!

The best part of playing every game is the satisfaction you get when you finally beat it, or emerge victorious.

When you reach your biggest goals, like saving up a down payment for a home, paying off your student loans, or even achieving financial independence, it’s time to party!

Now we’re not recommending you spend all the money you just saved on a wild weekend in Vegas. But it is absolutely imperative that you take some time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. It can be with something small, like a night in with your favorite takeout, a weekend road trip, or even just a little happy dance. 

The point is, you need to realize emotionally that you’ve achieved one of your goals before you start working towards the next goal or begin to move the goalposts. 

Every great game helps you feel a sense of achievement when you level up, as you’re making progress. It’s important to institute that same principle into your own life as you make positive money moves. Immediately moving on to the next thing is likely to leave you burned out and more likely to throw in the towel! Remember, we’re playing the long game here.

Apps to Gamify Your Finances: 

If you don’t feel like creating your own money challenges, try out some of these apps that can help make personal finance more fun! 

Acorns- This app helps you to round up your spare change and invest it. Over time, these small amounts can add up to something pretty significant, and it can be a great way to give your retirement investing a little boost.

Zeta- This app is a great way to track shared spending. It’s great for roommates, couples, or parents and their kids. YNAB is another great budgeting tool for couples. It does cost money (less than $8 a month) but you can share your subscription with a partner.

Ally Bank- Ally is a high yield savings account with tons of boosters that can help you to supercharge your savings. It has savings buckets, which can be used to visually organize your different savings goals, and it can round up your change and automatically transfer it to your savings!

Zogo- This app is sort of like Duo Lingo, but for personal finance. Complete learning modules to earn digital pineapples!

Tiny monthly savings might not seem like much, but using the Rule of 173 tells us that for ever $1 saved per month, you’re actually saving $173 over a 10 year period.

The Bottom Line:

Gamification can be a great way to jump start your personal finance goals, and to put a fun spin on a topic that can sometimes be a little dry. 

However, these gaming elements can only carry you so far. Eventually the novelty will wear off, so you’ll need to have an overarching mission statement that can get you through those times when motivation is running low. If you’re not sure what your money mission statement is, here’s a great guide to creating one.

We hope we’ve inspired you to incorporate some of these addicting elements from the gaming world to gamify your finances! Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get started. Game on!

Beer tasting notes:

While talking about gamifying finances we enjoyed a Astral Prism by Modern Times Beer. Another big thanks to our friend Craig there at the brewery for donating this one! And if you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe and give us a quick review in Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Help us to spread the word to get more people doing smart things with their money!

Best friends out!

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