The Game of Saving

We often play games to entertain us or to help teach life lessons in a pretend or safe environment. How about making savings a game?

For many people, asking or requiring them to save as part of their overall spending plans, may feel like a punishment. I have to save this money so I CANT…. (Fill in the blank). When you are trying to reach a financial goal, you need the whole family to buy into the plan that may cause a reduction in their lifestyle. Then, you are liable to be met with eyes rolling, and heavy sighs as everyone imagines how this will just ruin their lives. Overly dramatic? Maybe just a little (unless you have teenagers and then it might be spot on).

Try making it a game instead.

Let's suppose that you want to save for a family trip this summer. Find a container to put the savings in, and challenge the family to find every extra penny to put in the jar. Money from the sofa, money not spent on eating out, money earned from garage sales or coupons -the list could be endless. Take the money to the bank occasionally and see how you are doing towards your goal. Put a picture of where you are going inside the jar to remind every one of their goal.

Visualization is an important part of the savings process. No matter how much you are trying to save or what you are saving for, seeing the progress is part of the motivation. Make a poster of the items or trip you are saving for and then hang it in a place where it will be seen multiple times a day. The visual is a great incentive and so is using or making a jigsaw puzzle of your dream. Each piece represents an amount of money you have saved. Add the pieces one by one as the money is saved and when the picture is complete—voila! You have reached your goal, and it's "Vacation, college or retirement here we come!" Motivational ideas are endless.

Ideas for other family members include:

Encourage teenagers who like expensive or name brand clothing, shoes and electronics, you could encourage them to save for those items by matching their savings. They save a dollar, and then you match it with another. The process is similar to some retirement benefits at full-time jobs, so it is a good lesson in early savings.

Internet savvy adolescents can research the items they want: ratings, reviews, and price comparisons. If they find a quality item, less expensive than you are willing to pay for that item, add the money saved to the family or individual's savings accounts.

Smaller children can get in on this game too. Have them look for coins on the ground, help with laundry by going through clothing pockets for change (and other items) before going into the washer. Take that money and put it into their bank so they can watch it fill up and gain value.

Sometimes the best savings is the "let's pay off the credit cards game." With an interest earning account not earning all that much and credit card interest rates remaining stubbornly high, sometimes the easiest way to save money is to not pay more than necessary. That means paying off credit accounts quickly and saving all that money you would be paying in interest. The same types of games apply only instead of putting the money into a savings account, you make more frequent payments to your credit accounts on top of your regular monthly payment. When you do that- it goes all towards the principal of the debt and reduces the amount of interest charged that month. Another part of the game is not charging more to the card because if you do, it never reaches zero!

Making savings a game will help you accomplish several positive habits. Savings becomes fun and not a chore; children (and adults) learn the good feelings of saving for a desire, and not giving in to impulse purchases. Having savings can help everyone live a happier life because you can meet your goals.

For more savings ideas or to take the America Saves Challenge, visit