A lot of financial advice, such as living on a budget and sacrificing to pay down debt, is really important, but it isn't necessarily a lot of fun. There's a reason for this: Managing money means making responsible choices, even when there's more entertaining ways to spend your spare cash.
The good news is, saving money doesn't always have to be a slog. There are actually ways to make the process fun. Here are three money-saving games to play with yourself so you can save more money without viewing it as a sacrifice.
Organize a no-spend day challenge
No-spend days are exactly what they sound like: days when you spend no money at all. No-spend days can be great because they get you out of the mindset of mindlessly reaching for your wallet dozens of times a day to do everything from grabbing a snack at the vending machine to picking up a movie to watch on the way home. This means you save money not only during the day, but over the long term as your mindset changes.
To make no-spend days more fun and encourage you to have more of them, challenge your spouse, partner, or your friend to see who can have more no-spend days during the course of each month. You can both keep track and compare -- and this healthy competition should hopefully prompt you to find more days when you can keep your wallet closed.
Pocket your $5s
When you consider the recommendation that you save 20% of your income, the savings goal may seem insurmountable -- but you can start small by making a simple commitment to save every $5 bill you get back in change.
As anyone who's tried this game can attest, you'll likely find yourself looking for ways to structure your purchases so you can get back those $5 bills you'll be saving.
This game may also prompt you to make more purchases in cash, which can be a good thing as studies have shown people spend less when using paper bills than they do when using credit cards.
The more you start to see the savings add up, the more addictive this game can become -- and the savings can add up to real money. In fact, one blogger who tried out this trick ended up saving more than $36,000 over 12 years, or about $3,000 a year on average -- enough to fund more than half of an IRA, or to pay for a few nice family vacations you won't have to put on your credit card.
Try out a 52-week saving challenge
There are a few different approaches to a 52-week savings challenge, and while it's a few weeks after the first of the year, it's not too late to start one.
One option: Start by saving $1 per week and then increase your savings each week so by the 52nd week, you save $52 dollars. If you try to this approach, you'd end up with $1,378.00 at the end of your 52 weeks.
If you've gotten comfortable with the process, there's no reason to stop at $52 weeks either. Keep going, saving $53 the next week and so on, until you get to a point where it's too much to save -- then start back over at $1.
Another alternative: Save $1 on the first day of each week, $2 on the second, $3 on the third and so on until day seven when you save $7. Then, start over again. With this approach, you're never saving more than $7 on any given day -- but you'll end a 52-week challenge with $1,456 in savings if you follow through every week.
Saving money can be fun
While none of these savings tricks is a substitute for setting up automatic contributions to a retirement account to ensure you don't end up broke during your golden years, they're each a fun way to pocket some extra cash to accomplish other savings goals.
Try as many of them as you can, and when you see how your savings add up throughout the year, you may be inspired to continue them long after 2018 is over.