Money Management Isn't A Game... But It Can Be!

J.D. Roth is a pretty famous finance blogger, he is also huge fan of video games -- in particular StarCraft II. Now he's discussing the ways in which he is attempting to combine his love of games with his love of finance. In an interesting blog over at our sister site Lifehacker, J.D. Roth has taken a look at the ways in which we can turn money management into a game.

So yes, it's gamification -- which is becoming an increasingly dirty word -- but if you're looking for ways to help you save and invest, this post may be a worthwhile read.

[M] aking a game out of money management might mean something else. For instance, you might:

Budget $100 for groceries every week. If you spend just $85, then the remaining $15 is yours to spend on whatever you’d like. Make a game out of spending as little as possible on dining out. How far can you stretch your restaurant dollar? What coupons and discounts can you find? Where are the cheap eats that taste good?

Make a paper chain representing your debt. Each time you pay off a certain amount ($100?), cut a link of the chain. Give yourself a “bonus” for completing a “stage”. Maybe you’re trying to pay off debt. Each time you eliminate one debt, you might give yourself some sort of small reward as a “power-up”.

Personally? I like money, and I want more of it, so some of these tips may end up being worthwhile!

How To Turn Money Management Into A Game [Lifehacker]


    Interesting concept. Not sure how well it would work for me though. I generally see something I want and then work out what I can cut back on so I can afford it :P

    Clearly this guy has never heard of games like SimCity, ThemePark, Theme Hospital, Civilisation, etc.

    Weird that he's a fan of Starcraft 2, seeing as one of the most important things in that game is to keep your money as low as possible.

    I've always favoured a system where I give myself a set allowance every pay period. That has to cover all bills, expenses and whatnot. It works on a pretty simple method, every time I get paid, I dump everything but my allowance amount into a savings account.

    I don't touch that savings account at all and don't use credit cards etc. So all the money I have is the money that I'm leaving in my every day account.

    When I get the next paycheck, I do the same thing and my savings account grows steadily larger. I've saved a not unreasonable amount by doing this.


      The allowance or 'pocket money' is a great thing to have, especially in a marriage. You get your own money that you can save or spend however you want (within reason, ie no hookers) with no questions asked.

      Or sometimes it's "you bought what? Whatever, it's your money".

        It's not that wierd. It's about getting as much out of your resources as possible, and in the case of any RTS, your essentially spending money to make more money (ie. securing an expansion) just like real-life capitalisim.

    I really don't understand this concept. The whole "give yourself a bonus", "this can be like a power-up" thing, it just reminds me of being a kid and having some grown-up try and awkwardly make things they're talking about relatable to you by throwing around words from things you like. And coming off like a condescending jerk.

    I don't need to pretend that saving money is like playing a level of a game. I just go out there and don't spend money, or spend as little as possible. You just need to be able to control yourself and be on the lookout for good deals, that's how I made it through the whole year without spending more than $40 on a game (all retail, no import).

      I know what you mean - money itself is a reward!

      Video games give you money as a reward FFS!

      I completely agree. Its like he is baby talking gamers in how to save money. You don't need to get down on our "level" to relate to us you jackass.

        Gamification isn't targeted at gamers. It is using motivational techniques like levelling up and rewards, as well as breaking things into smaller pieces i.e. levels or chapters. To improve performance of everybody in everyday life.

        If you tell a kid that every time he does his chores he gets a gold star and when he has 10 stars he can choose a place to go on the weekend like the pool or the park, but he has to do it in one week or his score resets. Once he has 6 or 7 stars he is going to keep going to hit the 10 mark no matter what. It is the psychology behind, I'll just keep playing till I get that next level.

        The flaw I see with Roth's Ideas is that they are self imposed and thus easier to "cheat" by telling yourself "I'll just do it next time."

    Extra credits did two really good videos on gamification.

    I was wondering Mark why you think gamification is becoming a dirty word. I know that it can be used for evil ends, but I wasn't aware of any stigma. I am interested in the topic and hope that it may be introduced more strongly particularly in the field of education.

      I have no problem with it, but I've been getting the vibe that some folks are getting a bit tired of all aspects of their life slowly becoming gamified.

        I think the main problem with Roth's approach is that it is self inflicted gamification. It is harder to stick with it if it is you who is in charge. Games are fun because you are playing by someone else's rules.

        Thats why I think it works well in the education setting. The Teacher makes the rules the students get to play by, and the teacher is in control of the rewards.

        With these money examples it just comes down to your own will power in the end.

    Hello? Does The Sims not ring a bell to anybody?! That game is not only about keeping people alive, but also managing your money!

      I think the point of the article is to apply those game principles to real money. Not the other way around. There are hundreds if not thousands of games that have some element of money management in them.

      I learnt about loans and interest while playing transport tycoon deluxe when I was 13 or 14. You can even buy out your competitors.

    Nice post Mark. Check out UserInfuser ( It's a free and open source gamification platform, so that people can add gamification to their websites. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you think gamification of websites will turn out.

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