Making Frugality a Game

If you have a spouse or a close friend and you’ve both recently made a commitment to saving money, why not try making it into a competition?

First, a big disclaimer: my wife and I are naturally competitive with each other. We compete at the most absurd things – who can blow up a bigger balloon without it popping, who can win the most in a series of twenty five board games (yes, seriously), and who can eat the most “El Gordo” burritos in one sitting.

I lost that last one. My wife has a hollow leg, especially for such a small woman.

Anyway, the point is that if you can turn frugality into a mutual challenge, you can turn something that you might otherwise view as drudgery into something quite fun.

Five Examples of Frugality Competitions

1. Starting from zero, who can have the lowest credit card balance at the time of the next statement?
This challenge forces all competitors to not just bust out the plastic for all of their needs and instead carefully plan their purchases.

2. Over alternating weeks, one person is in charge of the meals for a week. Which person can spend the least preparing enjoyable meals for everyone?
Want to learn how to cook cheaply? Doing this will teach both of you how to shop for inexpensive foods and prepare them in a delicious fashion. It’s through competitions like this that my wife and I have discovered the delicious and inexpensive nature of the humble bean.

3. Who can go the longest without spending a single red cent on entertainment?
My wife and I went for months doing this. We read through our entire book collections, watched every movie we own, and devoured the contents of the library like ravenous wolves. I finally broke down and spent money to re-subscribe to a magazine, but it taught us both how little you really have to spend on entertainment to enjoy yourself.

4. A great competition to have with someone else: who can make the most homemade stuff to save money?
Homemade laundry detergent, homemade oatmeal packets, home-grown food – doing stuff yourself saves quite a bit of money. Start a friendly competition with a neighbor or a friend to see who can find the best home do-it-yourself savings. Share ideas with each other and see who can come up with the best stuff.

5. Who can make the most at their yard sale?
A yard sale is a great way to spend a weekend, clean out unwanted clutter, and earn a few bucks from the stuff you don’t want. Why not make it a competition? Make it a challenge with a friend of yours: have yard sales on alternating weekends and see who can earn the most? It’ll challenge both of you to clean out your closets and take a serious look at downsizing those unwanted possessions – put cash in both of your pockets.

A race for the prize? If you want, you can add some sort of prize to the competition. My wife and I have competed for book store gift cards before. Perhaps you and your yard-saling friend can agree to ante up a portion of your yard sale earnings in an effort to make you both try a bit harder.

The key thing here is to make saving money fun and interesting by turning it into a social situation. A friendly competition where you both end up with extra money in your pocket and perhaps a better idea of ways to save money is something that benefits everyone involved.

Even better, you might discover how cheap and tasty beans actually can be.