Why do many people opt to spend rather than save money? Because saving isn’t fun. It’s not as much fun as going to the movies, or out to eat, or to an amusement park. And why is that? Because many of the things we do for entertainment are social. They get us out amongst other people, give us a chance to connect and relax, and hang out with people we like. Sure, they offer other things, but socializing is at the root of many of our entertainment choices. Saving, on the other hand, is perceived as solitary, dull, boring and too much like work. With a rap like that, it’s no wonder we often opt to do anything other than save money.
Well, indulge me for a minute because I believe that saving can become a social activity that is just as much fun (and certainly more rewarding) than other types of entertainment. Part of our problem with making saving a social activity is our idea that we must not discuss money with others, therefore it cannot, by definition, ever be a social activity. To some extent I agree with this hang up of ours, but not completely. As I’ve mentioned before, I think there is definitely a line that should not be crossed when talking about money. Anything that makes others feel bad or brings out feelings of competitiveness should probably be avoided. And you probably shouldn’t divulge many details, either, unless all parties are comfortable with that level of disclosure. But even if you invoke those ground rules, you can still make saving a social activity. We manage to do a lot of other things with people without spilling the dirty details of our lives, saving should be no different.
Here are some ideas for making saving money more social and fun. For all of these ideas you can make it more social by arranging a pot luck dinner for each meeting, or try meeting in a fun location like the park on a sunny day. After the serious business of finance is concluded, offer some other entertainment like a recent release DVD, a card game or, for sports nuts, swear to finish in time to watch the big game together. Schedule a meeting once in a while that’s just for fun and agree not to discuss finance. Just get together. Around the holidays, offer themed get-togethers that reflect the spirit of the occasion. Prizes (small, budget friendly ones, please), games, and contests also make getting together more fun.
There are plenty of creative ways to make your gatherings fun. Use your imagination and create unique gatherings that reflect your group’s personality and interests. You can have “singles only” or “couples only” clubs, or you can invite couples and their kids (designate one person to watch the kids for the evening). Maybe a mix of couples and singles, kids and no kids works well for you. However you organize it, make certain that all members are on board with the savings aspect, otherwise they may try to unintentionally sabotage the group by arranging activities that aren’t budget friendly.
If you and several friends are interested in investing, this is a great way to learn. If you know nothing about investing, begin by helping educate each other. Read books/magazines and trade ideas and questions about what you read. Learn to read financial reports and stock listings. You might get a professional to come in and do a Q&A session with your group. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, you can first try picking stocks and funds on paper. Don’t actually invest money until you are comfortable, but practice by pretending to buy and sell stocks using the daily financial report as your earnings tracker. Share your successes and failures with fellow club members and talk about what went right or wrong. As you get more comfortable, you can begin to invest real money. Keep trading ideas and concerns with your group members. As you gain experience, tackle tougher topics and work on understanding market fundamentals. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn in a fun setting. The Beardstown Ladies did it. So can you.
Goal Oriented Saving Clubs
Most people have a goal when saving money. Maybe it’s to create an emergency fund, save for a house, buy a car, retirement, college funding, vacation or something else unique to the individual. Saving is great, but it gets lonely when it’s just you and the passbook. You think the day will never come when you’ll reach that goal. Form a group of people who are also saving toward specific goals. You don’t all have to be saving for the same thing, but if you can find enough people who share one goal, that can be fun, too. Get together once a month and talk about your goals and track your progress. You don’t have to share specifics about how much your goal costs. You can simply say, “I’m $1,000 short of being able to afford my new car. Help me get there.” Use the club for inspiration: Trade savings tips, commiserate over the things that get you off track, and offer support. Maybe everyone can bring in different things that motivate them. For example, if you’re saving for vacation, bring in brochures or guide books about your dream destination and talk about what you’ll do on that trip. When someone reaches a goal, celebrate with them. Have a cake, throw a small party themed toward their goal, or do something fun but budget conscious like go to a movie at the $1 theater.
If you’re into couponing, find like-minded friends and set up a once a month get together to go through your coupons, trade the ones you won’t use for ones you need, weed out the expired ones, or perfect your organization system. Share any tips and deals that you’ve found and dish about which stores have the best and worst coupon policies. Consider giving a prize to the person who saves the most with coupons each month.
Debt Reduction Clubs
This one can be a little trickier to get into because it does require you to divulge a little more personal information (you have to at least admit that you have debt) but it can still be done without too much revelation on your part. Find a group of people who want to pay down their debt and then bond together to tackle the problem. If you don’t want to disclose the full extent of your damage, you can simply say that you need to find a way to pay an extra $100 a month toward your debt or whatever you need in order to put a serious dent in your debt. And you certainly don’t have to say what it was for. Group members don’t need to know whether you got into trouble over a shoe addiction or an unplanned trip to the ER.
Talk about things like debt repayment strategies (Snowball? Highest interest first? Lowest debt first?) and draw up plans to attack your debt. Talk about ways to reduce the payments. Can you negotiate a lower interest rate or will a creditor settle for less than the full amount? Discuss ways to save/earn extra money to plow back onto the debt. Bounce ideas off of each other. Support other group members in their personal struggles and celebrate the small victories. When someone reaches a milestone, such as one credit card paid off, celebrate. When someone becomes debt free, throw an all out (but budget friendly) bash.
Budgeting is terribly unsexy and can feel quite confining. If you’re having trouble creating or sticking to a budget, get a group together to help each other through the process. Talk about different ways to budget (Quicken? Create your own spreadsheet? Crayons on paper?) and how to adjust a budget as circumstances change. Help each other account for “missing money” and unexpected expenses. Help each other stick to a budget by discussing savings tips and areas that can be cut if the need arises. Keep each other accountable.
Maybe you know a bunch of people who are devoted to Dave Ramsey or Suze Orman. Maybe everyone you know likes Jean Chatzky or Robert Kiyosaki. Whoever your guru of choice is, get a group together to discuss his or her ideas, methods, and recent activities. If your guru has a TV show, schedule your meeting around that each week. If your guru will be appearing in your area, try to get tickets for your group to attend.
There are book clubs for all kinds of interests, why not start one about finance? Pick books that are challenging, but also pick some that are easier to balance things out. Discuss the pros and cons of each book and talk about the strategies that you can use in your own life. What are the “take away’s” of each book? Talk about things you find confusing and seek out the answers if you need to. Some authors are willing to answer questions from clubs, or they might have additional materials that they can send you. If an author comes to town, go to his or her readings if you can.
Of course, you can further your group’s financial education in other ways. There are many documentaries on the market about debt, market implosions, and other financial topics. Netflix has quite a few to choose from. You can also enroll your group in an inexpensive finance class offered through your local community college. You can even have each member of the group subscribe to a different financial magazine and share the issues amongst the group, discussing them as you go along. There are plenty of ways to get smarter about finance while keeping it social. Think of what you want to learn and then figure out how to make it fun.
Family Finance Night
In order to get the family saving money, have a monthly family finance night. Fix a nice meal or make this night your one splurge for the month with pizza or take out from a favorite restaurant. If you’re trying to pay off debt, make a tracking chart and use this night to update it. Let the kids mark the progress. If you’re saving for a goal like a vacation or a new car, make this the night you talk about your progress and motivate the troops to continue to do good work. Pull out the travel guides or car brochures and make some plans. Dream together for a while.
If the kids are saving their allowances for something special, track their progress and help them figure where and how to best spend their money. Award a small prize for the best saver that month. If grandma and grandpa are helping with the goal, let this be the night you call them and involve them in the discussion. If you’re just trying to generally cut costs, let each person contribute to the discussion and offer ideas so no one feels like they aren’t being heard. For entertainment, play some money-related board games like Monopoly or Payday or watch money-related videos. Including the kids in financial matters educates and empowers them to make their own choices later on.
A lot of environmentally friendly ideas also save quite a bit of money. If you know people who are interested in the environment, get together and discuss ideas that are both good for your wallet and the environment. Maybe you want to discuss gardening or energy conservation techniques. Maybe you want to talk about how to recycle for money or how to conserve water. Maybe you can discuss how to reduce consumption in general and trade ideas for reusing or remaking items you already own. Crafty people can give demonstrations on how to turn old objects into new things. Perhaps you can even organize swaps among group members for clothing, books, tools, or other items.
There are lots of ways to remove the isolation of saving money. You don’t have to go it alone and it doesn’t have to be boring drudge work. Find some like-minded friends and form a group to tackle your money saving goals. Make it a fun occasion and saving money will become something you look forward to, rather than something to be avoided. A bonus: If you know you will be accountable to other group members, you’ll probably save more than you will going it alone.
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