Gamifying the Power of Habit To Reach Your Personal Finance Goals

by Vincent King · 3 comments

Video gamer

Gamification used to rest only on the outskirts of society.

It involved people staying up all hours of the night speaking in foreign tongues, living secret lives of mystical time travel, and using weapons of intelligence to reach their destination.

Dungeons and Dragons was the ultimate game.

Now, gamification is everywhere. Want to shed pounds or get shredded? There’s a game for it. It’s called Fitocracy.

Want to enforce a new habit you’re trying to form? There’s a game for that, too. It’s called Streaks.

Offering Rewards

Gamification makes our must-dos fun. It grants us the immediate satisfaction we need to successfully change our lives.

Changing a lifetime of bad habits suddenly becomes easier. Thanks to Charles Duhigg and “The Power of Habit,” the world now knows “all” you have to do is tweak and adjust a few key things, and changing bad habits become easy.

Gamification and the Power of Habit

In his research, Duhigg found that there are three steps to a habit: the cue, the routine, and the reward.

When we know why we do things, we’re able to change them by changing the routine that delivers the same reward.

Many times, bad habits have the same reward: instant gratification.

Trying to diet hasn’t worked in the past, because it takes weeks to see results, maybe longer. Trying to pay down debt hasn’t worked, because it seems to take forever with zero results.

We don’t work like that. We want to see results from our efforts — NOW!

We try for a while because we know we need to. We stretch our willpower until we feel strained, then we surrender after seeing no immediate gratification and determining that it’s simply too hard.

On the other hand, food gives us instant gratification. Our email dings give us instant gratification. Even our phones give us instant gratification. We’ve become conditioned to need immediate results for everything we do — and we love those thing for the rewards they give us.

Now, we must find a way to make saving our money or paying down debt give us instant gratification.

Bad habits

Gamify Your Money

While the apps out there are limited, and seem to be doing well in this arena. According to Forbes, the reason that personal finance gamification isn’t catching on as quickly is that the data is highly sensitive. People aren’t willing to share their personal numbers with just anyone.

So, what can you do? Follow these steps and gamify it yourself:

Find a trusted partner.

It can be your spouse or your best friend, but don’t try to go it alone. Gamification is always more effective when it’s social. If you want to take it a step further, form your own Facebook group. Don’t get crazy and start revealing your finances on Facebook, though. Keep your secrets.

Work on the honor system.

If you’re going to game the system, you’re only gaming yourself. It won’t work, and you won’t get results.

Make the rewards immediate.

That’s the key. Rewards are the trick to changing behaviors, remember? How can you set up rewards? Easy. Set up a badge system for yourself. After all, that’s all the apps do for fitness and self-improvement. Create your own badge using Photoshop or a free open-source photo editing program.

Set the rules.

Don’t make the rules so complicated that they’re difficult to stick to. Simplicity wins every time, and that’s the goal. Every time someone denies their urge to buy something, report it. Collect a badge. For every 10 badges, receive a bigger prize. It doesn’t have to be monetary — get creative! For optimum results, work on only one goal at a time.

Check in with your team members daily.

Make sure there’s a constant conversation around the goals you’ve set for yourselves.


  • Everyone’s goals don’t have to be the same. The aim of the game is to encourage and reward one another for the positive strides they’re making.
  • Don’t get personal. Unless you’re gaming with your spouse, don’t ask for details about specific financial situations.
  • Share relevant online content with your group.
  • Spend time curating images and bulletins yourself. You’re the leader of the group, right? It’s your job.
  • Share your successes on your personal social media pages. Pride in your own work will fuel your desire to pay off those cards or save for your emergency fund.

By making saving money fun and allowing yourself instant gratification, you’ll be well on your way to developing the habits of a highly frugal person and reaching your financial goals.

What other ways can you give yourself instant gratification for improving your finances?

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  • Bucksprout says:

    Bad habits do provide instant gratification. Building good habits by using a mobile app is a great motivator. Take for example fitness, while we don’t see instant results a friend or someone in a group who congratulates us is an awesome motivator. Gamification of personal finance is new territory. I think of games that I used to play (alright I still do) like Grand Theft Auto and games alike, I love those games so much because I get to experience the need and pursuit of satisfaction. Also the player has a purpose and path to follow in order to beat the game. In many cases, personal finance is not laid out like a game so it’s difficult for people to experience the satisfaction of saving or paying down debt.

  • Property Marbella says:

    There shouldn’t be any quick goals to reach. All good goals you set should be long-term and well planned so that you have the potential to change during the course of your strategy and tactics.

  • Jonathan says:

    Really interesting post. It takes about 6 weeks for me to develop a habit so when I’m setting my new years resolutions I have to work at them very hard!

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