Saving for Long Term Travel Introducing the “Feeding Piggy” Game
“The importance of money flows from it being a link between the present and the future.” –John Maynard Keynes
Over time, I’ll tell you about the many things we are doing to save money for our travels, but I don’t think any of our methods will be nearly as much fun as the game the bipeds have been playing for years now.
You ready? The game is “Feeding Piggy” and here are the rules!
- Pay for things in cash all day. Use your bills, bank card (Interact) or credit cards.
- Once home, put ALL of your change from the day into your piggy bank.
- That’s it. That’s the game. It’s that simple.
What? You don’t think it’s fun. Oh you really don’t get it, do you?! Let me see if I can explain further the craziness of this.
The concept is related to the new buzz word in the world of saving money.” The word is “gamification.” The theory is, if you want to take positive action, you need to harness the same mechanics that make games fun and addictive.
Addictive. Sounds evil, doesn’t it? I have a sudden urge to do a Count Dracula laugh right now. (Clears throat.) Mwahahahaaa… ahmmm. Sorry. Where was I?
Fun and Games.
Oddly, “feeding piggy” didn’t actually start as a savings strategy. Rather, Dad has always dropped his coins in a piggy bank. Like most men, Dad carries his change in his pockets. It’s annoyingly heavy, especially since here in Canada we have the looney and toonie (large $1 and $2 coins). As Dad routinely emptied his heavy pockets, he’d put all of the small change into his piggy bank and keep the larger coins out. When our cleaning lady found loose change in pockets (or under the sofa!), she knew where to put it. She’s so honest; bless her!
Anyway, then we made the big decision to take longer trips. And longer trips mean more expensive, which meant we needed to begin some serious saving! We started by emptying Piggy and counting up the change.
We collected $225.77 over the first two years. Without even trying. Without feeling any difference. So the bipeds began to wonder what would happen if they started putting all of their change into Piggy, not just the small stuff. And – get this! – Mom purchased her own Piggy and now, the game is on: who can collect the most change!
- Instead of just the small change, the bipeds put all of their coins into their respective Piggies. This includes our $1 and $2 coins. (If you want to do this and you live in a country without dollar coins – the United States, for example – you might want to amend the rules so that $1 bills count as change.)
- The bipeds make fewer transactions with debit or credit. Instead, almost everything is done with cash, which leaves left over change to feed the Piggies. It’s gotten to the point where the bipeds feel disappointed whey they have to make a purchase with a dedit card (Note: Using cash only also tends to make people spend less).
- The bipeds have also adjusted some of their routine purchases in order to generate more change. For example, Mom’s daily Matcha tea (made with coconut milk) order at work came to $4.15 for a large. She downsized to a medium. As a result, she not only saves money but also, because she still has to break a $5 bill to pay, she has more change for her Piggy.
The bipeds’ competition hasn’t yet got to the point where they’re stuffing $5 bills into change machines just to have more coins to put in their Piggies. But I don’t know if that’s because they are just not that crazy or if it’s just a matter of time.
So here we are, a crazy bunch of change collecting maniacs! Our strategy shows that, no matter your goal, saving will work better if you can find a way to make it a game. I’ve noticed humans do chores because they have to, but they play games because they want to. And humans always do better with things they want to do.
Feeding Piggy has all the components that “gamification” needs to have. Think of a good video game to better understand the components.
Putting coins into the piggy bank is like acquiring points in a video game, complete with the validating “chink-a-chink” sound-effect to let you know you scored. Just like any video game, watching the points rise offers a sense of achievement.
But, if we are honest, it’s the sense of competition between the bipeds that really has Feeding Piggy firing up into a fun game.
The addictive component of gamification enters the game because there is “variability.” Some days, there are more opportunities to collect change than on other days. Where the fun lies is in the bipeds’ ability to influence that variability. The fact that they can change their behavior (exchange the coffee order) to “rack up more points” is what makes this really feel like a game. The bipeds want to “game up” or take it to the “next level”! They are getting rather creative, I must say!
I believe the concept of gamification can be applied to many other things just as it works for saving for our travel. Think of what gamification could do for your plans to exercise, change your eating habits, or reduce the amount of time you spend watching television.
In fact, I know gamification can work for things other than savings. When Mom was in her 20’s, she smoked. (I know! I was shocked too!) Mom quit smoking by putting the money she would have spent on cigarettes and lighters (she was always loosing those) into a change jar. She got a lot of satisfaction out of watching her money pile grow. At the end of the year, she had enough money to take a fabulous skiing trip in Austria with a friend. Gamification worked when she was a young, single, twenty-something year old, and it’s working even better now that she is competing against Dad to bring in the most change over the day. Why?
Because the winner gets to decide how ALL of the money from BOTH
Piggies gets spent on the trip!
For my part, whoever takes me on a walk gets to keep any of the change I find on the sidewalks, in the grass, and under the benches. Oooh, I wonder what happens if I find a bill?!
Gamification … who knew? How do you trick yourself into saving more?
*Updated post from November 2012.