Budgeting and saving money may be the responsible things for any working stiff to do, but that doesn’t make them any fun. But all of that changes when you turn good financial planning into a video game. Then, saving becomes surprisingly enjoyable.
For years, reports have been circulating around the Internet on how popular games like World of Warcraft and FarmVille inadvertently teach players good financial planning through the use of an in-game economy and currency. A number of developers are now taking this revelation one step further with apps and online games designed to help users reach their financial goals through a video-game-style leveling system. This new breed of software is fun, affordable and – in our opinion – surprisingly effective. Here are a few games that are worth giving a try.
1) Payoff. Payoff is a new startup service that makes achieving your financial goals a rewarding experience. After you enter your goal into the system, Payoff will link itself to your financial accounts. It’ll set a number of benchmarks, and you’ll be rewarded for making progress.
When you reach a benchmark, you’ll receive a badge, a token or possibly even a cash “sur-prize” of up to $25. The numerous checkpoints and rewards put your goals in perspective and help keep you motivated throughout the entire process, making it easy to keep up momentum until you cross the finish line. As far as we’re concerned, that kind of encouragement is an excellent payoff.
2) StickK. StickK is a general goal-setting app that can be used for anything from losing weight to starting a business to paying down your credit card debt. Curiously enough, the app is sort of like the antithesis of Payoff. Instead of earning rewards for reaching benchmarks, you can instead set “stakes” with StikK as a consequence for failing to reach your goal.
Setting “stakes” means putting up a certain amount of money into a sort of escrow. If you reach your goal for that period – like paying $100 back on your credit card – you’ll get your money back. If you don’t, the money will either be sent to a charity, an anti-charity (a company you hate) or a friend, in case you happened to be getting in financial shape as part of a wager. StikK also requires you to enlist a third-party referee for any proposed goal. The referee, often a friend or family member, is responsible for confirming your achievements (or lack thereof) to ensure that the system stays honest.
If you’re a big believer in the benefits of negative reinforcement, then StikK is certainly the service for you.
3) Cakehealth. Cakehealth allows you to have your cake and insure it too. This little medical expenses app has been called the “Mint of healthcare apps” because it combines both medical expense budgeting and healthy living into one comprehensive piece of software.
The app makes managing your physical and financial well-being fun. Colorful status bars track your progress in several categories. The more responsible and healthy you are, the fuller the bars become. It’s a simple program but an incredibly useful one if you’ve got a chronic medical condition that needs caring for
4) Epic Win. You can’t talk about “gamified” apps without mentioning the granddaddy of them all – Epic Win. Epic Win turns your to-do list into an immersive RPG game that features loot, leveling up and the occasional epic battle.
Every time you complete a task – like paying a bill or going to the grocery store – you’ll move up a space on the game board and uncover new, rare items to equip your avatar with. Additionally, Epic Win recognizes different categories of chores and will level up your avatar’s stats accordingly, so while your neighbor might finish the game as a financial wizard, you might find yourself as a scrub-brush-wielding Viking, depending on how dirty your kitchen is. At the moment, Epic Win is only available for the iPhone, but it’s so useful and fun that it might be worth an Android user’s while to pick up an iPhone just to play it.
If you’re having trouble keeping your finances in order, then you might not be having enough fun with your budget. With the help of these awesome financial games, you can pay down your debts and level up through all of your financial goals faster than a Blood Elf Paladin with an Heirloom item set. For all of you non-geeks out there, that guy levels up crazy fast.