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Let’s Make Money Fun

If money just feels like a source of anxiety, maybe it’s time to reclaim the fun side of spending, says Money Mentalist Lynda Moore.

27 November 2022

Like many Kiwi families, when I was growing up, we would go camping every summer holidays. In the evenings we played games, and Monopoly was our favourite. Somehow Dad always seemed to win, but that didn’t stop the whole family having a great time, with lots of fun and laughter as we went in and out of jail, bought and sold property, paid rent, and collected $200 as we passed Go. That was my first introduction to money, and even though I knew it wasn’t real, it was fun.

When does money stop being fun?

Maybe it’s when we have to start paying for our own cost of living, and learning how far (or not) money goes. I can still remember getting my first pay from my full-time job as a 17-year-old: a brown paper envelope with cash in it. I tipped it out on my desk, counted it and off I went to buy a lovely white sheepskin rug I had had my eye on for quite some time. That was definitely fun! Then reality hit when I got home: Mum was less impressed with the rug, since I’d spent my board money on it.

For so many years as a young adult it was a chore to manage my money. Money was a source of angst, occasionally a touch of excitement, but the fun was gone.

Are you taking money too seriously?

As we mature, life compels us to get serious about money. Mental accounting kicks in, and we tuck our money away into little buckets in our mind: the mortgage or rent; the bills; the kids; and, if you’re lucky, retirement. There’s often nothing left for the fun bucket.

We start to hear more about the B word (budget), we are told what we should and shouldn’t do with our money to get a loan. We are told we need to be frugal to get ahead financially.

Let’s make money fun again. Let’s reclaim the fun bucket. Stop being scared of money, of not understanding how to manage it, not having enough of it, and worrying about it constantly. Going on holiday is fun, but can you make paying the power bill fun, too?

Being grateful for everything you buy

How do you make day-to-day essential spending fun? By practising gratitude! I learned this from Kate Northrup, and I share it with all my clients. Be grateful when you are paying for something. Let’s take power as an example. We all complain about our power bill; let’s flip that. What if we didn’t have power? We wouldn’t be able to turn on the light to read this magazine for starters or watch Netflix! Be grateful for that. Whatever you do with your money, be grateful for what it enables you to do for yourself and others.

In Ken Honda’s book, Happy Money, he explains that part of making money fun is being able to receive money, enjoy money and share it. Paying a restaurant bill for a meal you ate on your own, for example, is not as much fun as paying for dinner with your best friend, even if it costs twice as much.

Giving, sharing or splurging

The idea of being happy about spending money often makes my clients feel a little guilty. We know there are a lot of families struggling. But finding a way to share your wealth can be one of the best parts of having money. I support a number of local charities and each year they phone me and say, ‘Thank you for your donation of $X last year – can you help with the same this year?’. ‘No,’ I say, ‘I can help you with more.’ One of my fun buckets is giving back.

Think about which spending brings you the most joy. It might be buying possessions, but it’s probably not. A more lasting source of joy could be a kayaking trip with your family. Or a night out with your friends where you don’t think too hard about how much the cocktails cost. It could be donating money, or gift giving.

Setting aside some guilt-free fun money

Having some guilt-free spending money can help even if you’re trying to save. Being on a very restrictive spending diet can make you burn out quickly or feel guilty even buying necessities like trips to the doctor. A little bit of fun can help keep you on track with your spending and saving goals. Here’s a way to get started:

  1. Look at what you are currently spending, and find one thing you can change, by reducing what you spend.
  2. Open a ‘My fun money account’ and pop the money in there. You might start with just $5 a week.
  3. When you say no to something because you don’t really want it, pop that money into your fun money account.
  4. At the end of the month, have a look in that account and see how much is there.
  5. Decide on something you want to do with it that is going make you feel good and be fun. Maybe it is buying yourself a treat, giving it away, or rolling it over to the next month so you can put it towards a holiday. There is no judgement on what you choose to do.

Practise gratitude, practise conscious spending, practise sharing and, before you know it, you will have made money fun!

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