The words "budgeting" and "game" together in the same sentence seem to form an oxymoron. Something as dreary as budgeting, however, can be fun. It just takes some imagination and creativity. The real winner in this game is the two of you. You'll know how much you spend and on what. So on your mark, get ready, go.
How Low Can You Go
Challenge each other to see how low you can go on your daily expenses. Add up what each of you spends per week on magazines, coffee, lunch, movies, entertainment and such. See how much money you can save. You can't cut out an expense totally -- that would be too easy. In other words, if you always have a muffin and latte for your morning break and it costs $4.50 every day, you still have that break. You could substitute a muffin from home and coffee from the office kitchen instead. Another example would be renting a movie instead of going to the theater or having friends over for potluck instead of buying dinner at a restaurant.
Name That Price
List your monthly expenses on index cards. The name of the expense goes on the front and the other side is left blank. Shuffle the cards. Each of you draws a card until they're all gone. As you draw each card, guess how much you spend each month on that expense and write down the total on the card. At the end of the month, total up all the expenses. The winner is the person who comes closest to the correct expense amount or the one who gets the most expenses correct.
List all your credit cards, their interest rates, minimum payments and total balances. When you get over the shock, each of you select a credit card and then guess how long it will take to pay off the balance at the minimum payment. Add $100 to the minimum payment and guess again, and finally add $200 to the minimum payment. Find out how long it really takes using an online debt calculator. You may be surprised at the answers. You are likely to see that the only winners when you just make minimum payments are the credit card issuers.
Shuffle the Deck
List one unforeseen expense, such as car repair, dental work, veterinarian bills or impulse purchases, on the back of an index card. Assign half of the family's monthly income to each of you. Mix in the unforeseen expense cards with cards that list your regular expenses for rent, utilities, telephone and food -- one on each card. Each of you picks a card and must subtract that expense from your income. The person who runs out of money first loses.
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