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3 Ways to Save Money You Might Actually Find Fun

A happy young couple cooking at home.

Image source: Getty Images

Whenever my husband mentions that we’ve been spending extra and that it’s time to buckle down and focus on adding to our savings account, I get a little grumpy.

It’s not that I’m bad at saving money. I’m actually pretty good at it. But I like to save money passively — namely, by automating contributions to different accounts. I don’t like to have to think about ordering takeout less often or saying no to social plans because I’m trying to bank a few extra bucks.

The reality, though, is that saving money is super important, and there are a lot of people who really need to get serious about doing it. Last year, SecureSave reported that 63% of working Americans could not immediately cover an unplanned $500 expense. That’s scary, especially when you consider that the cost of a single home or car repair could well exceed $500.

That’s why it’s important to find ways to make saving money more fun — so, you know, you’ll actually do it. Here are a few tricks that have worked for me in the past, and they may work well for you, too.

1. Do a spending challenge with a friend or partner

When my husband and I were first married, it was much easier to pick up and take a vacation or go out to dinner than it is now that we have kids. But back then, we were often a bit more free with our spending than we should’ve been.

So at times, we would get serious about saving — in a silly way — by challenging each other to see who could be more frugal. What we did was keep a log of our spending and record the various ways we’d saved a few dollars here and there, such as if one of us scored a $2 off coupon at the supermarket.

My husband took the game to an extreme one time by calling our cable provider and negotiating a discounted rate. I then tried to match his prowess by negotiating our cellphone bill, to no avail. But I was glad that he was playing the game in such a cutthroat fashion because his efforts saved us money on cable for an entire year.

2. Learn to cook

Restaurant and takeout spending are a big expense in my family. Sometimes, it’s worth it. But there have been periods where we’ve tried to cut back big time. And a system that’s worked for us is to try to emulate some of our favorite restaurant dishes at home.

What I like about this is that it’s a fun activity you can do with a partner or friend, and you can not only save money, but also enjoy the personal satisfaction of knowing you’ve mastered a dish you love. Now I’ll admit freely that I’ve yet to attempt to make my own sushi. But I’ve learned to make my fair share of Indian and Thai dishes — two of my favorite cuisines. And that’s been a source of pride.

3. Create a rewards program

When I lived alone before meeting my husband, saving money was something I typically did solo. To make things more pleasant, I used to create a rewards system for meeting different milestones.

One month, I told myself that if I hit a certain savings target, I was treating myself to my own internet connection (back then, I used to bum a signal off of my upstairs neighbor by sitting outside his apartment with my laptop). Another time, I told myself I could buy frozen yogurt from my favorite shop three nights in a row.

A rewards program might motivate you to work toward your savings goals because there’s a benefit outside of seeing your bank account balance rise. And it might make you hate the process a lot less.

Saving money may not be inherently fun. But you can make it fun — or at least bearable — using tactics like these.

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The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.Maurie Backman has positions in Target. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Target. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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