Spend Nothing Game: If You’re Not Having Fun, You’re Doing It Wrong

by Randy Murray on March 9, 2010

30,000 strong and growing!  I’ve been overwhelmed with the response to this simple game so far.

So let’s take a moment and talk about the basic concept: make avoiding unnecessary spending into a game.

Let me give you an example. Last week I was away from my home office around noon, but not far away. As I drove through town I saw the sign for the place that sells Philly Cheese Steaks. I thought about how long it had been since I’d had one and thought, “should I get one or should I just go home and make lunch?” And in a few minutes, I was sitting down with my cheese steak and fries. Now don’t get me wrong, it was tasty, but soon after I felt it sitting heavy on my stomach. And I continued to feel that way the rest of the afternoon. And it cost me over eight bucks. It didn’t take me long to regret giving in to temptation.

I can only speak for myself, but I’m betting you might feel this way too from time to time.

We humans are amazingly bad at predicting what will make us happy. I’m nearly fifty years old and I should know by now, shouldn’t I? But in those moments of desire and hunger, we think only of that thing right in front of us. That will make us happy, right?

To play the game and make it about fun and pleasure, not about sacrifice and deprivation, I have to ask you to do a very mature thing. When you are faced with spending money on a non-essential purpose, don’t think of that moment when you buy it or when you consume it (or whatever you do with it), but think instead of that time after and remember how you’ve felt in similar circumstances. Try and remember what you’ve decided you really want in life. Does this thing you currently have in front of you and think you really want get you closer to your ultimate goals and desires? Does it still seem attractive?

Faced with hunger and the cheese steak sign in front of me, I thought only about how good it would be to sink my teeth into it. But if I could have thought about how I’d feel afterward, really remember accurately how I’ve felt before, I might have turned towards home. And I wouldn’t regret the sacrifice, but feel relieved at dodging a bullet and saving my money.

And if you really want to have fun, get together with a few friends, lay out the game rules and see who can go the longest AND still have fun. Let’s go out and NOT spend money!

Here are few examples of fun things you can do for free:

  • Attend a free high school or college concert. Check your local (and likely free) newspaper for listings.
  • Visit local art galleries. In Columbus we have the “Gallery Hop” on the first Saturday night of every month.
  • Plan a “progressive” dinner for you friends and other game players. A progressive dinner is one where each person/household makes one course, and then everyone moves on to the next home. It’s cheaper for each household than preparing a big meal for friends. Consider planning around a theme!
  • Or plan one meal with all of your friends and game players each brining a dish or component and make your own version of the Spend Nothing Game stew!
  • Host a garage sale (also known as yard or tag sales in other parts of the country). Use your earnings from the sale to finance a special event where you do need to spend money.

Send me your examples!  Leave them in the comments below.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 missy March 9, 2010 at 4:07 pm

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it doesn’t matter how happy a big, huge major food “treat” makes me at the time I eat it, the regret later is always, always huge. Like I said a week or so ago, sometimes to get to “happy” you have to be willing to go through a little “unhappy” first.

Great post and 30,000! Subscribers or hits? Either way, I am most impressed.


2 Randy Murray March 10, 2010 at 8:31 am

Over 30,000 separate readers. Stumbleupon lists 29,000 and they’re just one source!



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