How To Play (And Win) At The Abundance Game

Money and abundance are very different things.

Money and abundance are very different things.

I have a secret weapon. It’s not the kind of secret weapon that I conceal in my clothing and pull out when I need it. It’s the kind of secret weapon that I use in my personal development when I think it will help me develop new superhero powers.

It’s the abundance game.

Before I tell you any more about it, let me ask you a question: What would you do if you won the lottery today and had $1,000,000 to spend? Or more?

I’ve asked many people this question, and most responses fall into two categories. Some people start rattling off the things they would buy and do with the money. They’d pay off their mortgage, cars, credit cards, travel, and help out family. But the things they rattle off don’t add up to much. Other people get excited and start talking about buying a house here, a vacation home in several exotic locations, expensive sports cars and more. And these items add up to much more than one million dollars.

So I ask you: What would you do if you won the lottery today and had $1,000,000 to spend? Or more?

Spending Money

Everyone has a unique relationship with money. No two people use it in the same way. Your relationship with money is a complicated issue that is influenced by many factors, including:

  • Your parent’s relationship with money and the budget of your childhood home.
  • Your earning power and the sense of entitlement that comes with your budget and work choice.
  • Your sense of happiness and contentment in your life.
  • Your priorities and what you want to accomplish now in your life.
  • Your values and the importance you place on things that money can buy.
  • Your dreams and aspirations, including your life list or bucket list items.
  • Your spiritual orientation and what you believe you deserve in this life.
  • Your financial history, especially if you have been through either a financial hardship or a time of an unexpected financial windfall.

In our society, we categorize people as either spenders or savers, but this system really oversimplifies how people relate to money. And it has nothing to do with the how a person experiences abundance.

Money vs. Abundance

Many people don’t separate money from abundance, but they are actually very separate and distinct things.

  • Money is currency, a way to exchange goods and services between people based on perceived value. Money can be counted and measured, which also means it can be gained and lost. Money requires management and protection.
  • Abundance is a sense of well being, a feeling of appreciation for the things in our lives. Abundance is an outlook, a way of looking at life, that anyone can have no matter their financial situation. Abundance creates a real freedom to enjoy and participate in life.
Money can't buy happiness no matter where you shop.

Money can't buy happiness no matter where you shop.

Money and abundance don’t always go together. A person with a lovely home, a new luxury vehicle, fashionable clothes, and a large bank balance can look at the world and feel a sense of abundance because of these things. But having money doesn’t automatically give you a sense of abundance. That same person with all of these things could feel a sense of lack because a friend just moved into a nicer neighborhood, or a neighbor has a new sports car in the garage, or their wardrobe is one season out of fashion. They may have the sense that they are never rich enough to afford what they really want.

In the same way, a person of very modest means who gets by without many of their desires and some of life’s conveniences can look at their life and feel angry that they didn’t get enough from life. They can feel that life owes them something, and get angry when they see people who have more and do more. Or, that same person can have a sense of abundance that allows them to appreciate the things they do have, and find a deep sense of joy in them, even though the facts have not changed. A person with a sense of abundance can see the wealth of others and feel joy without having to possess the same things.

The Abundance Advantage

Whatever your financial situation, you can develop a sense of abundance right where you are. You can have a way of looking at the world that gives you joy and allows you to appreciate the richness of your world without gaining a single dollar of income or savings. The formula is simple, but not always easy. A sense of abundance comes from focusing on the benefits you already have, appreciating the good things already around you. Many of them are things that money can’t buy. It’s about seeing the wonder in life, the miracles that happen every day around you. It’s about taking your eyes off the things that you don’t like and letting go of ideas that make you sad or angry, and shifting your focus to things you appreciate. It’s about changing from looking at the glass half empty to seeing the glass half full.

Gaining an abundance outlook isn’t something you do once and you have forever like a college degree. It’s something that you must constantly adjust to stay on track. It’s about taking a series of steps toward that goal each day, or each time you realize that you don’t feel abundant in the moment. It’s a lifestyle. It’s about choosing the person you want to be and then being that person every hour of every day. The best part is, it doesn’t cost anything to develop an abundance outlook. It’s available to everyone who wants it and who invests the effort to seek it.

Maintaining My Own Abundance

Like many people, I have a long and interesting relationship with money and abundance. I’ve had lots of money (relatively speaking). I’ve been broke. I’ve had a sense of abundance when my bank account is empty, and when it is full. I’ve had a sense of desperation (a lack of abundance) with money and without money. Through these experiences, and through my choice to be a glass half full gal, I’ve found my path to abundance. Sure, it needs adjusting occasionally, and I get some surprises that show me the chinks in my abundance armor, but these are part of the abundance lifestyle. I get that. And the benefits of feeling abundant most of the time are worth so much more than any of the petty costs along the way.

One tool I use to build and enhance my sense of abundance is the abundance game I learned from a teacher many years ago. This game challenges me to feel more abundant without changing my income. I’m playing it right now, and I’ve been talking about some of my experiences on Twitter. Some of you have asked me about the abundance game. So I’m sharing it with you here.

The Abundance Game

The abundance game is something you play by yourself using paper. It challenges you to spend increasing amounts of money each day. The abundance game is really easy to play. There are only a few simple rules.

  1. The first day, you spend $1,000. Every day, you must spend one thousand dollars more than you spent the day before. So day 1 is $1,000, day 2 is $2,000, day 15 is $15,000, etc.
  2. What you don’t spend carries over to the next day.
  3. You can’t spend more than you have any day. But you can save up money over a few days to have enough to purchase something.

To make playing easier, I’ve created an Excel spreadsheet that keeps track of the daily income, what I spend, any money carried over, and a running total of what I’ve spent. You can download my spreadsheet, or you can keep track in your own spreadsheet or on a notepad. There are no special tools required. I’ve filled in a couple of examples for you in the spreadsheet. Just delete my entries and start filling in your own.

Spend the money in any way you want. Indulge your every craving. Be generous with others. Do whatever you feel inspired to do. There are no right or wrong ways to spend this money. You will not incur any karma or anger any of the people in your life. Go for it!

Game Strategies

Your strategy makes all the difference in how you succeed in the game.

Your strategy makes all the difference in how you succeed.

I’m going to be totally honest here: Until now, I’ve never gotten past 15 days of playing the abundance game. I’m currently on day 49 as I write this which means I’ve spent over $1,200,000. In other words, I’ve had a huge breakthrough in my own sense of abundance. Here is some of what I’ve learned in this round of the abundance game.

  1. Make it fun from the start. In the past, I always was practical. I paid off my bills first, and that took many days, even weeks. While I was waiting around to accumulate enough money to pay them off, I got bored with the game. It lost it’s thrill. I don’t recommend this strategy.
  2. Don’t be too practical. This time, I decided that I would splurge first and be practical later. I figured out the bills I wanted to pay off, and scheduled them so they would be covered in the first month. But that first month also allowed me to buy lots of items and experiences that I’ve always wanted. That made it fun and kept it juicy for me.
  3. Break out of your small expectations. Very quickly, I realized that my real world budget had trained me to only want so much. I realized that I had a hard time remembering the things I had wanted over the years. It took some effort to start remembering things. But once I found that groove, more and more things came rushing back to me. So don’t give up! Keep a running list of the things you have wanted in your life. In real life, you have to be practical. But in the abundance game, the sky really is the limit. Go for it!
  4. Create a wish list of items separate from the game. I started using the side columns of the spreadsheet to figure out things I wanted to buy in the game. When I was in the mood, I’d go out online and research the cost of the items or experiences. I’d record these in a column (cost and description) and sort them in cost order. Then, each day playing the game, I’d start with my wish list and buy the items that fit the day’s abundance budget and seemed the most exciting. Separating the cost research from the game really improved my experience.
  5. The sky is the limit! In real life, you have practical budget concerns, but in the game, you can splurge. For example, I decided to fly my entire family to Phoenix for the holidays. But I didn’t research coach seats for the flight–I got them all first class seats. I also booked each family a suite at a local resort. I included money so they could ship their presents here, and gave them spending money. I also rented each licensed driver a car they would love for the week. Think big! Don’t skimp!
  6. When you find something fun, buy more of them. My purchases run in themes. A few times, I’ve stared at the spreadsheet and wondered what in the world I could buy next. Once I got a single idea, I used variations of that to keep me running for a while. There are definitely times when new ideas are easier than others. I just refused to give up when it got hard to spend more money.
  7. Think of things to give other than just cash. I’ve given away a lot of money. Apart from a few favorite charities, I haven’t just given cash. Instead, I’ve found creative ways to give money. I purchased Visa gift cards with $250 credit and handed out 50 of them to students in the ASU bookstore each semester for a year. I figured out the cost for a family of 4 to attend a Diamondbacks game, buy hot dogs and drinks, and a shirt for each person, and put the cost on a Diamondbacks gift certificate and handed out 50 of them at the Arizona Mills mall. Don’t just give money, do things that enrich the lives of others and lets you interact with them. I felt the joy of handing out those gifts to people (even in my imagination), and without spending a dollar, I felt amazing.
  8. Help fund great causes in your own backyard. Look for people and organizations in your community who are doing good work and fund them. In the game, I funded an Ignite Phoenix event, a TEDxPhoenix event, and sponsored the next PodCampAZ afterparty. I funded St. Mary’s food bank and ran the St. Vincent de Paul dining room for a month. I contributed to organizations working to make downtown Phoenix a better place.

Keep it fun! I’ve set a goal for the number of days I want to play the game. When I reach that number, I can stop or I can decide if I want to keep playing. If it isn’t fun, shake it up a bit before you quit. And when you quit, think about what you learned and prepare to dive back into it in the future.

I’m really excited to hear what you do with the game! Please share your experiences and the kinds of things you buy here with this community.

Later, I’ll blog about the life lessons I’ve learned from this round of the abundance game. Stay tuned!

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About author:

Charlene is the information strategist behind Crow Information Design.

10 Responses to “How To Play (And Win) At The Abundance Game”

  1. You are so amazing! What a lovely, smart person you are. We could all learn from you. I love your comments on abundance and how we can feel like we live abundantly regardless of how much money we have in the bank. My life is more abundant with you in it! Timely message, happy holidays! <3

    • Charlene says:

      Thanks, Jenn. The economy is tough, the holidays are here, it’s so easy to get caught up in what we can’t do. I know you truly appreciate the small joys of daily living with your little guy mending and your life getting back to normal.

  2. Debra Snider says:

    Excellent post – so well done! I often think about the difference between goals and outcomes, goals being the right things to use to frame our actions, outcomes being nice, desirable, but not things that can effectively motivate us or make one set of actions clearly better than another. Abundance is a perfect example of a goal; money is a perfect example of an outcome. As you so persuasively illustrate, the pursuit of money per se is a sucker bet. It may make us happy, it may not, but the goal is happiness.

    Your abundance game is fascinating. What fun to imagine and brainstorm in a way that not only creates blueprints for a rich future, but provides measurable joy and satisfaction whether or not actual dollars ever materialize.

    Thanks for a very thoughtful and thought-provoking post!
    .-= Debra Snider´s last blog ..A Little Help? =-.

  3. Kelli says:

    This is my favorite part: Gaining an abundance outlook isn’t something you do once and you have forever like a college degree. It’s something that you must constantly adjust to stay on track. It’s about taking a series of steps toward that goal each day, or each time you realize that you don’t feel abundant in the moment. It’s a lifestyle. It’s about choosing the person you want to be and then being that person every hour of every day. The best part is, it doesn’t cost anything to develop an abundance outlook. It’s available to everyone who wants it and who invests the effort to seek it.

    Today, I am going to get myself back on this track and remind myself how very abundant my life is.
    Thank you!

  4. Charlene says:

    Debra: Thanks for explaining goals vs. outcomes. I’m sure that will help many people gain clarity.

    Kelli: You know the abundance of your life better than most people I know.

  5. Kim DuBois says:

    Isn’t it amazing how limited we become trained to be! As children the sky really was the limit, and we had no trouble imaging all the fun and crazy things we wanted, but somewhere along the way life boxes us in I think. This is a great exercise! It shows us just how small a box we’re living in, and at the same time helps us break free! I’ve known of this game for awhile but have never heard it explained so well. Thank you!

  6. Charlene says:

    Kim: Thanks for your enthusiastic comment. I’d love to hear what you learn as you play the game.

  7. Perri Collins says:

    Charlene,
    I remember when u were telling me about this little game. I had no idea it had such larger implications. I think you’re freakin’ awesome

  8. Charlene says:

    Perri: Thanks for making me smile ear to ear. The game is awesome, I’ve just tried to capture it and my experience with it in words.

  9. Luke says:

    And this is the main reason I love blog.crowinfodesign.clm. Insightful post.

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