How gaming taught me frugality

tl;dr – In going after every coin in the game, I learned to work hard to earn something in exchange for something I need.

There was a Spongebob Squarepants marathon playing on Nickelodeon the other night, and around the third hour in, I mindlessly wondered which character in the show reflected me the most. Without thinking, I immediately thought of my two favorite characters: Squidward and Mr. Krabs.

I think fundamentally that’s who I am, a frustrated introvert who listens to NPR and likes money. But upon realizing this cold, hard truth, I began thinking how my money-hogging mentality was developed in the first place.

And instinctively my first memory went to playing Super Mario Land on the original Game Boy. Unlike everyone around me at the time, I didn’t have a NES or Duck Hunt when I was a kid. I remember not even understanding the concept of Super Mario Land, since the only other video game experience I ever had was Tetris. “The man jumps? What’s so special about that?” It wasn’t until my brother called me a dumbass out of frustration and told me to go right did I finally understand the point of the game: to get to the end of the stage, on the right.

I sucked at playing the game, a lot. But I did figure out that having extra lives (or 1UP!) will make the game a lot easier, and the simplest way to earn extra lives (besides doing a thorough search of every stage, which isn’t very simple) is to obtain 100 coins. That was effectively my first experience with money. I know it’s silly, but it was honestly the first time in my life where I had to work hard to earn something in exchange for something I need.

And so, I started going after every coin in the game. I would go out of my way just for that extra coin, because I knew that coin would not only bring me 1% closer to an extra life, but that extra life would also give me a sense of security for the more challenging times ahead.

Jump after jump and coin after coin, the game was slowly teaching me to be grateful with the things that came my way and to make good use of everything. This mentality has expanded from Super Mario Land twenty years ago to almost everything I now do in real life.

It’s not exclusively a money thing either. In fact, it has never been how much money I have in my bank accounts. But from tangible goods to the relationships with my friends and family, I am grateful for everything I have simply because I had work hard for it at one time or another.

What about you? What has gaming taught you about frugality, personal finance, or anything else that you practice in real life?

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