Playing money games with real money

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At a recent workshop, we explored our relationship with money using money games. Everyone was asked to bring a 'meaningful' amount of money to the workshop.

After a round of introductions and exploring what money means to each of us, we set about trying to understand through a shorter version of the game, our feelings and beliefs about money in our lives and in society.

Round 1: we stood up in a circle and shared about why the amount we brought in was meaningful – the amounts brought in ranged from a penny to £200 pounds. While a penny was very meaningful to one person, £20 pounds was meaningful to another - we all had different stories about why an amount was meaningful.

Some participants confessed they had suspicions and fears when they received the workshop instructions about bringing money, which influenced the amount they decided to bring – ex: bringing an amount they could afford to lose if it was taken away from them as part of this game.

Round 2: We took 2 steps to the left, picked up the money in front of us and noticed our reactions to it (some had more than they brought, some less).

Round 3: I won't explain but you can see from the link below, how it can be played in a longer (2 hours) version.

After this, we took some time to write notes in silence about what we discovered. We then shared our insights and reactions in a group which was rich and useful for everyone.

Recreating an artificial environment with money games can still help us learn how we react to money in real life & provides food for thought. A good facilitator will help create a space where you feel comfortable enough to both explore in a group and have enough quiet time to introspect, encouraging you to be curious about your own reactions with as little judgement as possible.

You slow down and notice (as parts of the game are played silently), feel sensations in your body which is important and notice any particular habits or patterns you may not have seen before.

Sometimes it is giving money that is difficult, sometimes receiving. Sometimes saying no is really tough when asked for financial help. At other times, collecting or accumulating money is painful. There is a range of reactions including frozen fear, laughing gleefully, a sense of rebellion or deep sadness and grief.

I found it fascinating to play the money game myself. In one round, we were told to put our money on a pile on the floor with a clear marker near it. We were then instructed to collect money from other money piles if we wanted and place it in our pile. Other people could in turn then also take money from our own pile and put it in their pile. There was some laughter and a sense of mischief in the room; some participants really didn’t like picking up money from another person’s pile. What I noticed is that I really enjoyed picking up money and the process of gathering it – it did not bother me if I lost any if others picked up money from my pile- as long as I could keep going, I really enjoyed the busyness, the activity of it, like a queen bee. Interesting that I do enjoy being productive-busy and the process of working hard; I don't tend to obsess about how much I have gathered. I didn't feel frustrated about money being taken from my pile as long as I knew I could keep gathering.

The suggestion is that how one reacts with money in the games is perhaps how one habitually responds in real life. The other suggestion is to experiment with doing the opposite of your habitual patterns – if you never pay for dinner with friends, be magnanimous and do it and see what happens for you. Alternatively, if you are always the one paying for a round of drinks or food, resist and notice what happens.

If you are intrigued by money games and how to play them, here is a resource you can download.