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4 money lessons of Plants vs. Zombies

Attacking debt is like keeping the zombies at bay. You need a strategy, and you need to throw everything you have at it.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 10, 2012 4:32PM

This guest post comes from Lindy at Minting Nickels.


Other than my occasional stint with Angry Birds, I'm not normally into playing games. But one evening my kids convinced me to play Plants vs. Zombies, and I've been hooked ever since.


Plants vs. Zombies strikes the perfect balance of being not too hard to make me frustrated, and not too easy to make me bored. So even though I'm fighting a violent battle against flesh-eating zombies, I find myself surprisingly relaxed doing it. It's the perfect way to unwind and let my mind wander.


And while my mind wanders, I sometimes find clarity. Like the time I realized the zombies symbolized bad messages I was telling myself. I had to fight them off so they wouldn't consume my brain.


Another time I realized that Plants vs. Zombies was speaking to me about paying off debt. Here are the lessons I learned during one enlightened session.


Lesson 1: I need to plant my money.

The premise of the game is simple:

  • The zombies are coming to eat your brains.
  • Your only defense is putting warrior plants in your yard to kill them. The pea plant shoots peas. The chili pepper makes a trail of fire. The walnut acts as a wall . . . you get the idea.
  • In order to plant your warrior plants, you need to collect suns.
  • To collect suns, you need to plant sunflowers.

There was one particular level where the zombies were coming too fast and eating all of my plants. I couldn't replenish them quickly enough. After several times failing, it occurred to me: I needed to plant more sunflowers.More sunflowers mean more suns, which mean more ammo.


In the same way, I need to be planting my money so it gives me more money. I need to invest it in a way so it gives back to me. Though I'm now focusing my efforts on paying off debt, I look forward to the day we can start planting more money for returns. Post continues below.

Lesson 2: I need a strategy.

My 3-year-old son can play Plants vs. Zombies all day and fail miserably every time because he isn't old enough to understand strategy. You can't just choose the coolest-looking plants for your arsenal; you have to choose the ones that will get the job done. You can't plant them anywhere; you have to plant them strategically.


Likewise, if I'm facing a pile of debt, I need a plan to attack it. It won't kill itself,  unfortunately.


Lesson 3: I need backup. And I need backup to my backup.

One strategy I use in PvZ is putting up a line of walnuts as a defense. Sometimes I'll have two lines of defense.


I realized this setup was eerily similar to my system of two emergency funds. Life is going to throw a lot of zombies at me. An emergency fund (or two) is the best way to hold them off.


Lesson 4: I need to throw everything at it.

My husband, A-Rob, plays PvZ too, and his approach is a little different. Instead of putting up a defense, he focuses on building an impressive offense. It's almost comical to see the way his shooters take up the whole screen, killing the zombies before they barely can set foot on his yard.


I sometimes feel that our approach to killing debt is similar. Any extra money we get goes straight to the cause. Over the past few years, we've cut expenses so we can throw even more at those evil zombie debts. We're throwing snowballs, and fireballs, and peas, and corn kernels and . . . did I take the metaphor too far?


Are you paying off debt? How's it going?


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