final fantasy money lessons

5 Money Lessons Learned from Playing Final Fantasy Games

I’ll never forget the first time I played a Final Fantasy game. I was about eight-years-old and was spending the night at a friend’s house.

His parents recently bought him a Super Nintendo, the premier gaming system, and the Sega Genesis. At the time, Final Fantasy II (aka FF IV) was brand new. I had never played a role-playing game before. We opened the new game that night and played it almost all night. I was hooked.

For the next several months, I begged my parents for a Super Nintendo. Not just for Final Fantasy, but at the time, the graphics were on another level compared to the original Nintendo. Visions of Mario flashed in my head on a nightly basis. 

Then it happened. On Christmas Day that year, I received a brand new Super Nintendo plus enough money to buy a game or two. Final Fantasy II was at the top of the list. 

From that point on, I played every Final Fantasy game up until XII. Life has gotten busier as an adult, so I haven’t been able to keep up with the latest versions. However, I recently discovered that Final Fantasy II is available for download on iOS with enhanced graphics. Not only am I having fun playing through the game again for the first time in about 25 years, but my six-year-old also thinks it’s pretty cool. It’s been fun to share this experience with him and prove how timeless this nearly 30-year-old game is.

After playing through Final Fantasy II again, I learned how much I learned about money through this game and others. There are a lot of efficient applications in games related to personal finance. I’m not sure I realized I was learning these lessons at the time, but looking back, it’s clear the impact these games had on my financial approach as an adult. 

Below are 5 money lessons that I learned from playing Final Fantasy games. 

More Stuff Isn’t Always Better.

I always wondered how those tiny virtual characters were able to carry around so much stuff. Where did they put the 12 swords, 500 potions, 7 full suits of armor, and that one item that you know you’ll never use but want to hold on to just in case? 

I’m here to admit in front of the whole world that I was a Final Fantasy hoarder. 

Even though my tiny character could carry an unrealistic amount of stuff, that didn’t mean it was a good idea. Having more stuff, whether in a game or real life, causes micro stress because we have to manage it. It creates disorganization, and for someone like me, that in itself is stressful. 

So as I’m playing Final Fantasy again, I’m learning to purge the things I don’t need. Thankfully, this is much easier virtually than in real life, where you have to host a garage sale or list on the Facebook marketplace or Craigslist. I’m not quite to Final Fantasy minimalist status because you never know when you’ll need to use that rare item, but I’m working on it.

Have a Plan For Your Money 

Growing up, I didn’t have much experience managing money until I got a high school job. Before then, I worked odd jobs and would occasionally receive an allowance from my parents. Regardless, my parents paid for most things growing up. 

Final Fantasy games may have been my first opportunity to manage expenses, even in a virtual world. I learned that I couldn’t always buy the shiny new weapon or item because sometimes I needed to save money for later on in the game. And if I really wanted something but didn’t have enough saved up, I’d have to go work to earn more (fight battles). 

Overall, Final Fantasy games taught me that you have to earn money, manage it wisely, and be selective in your purchases to achieve success in the game. Common sense stuff now, but we all have to start learning somewhere. 

Video Game Spending Habits Foreshadow Real Life Spending Habits

I’ve always had more of a saver’s mindset. Ever since I was a kid, my parents would tease me about my frugal habits. This was evident in real life and Final Fantasy, and other similar virtual worlds. Final Fantasy games taught me the importance of financial discipline. 

Even in video games, I was never one to spend all of my money. What if I needed extra potions for that next battle? What if there was a key item that was required to advance in the game? To me, there was always some assurance in keeping money saved up just in case. Call it a video game emergency fund if you will. 

I’ve realized that the way I spent money on video games is similar to how I spend money today. Overall I like to play it safe and do my best to minimize risk. You’ll find me investing in a good old index fund over bitcoin any day of the week. 

Spend Money (Gil) on Experiences 

Even in the virtual world, I always enjoyed spending money on an experience compared to fringe items. Sure, we all need our cure potions, Phoenix downs, and weapon improvements. Just like in real life, we need to spend money on gas and groceries. However, once basic needs are met, virtually, or in the flesh, there are diminishing returns with more stuff.

Give me a few minutes playing a fun Chocobo race over some random single spell that’s going to sit at the bottom of my item list until finishing the game. Similarly, I’d much rather take a vacation in real life than upgrade to a nicer vehicle. 

Success is Built When Nobody is Looking

In almost any Final Fantasy game, at some point, you had to suffer through a series of random battles to level up, obtain Gil, or find an item. Most people don’t necessarily like those random battles. Walking around in circles until coming across a battle, only to put on auto-battle mode to get through it quickly. 

There’s really no purpose to it besides trying to level up or get paid. Here’s the thing though, putting in the work pays off down the line. When you come across that challenging boss, you’ll be grateful that you decided to level up x5. 

Like in real life, it’s the work you put in when nobody is looking that allows you to shine in the most important moments. Real-life examples include spending extra time in the gym shooting free throws, using extra money to pay down your mortgage instead of spending elsewhere, or having a healthy daily breakfast instead of sugary cereal. 

Money Lessons Learned from Playing Final Fantasy Games

Sometimes the way we live in the virtual world is a lot like how we live in real life. Looking back on how I managed money, developed characters, and interacted with others in Final Fantasy games closely related to real life. The key takeaways include having a plan for your money, spending more on experiences instead of stuff, and working hard.

Featured Image Credit: Square Enix. 

Mark is the founder of Financial Pilgrimage, a blog dedicated to helping young families pay down debt and live financially free. Mark has a Bachelor’s degree in financial management and a Master’s degree in economics and finance. He is a husband of one and father of two and calls St. Louis, MO, home. He also loves playing in old man baseball leagues, working out, and being anywhere near the water. Mark has been featured in Yahoo! Finance, NerdWallet, and the Plutus Awards Showcase.