Curb Spending and Get Fit by Gamifying Bad Habits

In my last post, Reducing Expenses and Curbing Impulses, I outlined that I have somewhat of an addiction to entertainment. Well, that reminded me of a thread I came across a while back on Reddit where user Fibonacci_Toast came up with a great way to tie delayed gratification to a similar affliction.

Here's an excerpt from the post:

First you pick the "good habit" you want to work on. For me, since I had just gotten a FitBit at the time, it was walking (steps). But it could be anything you can track--my sister in medical school uses hours studied, a friend of mine who is a writer uses words written. If you run, you can use miles run. Etc etc etc. Then, you have to pick a budget to tie your habit to. I used entertainment (mostly video games for me). You could also use eating out or any other kind of discretionary spending. Next, you have to come up with a conversion rate. This is closely tied to how much money you are willing to spend on this category a month, and how much of your desired habit you are likely to do. What I used was $1 per 10,000 steps walked. Since I walk between 12k-16k a day, my entertainment budget works out to about $40 a month. You may have to track yourself for a week or so to work out what your rate should be. Finally, you start tracking!

As it turns out, I too use a fitness tracker to count my steps. And I too have an issue with entertainment. In my case, it's mainly movies. And until I read this post, I couldn't think of a good way to sort of limit myself on movies.

But this opens up some interesting possibilities.

Let's say you set up an incentive to tie some healthy habit to. You give it some sort of price per unit, then give yourself a goal to achieve. Oh, what? Yeah. Things just got interesting. Is your weakness eating out? Going to the theater? Buying movies on iTunes? Anything will do. That's the genius in this idea. You're gamifying a negative and turning it into a positive.

Of course, you could make the argument that it doesn't directly add to your bank account. You could. But then I would have to point out the way this method is an automatic way to delay your own gratification. That delay is like a governor on your spending. In other words, you are reducing expenses. You are also increasing joy.

I, for one, am excited to give this a shot. However, if $1 per 10,000 steps is too high for you, why not set it to $1 per 5,000 steps to try it out? You can adjust from there. For me, I am perfectly happy with $1 per 10,000 steps.  I've already taken over 50,000 steps this week so I have $5 to spend.

Look out world.

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