I started the year out right. I didn’t join a gym for my exercise, but I signed up for a “class” using RunKeeper, a mobile application that tracks my progress as I run, walk, or get any physical exercise, and posts my results publicly. It ties into my philosophy well, using the same tricks I used to help improve my finances.
Unfortunately, the icy weather and a tricky travel schedule have assisted my downfall. Although I’ve lost between five and ten pounds since the beginning of the year, I haven’t made any progress with my physical exercise within the past week. It may be time to purchase a treadmill.
It might be more effective to introduce a new motivation strategy based on behavioral economics, as a couple of Harvard graduates (is that important?) are doing with a program they’re calling “Gym-Pact.”
The Gym-Pact team has become a partner with several gyms in the Boston area. The team will pay gym membership fees, and those who sign up for the program have the opportunity to work out in the gyms four times each week for free. Gym-Pact recovers the membership through penalties. There is a $25 penalty for any week with an incomplete schedule and a $75 penalty for dropping the program for any reason other than injury or illness.
Following this concept, I would need to penalize myself every week I don’t complete my planned running activities. But what would be the right penalty? Taking money away — transferring it into another account, for example — won’t be effective because I still would have that money. Donating money to a charity for each week I miss isn’t a penalty because charitable giving is good.
The key is to find a financial penalty that is immediate enough and will hurt enough so that it motivates me to complete the exercises as planned.
How do you use your finances to motivate you?
Published or updated February 7, 2011.