Who doesn’t love a two-for-one deal? YNAB takes all the stress out of money management, helps you reach your goals, and reach personal finance nirvana. But what if YNAB could do more? What if it could be a tool to not just manage your money, but also help you establish better habits? Let’s talk about a creative way to make YNAB inject a little extra motivation into your everyday tasks.
The Science of Rewards
Our brains are wired to seek immediate rewards. Habits like smoking, scrolling endlessly on social media, or overeating provide instant gratification. That’s why those bad habits can be so hard to break! On the flip side, healthy habits like exercise, eating healthily, or saving for retirement … not so much. I know these things will pay off in the long run, but when I’m running on a treadmill, I just kind of hate it. This dynamic makes it hard to establish good habits while bad ones seem to proliferate effortlessly.
And when your brain registers rewards, it doesn’t even have to be directly linked to the activity. If it associates a reward with the activity, your brain nudges you to repeat it. Remember Pavlov’s dog? Ring a bell, get a treat, do it again 100 times, and voila—a conditioned response is born.
The Money Game for Better Habits
So, how can you leverage YNAB to reinforce good habits? Why not try a delightful game that makes your money work harder for you. This game will help you keep your house tidier, stop procrastinating on boring projects, and yes, have some extra fun money. Here’s how it works:
Setting Up the Rules
- Make a List: Identify tasks or activities you wish you did more often. This could be literally anything—exercising, house chores, reconciling your YNAB accounts. I mean, anything!
- Assign Dollar Rewards: For every good habit you want to encourage, assign a dollar amount as a reward. Keep the amounts small but proportionate to the task.
- Add a Category: Create a new category in YNAB, let’s call it “Extra Credit.” This category will serve as a pool of funds that you can unlock by completing tasks on your list. Decide on a monthly target for this category.
- Fund the Pool: At the beginning of the month or when you get a paycheck, fill up the “Extra Credit” category so the money is available for you to earn.
- Claim Your Rewards: Every time you complete a task, move the corresponding dollar amount from “Extra Credit” to your “Fun Money” category. And it’s important to do this immediately after you complete the task. Complete the task, grab your phone, move the money, watch the numbers go up and enjoy the little ping of endorphins in your brain.
- Spend your Fun Money: Enjoy the extra fun money with the added satisfaction that you earned it by building better habits!
- Refresh for a New Month: At the start of a new month, replenish the “Extra Credit” category, but just top it up to a predetermined amount. If you didn’t use all your extra credit the previous month, it doesn’t roll over. If you don’t earn it, you lose it this month!
Watch as the things you used to dread doing actually become a joy! You’ll start to complete those annoying tasks you’ve been putting off and enjoy more fun money spending! It’s a win-win situation. Heck, if you’re doing this with a partner, make it a competition. You might start to argue over who gets the joy of doing the dishes this evening.
Reward your Brain
This money hack is all about tricking your brain into enjoying tasks you otherwise wouldn’t. So if you’re looking to make smarter decisions with both your time and money, try blending the two in creative ways like this. Here’s to cultivating positive routines while staying on top of your money!
If you want to reward your brain and feel better about your money, give YNAB a try. It’s free for a month, no credit card required!