On this site, we talk about credit, investing, and how to pay off debt. One thing that’s often missed around the debt subject is rewards.
Rewards are incentives to keep going. It’s something we can use to motivate us on our journey, no matter what that journey is.
Whether we are trying to pay off debt, lose weight, or just, straight up, improve our life. You need to reward yourself, otherwise, it’s go go go, all the time.
In this article, we’ll talk about when it’s a good time to reward yourself, how, and things to look out for.
A reward should be centered around two things. Habit formation or commitment, and goals.
If you are trying to make an improvement on something, whether it’s your health or your finances, you have to develop good habits.
If you want to exercise more, do it six days in a row, then take a break. That break can be your reward. If you want to eat better, do it for six days and then take a little break with a cheat meal.
The first step is creating the habits to get yourself to that better place.
The next reward will come when you hit goals. You want to get to a certain place, say saving $20,00 for a down payment, eliminating your debt, or losing 20 pounds.
Those are great goals, but you should put in place incremental ones to help you get there. That could be a reward for every $5,000 saved, every $5,000 paid down, or every 5 pounds lost.
It’s a lot like Dave Ramsey’s “Snowball Method” with applications in different areas of life. The goal with that method is to give you small wins to keep you motivated.
How to reward
If you put those habits in place and hit those goals, it’s time for the reward. The great, but the challenging part about that is everyone defines reward differently.
So when you create a reward for yourself, you should keep two things in mind. Make sure it’s good enough to release some dopamine, but small enough that it doesn’t set you back on what you are trying to accomplish.
If you’re trying to lose weight, your reward should be a little cheat meal or a day off from working out. Not a day of binge eating or a week without breaking a sweat.
If you’re trying to save money or pay down debt, don’t let whatever the reward is negate you from saving that month or add to your debt.
Large enough to make you feel good, but small enough so you stay on course.
What to watch for
The biggest thing to watch for is the size/duration of the reward. It mustn’t be too big or too small.
It’s a fine line and may require a little trial and error before you get it right. Start small and work your way up.
As I mentioned, it shouldn’t detract you from the pursuit of your goals, but it should also make you feel good about the progress that you’ve made or the habits you’ve created.
How I handle rewards
I won’t lie to you, rewards are a challenge for me. I’m very much a black and white type of person.
I keep junk food out of the house because I can’t be tempted with it. I make regular transfers from checking to savings in order to keep “discretionary money” out of my bank account for fear of spending it away (mostly on take-out, honestly).
It’s hard for me to put the pedal to the floor and take it off for a day. I’m either all on or all off, but I’m starting to figure it out. It really just takes some practice, a little will power, and some self-awareness.