How Can I Reinforce My Frugal Lifestyle?


How to maintain what can be at times a dismal proposition? Of course there’s attitude. Most of us agree that is tantamount. Back in the ’50s there were a group of psychologists called behaviorists who would have tut-tutted the whole idea. “It’s just a matter of reinforcement.” It could be positive. It could be negative.

Regardless, you want to find the right schedule of reinforcement for your frugal lifestyle. Most likely you’re going to need rewards. The most effective (least prone to extinction) schedule of reinforcement is variable ratio. In English, this means that from time-to-time you are reinforced positively. Perhaps with a gelato. Your gelato should be fairly randomly applied. If you have gelato every Friday then that’s less reinforcing.

(That’s why they give people opiates in the hospital on a predictable schedule, say every 4 hours. People in the hospital are much less prone to becoming addicted to opiates. Unless they were addicts to begin with, of course.)

You could also punish yourself each time you moved way out of the financially responsible zone. But I’m not sure that’s a good model.

If you are just beginning a program of debt reduction, frugality, reining in the finances, whatever you choose to call it, you might want to institute a continuous schedule of reinforcement.

In English, this means you find some way to reward yourself for each and every act of financial responsibility. This is good for initiating reinforcement in the short term. It will quickly become ineffective as you get used to the rewards. After a week or so switch to randomly timed rewards.

Research supports the idea that punishment is not very effective in reducing behavior. It is a temporary measure. So reward yourself. The question is how. It’s up to you. More on this.


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