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More Commitment Devices From Our Readers

Our recent podcast about commitment devices, called “Save Me From Myself,” continues to elicit responses from readers sharing their own experience. The other day, Amber told us about joining the Air Force as a commitment device.

Here’s another pair of stories. The first is from Philip Veysey, who lives in Madrid. He is looking for some advice:

Hi guys,
I listened with interest to your podcast about commitment devices and I thought I would share my own which I devised as a way to curb my unnecessary clothes shopping.  I found that I was buying simply more clothing that I needed and although this wasn’t causing me any major problems, I realized that it was really wasteful and I decided to think of incentives to make me stop.
At first I thought of a fine system, possibly based on the price of the item: if I spent 20 Euros on another T-shirt I would put the same amount into a fund for my new nephew for his education or something worthwhile. But then I quickly realised that this might prove to be a justification for buying stuff I don’t need, in a similar way that the tax levied on cigarettes might create an incentive for governments to keep people smoking.

So I thought of the reverse: I should put say 5 Euros aside a week for my nephew’s education anyway and if I broke my commitment to not buy unnecessary clothing I would retain the weekly amount for myself, the incentive being that I would create an additional sense of guilt when making the purchase.  The paradox being a reward for failure.
You may not be surprised that I haven’t put this into place yet… the season changed and I needed winter clothing,  but I was wondering if there were any other examples of this kind of scheme?  Perhaps when I devised it, my innate British sense of guilt overpowered my reason. 

The second is from Matt Bachmann:

I just listened to your podcast on commitment devices and I thought I would share mine with you. I have been fat all my life and have tried various methods to lose weight. One day I decided enough was enough so I went and made a website and announced it to all my friends and family over Facebook and Google+. It tracks all sorts of data like my weight, my exercise, my food intake, etc. The idea being that the long-term problems of being overweight become short-term problems of my friends and family knowing right away what I am doing.

I am trying to make this as public as possible! That way, if I quit I will lose face with a lot of people. If I stick with it, I continue with this plan. I get tons of support though comments and emails from people who see it or read the blog I write along with it.

It is not just a commitment device. It works to support me as well. It is a stick and a carrot. So far it has been working as I have almost lost 60 pounds!

Thanks for the podcast. It is a great listen!

It looks like Matt has by now lost 71 pounds, from 444 down to 373. Congratulations! I particularly like the “travel radius” he created — a great visual representation of exercise over time:

It is really interesting, and heartening, to get this kind of feedback. Please keep it coming!