As wallets shrink, consumers are looking for all the help they can get to achieve their goals. Although many people are great at crafting well-intentioned plans, humans have trouble with short-term restraint (avoiding that cookie, sticking to a weekly budget) that lead to long-term gains (weightloss and financial savings). Businesses are starting to pick up on the fact that we all might need a little help with self-control by offering to protect us from the worst threat of all…ourselves.
“Coming soon: credit and debit cards that cut you off when you disregard your own monthly budget. MasterCard is expected to announce that Citigroup will be the first company in the United States to issue MasterCards with special features intended to protect consumers not only from thieves but also from themselves. ” (New York Times)
“Mobile phone apps have grown increasingly effective at giving you an at-a-glance sense of your budget, even able to alert you when your checking balance is low or your credit card balance is high, or when other critical elements of your financial life have changed.” (New York Times)
“Sticking to a budget — a dirty word even among many financial planners, who prefer the more euphemistic “spending plan” — feels too much like dieting. And we often fail at both for the same reasons: too much focus on the restrictions, not enough on fun. So it’s not surprising when people end up bingeing later, more than making up for dollars not spent or calories not consumed.” (New York Times)
“Recently, a couple of Harvard graduates launched a program called Gym Pact based on the simple principle that if skipping the gym is a broken contract with ourselves, we ought to pay a penalty for slacking. So Gym Pact charges your credit card a penalty of at least $5 if you fall short of your work-out goal each week.” (The Atlantic)
How can businesses encourage consumers to maintain self-control and reach their goals in fun and unconventional ways?