Did You Win A $10 Amazon Gift Card from Gen Y Wealth? (Plus, 11 ways I’ve changed my environemnt to change my behavior)

by RJ

in Random

Congratulations to @MigPalaviccini for winning a $10 gift card to Amazon and for getting 100% on his pop quiz!

Earlier this week, I ran a “pop quiz” on behavior change in regards to personal finance. It proved to be a fun way to engage the community of people here.

I was able to learn a few things about you, which can help me to produce better content in the future.

Below are the answers, along with an explanation, to the 5 questions that were asked on Monday.

Problem # 1: John wants to start saving for retirement. He currently spends 100% of his paycheck. His goal is to save 10% of his income.

Solution A: With a goal of saving 10%, John decides that to reach his goal, he needs to cut his expenses by 10%. Therefore, he signs up for an account at Mint and starts to budget his money.

Solution B: John’s employer has a 401(k). As of now, John is contributing 0%. John completes the paperwork to start saving 5% out of his next paycheck. Three months from now, he will increase his savings rate to 10%.

Answer = B: It’s easier to change your environment than use willpower.  Also, information doesn’t lead to action. Although applying for an account at Mint might help John understand where his money is going, it doesn’t guarantee change.


Problem # 2: Mary has a bad habit. Every time she goes clothes shopping, she ends up signing up for the store credit cards. Although she saved 15% at the time, she has trouble paying them off each month.

Solution A: Mary should cut up her store credit cards and freeze her credit.

Solution B: Mary should use her willpower and commit to not going shopping for six months.

Answer = A: When attempting to make a change, act as if willpower doesn’t exist.  Just like John, Mary will most likely to succeed by changing her environment.


Problem # 3: Jack’s goal is to save for a once in a lifetime vacation that he will take in a year. Total, the vacation costs $1,200.

Solution A: Jack opens a sub savings account, nicknamed “Dream Vacation”. He schedules a withdrawal from his checking account, to sub-savings account the day after his paycheck normally arrives for $100. He does this once a month.

Solution B: To help pay for the vacation, Jack decides to earn more money. Jack’s friend makes $200 on the side each month blogging. Therefore, Jack decides to start a blog about his passion, travel. He sets a goal to earn $100 a month after-taxes to pay for his trip.

Answer =  A: The simplest solution is always the best solution. It may take Jack 60 minutes total, to set up a sub-savings account and then initiate a withdrawal from the account. Compare this to the time it takes to build a blog that is profitable, which may be one hour a day for the next year.


Problem # 4: Susan needs to begin to budget her money. She has no clue where it all goes.

Solution A: Susan commits to budgeting her money for 30 days. After, she’ll look at her results and decide to continue or not.

Solution B: Susan commits to budgeting her money, from now on.

Answer = A: Never set a goal with no end point. When trying to change a behavior, commit to a trial run to see if your new behavior is beneficial or not. This was answered incorrectly, more times than any other question. It’s harder to make a “permanent change” than it is do commit to taking on a new behavior for a trial run. Once the trial run is over and the behavior is ingrained, then you can decide  to continue or start a new behavior.


Problem # 5: When Ray has a few seconds at work, he tends to shop at Amazon. With Amazon making it so easy to pay, Ray now has a closet full of books he hasn’t read. What should Ray do to stop this habit?

Solution A: Ray uses a browser extension, such as Stay Focused to block Amazon from his browser. Once Ray clicks on a link that takes him to Amazon, it redirects him to his monthly budget spreadsheet in Google Docs.

Solution B: While talking with a friend at lunch about his behavior, Ray decides not to buy any books on Amazon.

Answer = B: Just like John and Mary, Ray changes his environment.



Thanks for participating.

I learned a little about your knowledge and I hoped you learned a lot about behavior change.

The real purpose was to emphasize how much of an impact changing environment has.

Personally, whenever I’m attempting to make a change, I look to my environment first. It’s amazing how simple one small change can make. Changing your environment, is like putting goals on auto-pilot.

A few examples, from my personal life:

  1. Blocking Amazon with Stay Focused to prevent me from buying books (actually have it redirect me to my local libraries website)
  2. Blocking or unsubscribing to sites that I frequently visited, that decreased my productivity (deleted my Facebook account)
  3. Moving my alarm clock away from my bed, to prevent me from rolling over and hitting snooze (Bonus tip: I guarantee you’ll never hit the snooze button if your alarm is “Eye of the Tiger” )
  4. Only bringing in healthy food to my home by subscribing to a CSA (although being married to a dietician may be the ultimate “health hack”)
  5. Only bringing out cash, when I’m in a situation I may spend a lot
  6. Contributing to a 401(k)
  7. On the first day of the year, max out my contributions to a Roth IRA
  8. Surround myself with positive people by joining groups such as Toastmasters and attending industry conferences
  9. Eating off small plates and bowls prevents me from overeating
  10. Buy healthy cookbooks (sounds simple but works. Mark Bittman’s are great)
  11. Got rid of cable and all of a sudden, I don’t watch TV

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

RandyNo Gravatar June 30, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Interesting that you talked about blocking Amazon and gave away an Amazon gift card…


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