Weekend Projects

Create Small Savings Goals to Give Your No-Spend Efforts an Immediate Reward

published Jan 22, 2021
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Apartment Therapy Weekend Projects is a guided program designed to help you get the happy, healthy home you’ve always wanted, one weekend at a time. Sign up now for email updates so you never miss a lesson.

As a mom to five kids, I spend a good deal of time considering behavior management strategies. While I do, of course, have to dole out consequences for bad choices, I’ve found, like all the experts say, that positive reinforcement really is the best way to create lasting behavior change.

When a good choice is met with a reward, your brain associates the good feeling with the action and the behavior is reinforced. Your brain, seeking the same feel-good result, encourages you to repeat the behavior that led to it. Eventually, choosing the desired behavior becomes a well-worn pathway.

The same psychological framework is true for adults, and you can use positive reinforcement to manage your own behavior. Knowing that you thrive on hits of the feel-good hormone dopamine gives you new power to stop bad habits and start new ones. Sometimes the only difference between failing at forming a new habit and it becoming part of who you are is just a matter of giving yourself a little reward each time you succeed in choosing it. What great news!

This weekend we’re going to apply the concept to a behavior that nearly everyone wishes to improve: how you spend money.

This Weekend: Choose what you’ll save for.

The idea here is to shift a money-saving mindset from a denial to an opportunity: thew opportunity to put that saved money toward something specific you’re excited about.

This weekend, choose categories or objects and create line items in your budget or even separate accounts for them. These could be things like a new couch, a vacation, a fancy scanner to deal with your physical papers once and for all (just me?), or even paying down a particular debt.

Each time you forego a treat at Starbucks, for example, put the money you saved immediately toward one of your goals. This way, saving money will feel like treating yourself, the savings will add up, and soon, not frivoling away your money will become a well-worn path in your brain and second-nature behavior. Happy saving!

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You can catch up with weekend projects right here. Share your progress with us and others by posting updates and photos on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #atweekendproject.

Remember: This is about improvement, not perfection. Each week you can either choose to work on the assignment we’ve sent you, or tackle another project you’ve been meaning to get to. It’s also completely okay to skip a weekend if you’re busy or not feeling the assignment.