I was intrigued with an article I read about the other day. There is this guy named Darrell Nelson who was sweating up a storm mowing his own lawn and trying to think of a way to lose a few extra pounds. A light went on in his head and the light bulb went on in his head: why not put an add on Craigslist offering to mow a few people’s lawns for free to work off the weight?
The logic seemed pretty straightforward:
I have struggled on sticking to exercise programs, including just walking, for quite awhile now. Trust me when I say I know how to exercise. I used to compete in powerlifting many years ago. I now lack the commitment to myself to go out and exercise. I figure if I make a commitment to someone else about mowing their lawn once a week, I will stick to it. I always have stuck to commitments to other people.
The media picked up on it and he”s been doing radio talk shows and TV appearances non stop since. While this is a nice story, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with personal finances. In my opinion, quite a lot…
First, Nelson does exactly what you should do when you’re trying to save money or get your personal finances in order. Making a commitment to others will almost always be more effective than simply making one to yourself. Why? Because if you don’t tell anyone or make a commitment to anyone, then nobody knows if you fail whereas when you announce or make a commitment to others, they will know and you will likely hear a lot about not doing what you said or committed to do. While his is with a diet, the same holds true with money.
Second, Nelson turns it into a type of game. While certainly not a typical game, he chooses to do something that he knows he can do and is motivated to do (mow lawns) which is exactly the same reason that people play games with money – to motivate themselves to save.
Third, while Nelson probably didn’t realize this when he chose the way he did, he is meeting his goal without spending money. A typical person who wants to lose weight spends a lot of money on new exercise equipment and an expensive gym membership. He has found a way to accomplish the exact same goal without spending a cent.
I would even suggest that Nelson could take this a step further and actually make money while losing weight. If he charged even a small amount such as $5 – $10 for a lawn, I’m sure that there would be five people that would take him up on the offer (of course, he would have never received all the publicity he has, but that wasn’t his goal when he began). That would mean not only would he be doing his plan to lose weight, but also creating an extra $100 to $200 a month doing it.