Budgeting for Beeminder Stings

I use Qube Money for my banking and budgeting, and it’s truly life changing in terms of the peace of mind it gives me about finances (I wrote a tiny bit about it in another post here).

With Qube, I’m forced to build a budget where everything adds up as opposed to wishfully hoping that income > expenses at the end of the month. The one place this is a bit tricky is Beeminder, since i don’t know ahead of time what my spend on Beeminder stings will be. And Qube will always side with me - if there’s not enough money in the account, Beeminder just won’t get paid, and I’m sure some Worker Bee’s will notice and come after me.

How should I think about how much money to budget for Beeminder each month? Considering how many goals I have, I can’t possibly budget the maximum amount possible. So I have to do something probabilistic. Ideas?


Would it be possible for you to see the average amount of derailments you have a month and then add a bit of a buffer? For example if you have average $30 a month in derailments it may make sense to add like a 20% buffer so $42 in total.


That’s definitely an option. But one tricky thing is that Beeminder pledges grows exponentially. This doesn’t really fit the monthly budget model at all.

Which is probably a clue! If I channel a bit of Nassim Taleb here, the solution seems a bit more obvious. I should never plan on derailing, but nonetheless I should expect do it eventually. So I should probably budget for it in savings as if it were a car breakdown or natural disaster: put money aside in a savings account.

I’m not sure how much. there’s a lot of knobs that can be turned (max pledge, respite, number of goals, buffer, to name a few). But “derail streak as black swan” seems like the right way to think about it, and if I am in the situation where a “black swan derailment streak” (something that should be unpredictable in principe) seems predictable/likely, that’s probably a sign Im way overcommitted and need to aggressively back off.


I’m going to push back a little bit on “never plan on derailing”—keep in mind that derailing is not failing! I am reminded also of Scott Aaronson’s old Umeshisms post, here concretized as “if you’ve never derailed, you’re not getting as much awesome out of beeminder as you could”.

So maybe budget at least a little bit for derailments to happen as a non-black-swan thing (say, $5-10 every month or two?), but also definitely good to save a little up for a black-swan big derailment situation.


I approach this by asking the question “what category will most amplify the sting?”. In other words, when I derail, I want it to come at the expense of something I value or get pleasure from, so I more clearly see what I am giving up.

This means derailments come out of my “fun money” budget pot. More derails = less to spend on toys/legos/games/candies/etc.


Me and my wife do something similar. If we derail it comes out of our personal funds.