Honey Money background, motivation, questions

This isn’t fully baked yet but we wanted to start collecting actually-asked questions in addition to the ones we’ve made up.

But first…

Background and reasons we’re doing this

We’ve long had premium credit, which is just a balance that we keep track of and apply to any premium payments you may make in the future. We give people premium credit for any number of reasons. As bounties or thank-yous or apologies, or occasionally as refunds. Also student discounts and similar. You can see the gory details in our help doc or the even gorier details in our internal spec from which we implemented it.

Honey Money is the same thing but can also, optionally, work for derailments. It’s a way to prepay for a derailment by depositing money with Beeminder before you actually derail. When you derail we draw from that balance first before charging your credit card.

The key is optionally. We don’t want to tamper with Beeminder’s incentives. The immediacy of Beeminder’s sting is powerful and will remain the default. But there turned out to be at least a dozen reasons we also wanted people to have the option to prepay for derailments:

  1. As a signup filter, we may want to only let you sign up if you’re serious enough and philosophically on board enough to be fine with prepaying $5.
  2. (Also potentially it matters for anti-fraud to have a big enough initial deposit required to deter testing of stolen credit cards.)
  3. Beyond signup, it can be a way to encourage the derailing-it-is-nailing-it mindset: “Of course it’s fine to put in honey money up front – eventually you’ll use it. If you don’t you’re doing it wrong!”
  4. To support payment methods that don’t support arbitrary future charges (cf. the situation in India in particular).
  5. To close the loophole (at least for people who want to close it for themselves) where you deauthorize Beeminder’s access to your payment method before we charge it.
  6. To be able to pay bounties to users or issue refunds by adding to your honey balance. Especially if premium plans go away in the future and already for the case of lifetime premium people or people who never intend to get premium. We’ve been doing a lot with premium credit but want to keep gradually moving away from premium plans so generalizing to derail credit helps with that.
  7. To reduce the amount of refunds we do ($50k/year last we checked).
  8. To keep from throwing PayPal users under the bus (Stripe even supports PayPal now for one-off payments to US businesses).
  9. As probably the easiest way to support paying for derailments via in-app purchase on iOS.
  10. We could save credit card processing fees and other overhead/risk by doing bigger charges less frequently. Honey money (that’s allowed to go negative?) may be the most elegant implementation of this.
  11. Maybe a future integration with our friends at Manifold where mana and honey can be exchanged?
  12. We’re doing a science experiment in collaboration with the University of Virginia and needed a way for students to use Beeminder without putting in their own credit cards.


[UPDATE: a better version of this FAQ is now in the help docs.]

1. Is this some cheesy gimmicky fake internet points thing?

No, it’s basically store credit at Beeminder. (So also yes, in that it’s only useful within Beeminder.)

2. What’s it good for?

Premium plans and derailments. If we have anything like support contracts or anything else we may charge for in the future, it’s good for it. Nothing with real-world cash value though. In that sense it’s like a strictly in-world currency.

3. What about sting immediacy?? What if I don’t want to use it for derailments?

Absolutely. We intend it to always be opt-in.

UPDATE: Now we’re less sure of that (see latest discussion in this thread!) but at least still sure that if you want to be charged directly you should always have that option in some way.

4. How do I get some?

You can just buy it. We also give it out sometimes, like for bug bounties or refunds or for student discounts.

5. Is it possible to have negative honey money?

Not normally but if your payment method fails, for example, then it might happen.

6. Do I earn interest on my balance? (No one has asked this, just humor us.)

Yes, currently 2% per year, compounded continuously. Of course no one cares about this, nor do people ever really carry a balance long enough for it to matter. It’s just the mathematically right thing to do.

7. How do I use my honey money?

Any premium plans or upgrades you get, we just use any honey money you have automatically. For derailments you have to click a thing on your payments page

(Later we want to generalize this and let you have any number of payment methods on file and let you put them in any order you like and we’ll try them in that order. By default honey money would be last for derailments and first for non-derailments, like premium.)

8. Can I withdraw honey money if I never use it (like because I never derail on my goals)?

No, you definitely can’t cash it out. There are a bunch of legal and accounting reasons for that. See also our old “glutton-for-punishment” blog post on why, even philosophically, we don’t like the idea of depositing money and getting it back if you stay on track.

We also want to discourage the mindset that Beeminder is a game where the objective is to never pay anything. That sounds self-serving but we strongly believe that Beeminder works better if you don’t view derailing as failing. So putting in honey money up front should not feel particularly onerous. You’ll use it eventually! If not, you’re doing it wrong.

9. Why was this worth doing?

See the background above for a dozen different reasons. The actual impetus was a science experiment we’re doing with the University of Virginia (we needed a way to give students a way to beemind meaningfully without putting their own money at risk). But we wanted to do this anyway to support payment methods that don’t let us make arbitrary future charges, which has increasingly been a problem for users in India. Other reasons include not throwing PayPal users under the bus, supporting more ironclad commitments, better ability to pay bounties and do refunds and weekly invoices, future in-app purchase on iOS, etc.


maybe a stupid question probably related to this one: will you implement an upper limit for how much honey money one can add to one’s account? let’s say i accidentally add a few zeroes and buy $10,000 instead of $10 honey money …
(this isn’t an actual concern i have, but also it feels too obvious a question not to ask.)


Is honey money measured in my local currency, or always in dollars?


Maybe $2430 or $7290 or whatever the max amount anyone’s ever paid for a derailment is (I forget which). But also if you made an error like that, we could do a refund to your credit card.

Only dollars for now. Or you could think of honey money as its own currency that happens to have 1:1 exchange rate with USD I guess?


Q: What happens to any honeymoney in my account if I delete my account?
Suggested A: we can’t give it back to you, for legal and tax reasons.

IANAL but my intuition is that giving money back - potentially $1000s - is going to be a minefield of anti-money laundering and accounting legislation in some countries. But I also guess this would be a tough sell to a grumpy user who is leaving - not a common occurrence at all, but I’m sure it will happen. Best to deal with it up front, therefore.


I’d also hate to have an expectation or precedent that one could cash out by deleting one’s account. It does seem safer to just say cashing out is not a thing. It’s philosophically weird though. Possible compromise: you can transfer it to a friend? [UPDATE: this is now possible!]


All sounds good plan on using as soon as available. Will make budget entry much easier. Will it also work with API charges?

1 Like

Affirmative! At first it’ll just be a single setting you opt in to and if you do, honey is automatically used for everything: premium, API charges, derailments. If you don’t opt in then it’s the status quo: honey money is used for premium plans or upgrades but nothing else.


That’s nice was using API for $1 charges for distracting apps but was a bit of a pain entering all the transactions into quicken and YNAB.


Q: How does honey money relate to student or country discounts? e.g. if I’m a student and get 6 months credit when I buy six months of subscription, will that credit just get used up every time I derail?

Suggested A: Yes, exactly! Honeymoney is entirely fungible! The student discount is a honeymoney credit, so it will get used both for derail charges and for subscriptions. You’ll just get fewer months of “free” subscription if some of it has been used for derailment charges.

Supplementary Q: does this mean that if I have honeymoney credit when my next subscription is due, it’ll use that credit first?
A: ??? Like, I (Clive) would guess probably yes, but depends on implementation choices?


The simplicity of this has a lot to be said for it but @shanaqui convinced me that using honey money for derailments should always be opt-in. So the current tentative answer is:

It’s up to you! By default your honey money is not applied to derailments, only premium. If you want to draw down your honey money first when you derail, go to Settings and uncheck the “sting immediacy” checkbox.

(I’m acutely aware that this is a blatant anti-settings violation. Bee and Nicky and I debated long and hard!)

Yes to this – and no choices this time. If you have honey money we draw from it first for premium payments. If you want more honey, buy more!

1 Like

for what it’s worth, i agree! especially in the case of student discounts, i hadn’t even thought about that before! … if it would automatically be used for all derailments until it runs out, i can very well imagine myself being lazy and thinking about my student discount honey money “ah, when i derail i won’t notice it immediately, so it’s fine not to do [5 minutes of task to avoid derailment] because i am [tired / other excuse]” and thus would potentially loose much more money.

1 Like

Count me as extra-convinced!

I mean, I believe it’s the right design decision due to the psychology you describe. I’m not personally convinced because I think the rational thing to do when you have credit you’re sure you’ll use – as would be the case if you have honey money and have a premium plan, let alone how a certain amount of derailing is inevitable – is to mentally treat it exactly like cash. Here’s how Zvi Mowshowitz put it just today in his blog post about startups:

If you have credit somewhere and will inevitably spend it and then keep spending, that credit is functionally no different from cash. Spending it is no different from spending cash. The same goes for any other asset that can be used in place of cash. If it would otherwise go to waste, then that is different, otherwise its value is equal to the opportunity cost. Which is usually damn close to $1 per dollar.

This of course tempts me to say “if people would just mentally reframe honey as money…” but everyone will not just.


I wrote a long thing this morning about why I still disagree that honey money could ever be equivalent to cash, so I might as well share it here too!

Unless I can use it on books (or rent), it’s Monopoly money. You can pretend Monopoly money is cash, but you can’t do anything with it except play Monopoly, so it falls down at that point.

Unless I can get it back out of Beeminder, then it is a loss to me as soon as it goes in (now it can only be used for Beeminder). That is not how cash works. The time I lose the ability to use it is on deposit, not when I’m stung.

For me, if anything, I would consider myself pre-stung for future derailments, and go ahead and derail – probably not 100% frivolously, so Beeminder would have some weak effect, but definitely without being much bothered by the idea.

I think I mentioned before that I’ve basically done this experiment for you. I pre-loaded my Wise card with money for each month and consequently had to account for it in my budget. The result was that I’d look at my deadlines, look at the cost, and go “meh, that money is already written off, I might as well derail anyway”, when I could and should have done the goals. And technically I COULD have used that money still, it’s only that it was in USD already so harder to use in the UK. Honey money is just nothing.

To me, if honey money is to be applied to derailments by default, then you are going to have to make me believe it is really cash. I have to be able to get it back whenever I want to use on whatever I want. I don’t think that is a thing that Beeminder can/should do (we’d run into a bunch of money-handling laws, and would become a bank forced to keep a certain amount on hand at all times so that we could pay out).

The fact that I feel stung at the time I add honey money doesn’t help because it doesn’t apply to a specific goal. Imagine I have honey money for some reason – say I got $30 refunded because my internet went out for three days and I couldn’t say three $10 derailments were non-legit. I’m refunded only in honey money, so I already have to account for the money in my budget. Based on my previous behaviour, that is now licence to fail on my most important goal, which is meant to be a nasty sting. (Probably that pledge needs putting up now, $30 doesn’t feel as painful anymore, but the same honestly applies for if that goal was at $90.)

So from the accidental failure of data entry for three less important goals and subsequent refunds, Beeminder then caused me to feel chill about derailing my most important one. That seems bad!

Re: the Wise card natural experiment, it didn’t make me walk away from Beeminder. It did however cause me to feel very frustrated with Beeminder, and stop tracking a whole category of goals with it, which I still haven’t resumed doing. It actually broke my very helpful system of having a goal for each book I read, which I think is a pretty big loss to my life, actually. But I got into the wrong mind set with them and I don’t know if I can get back out of it.


This is excellent, and a really good real-life example from @shanaqui ! Running the thought experiment in my head leads me to the same conclusion. I think the requirment that you toggle a setting on to allow honey money to get used for derailments is the right way to go, because the risk of student discounts in particular contaminating motives is too high.


Emphatic nodding. I see that this is a big deal to people. Also it’s hugely beneficial for Beeminder business-wise to charge people’s credit cards rather than deduct from their honey money balances, so it’s pretty dumb that I have the compulsion to convince people that it’s irrational to treat honey money as Monopoly money. But, like with loss aversion perhaps, I care more about correcting for cognitive biases than about business, apparently?

Of course Nicky has absolutely prevailed in this debate, and many of you (close to half, based on a beemail straw poll; see below) strongly agree which is plenty to overcome the Anti-Settings Principle. So Beeminder-wise the case is closed. I’ll just put the philosophical debate with my counterarguments about opportunity cost blah blah blah in a sidebar just for fun.

Philosophy Funtimes

I think a key crux is this: How likely is it that you’ll eventually use up your honey balance?

However much below 100% that is, that’s the extent to which honey ≠ money. If you have a premium plan or treat occasional derailments as a natural part of beeminding – as we argue you should! – then it’ll be close to 100% and honey ≈ money, rationally speaking.

Nicky and others are adamant about the fact that you can only play Monopoly with Monopoly money (only do things on Beeminder with honey money) and I think this is psychologically a fine point but rationally wrong. Again, under the assumption that you’ll definitely use the honey eventually. And emphatically without ever being able to cash it out.

Suppose you want to buy A City on Mars (by the Weinersmiths, probably excellent) and it costs $30 and you’ve budgeted juuuuust enough to get it. And suppose you have exactly $30 of honey money. Now you derail a reading goal at $30. :honeybee: :face_with_head_bandage:

Well, by assumption, that $30 of honey was going to get used even if you didn’t derail that reading goal. We could pretend you have a definite, known derailment during an upcoming conference. Or, simpler, that you have a premium plan that would’ve deducted that $30 of honey at the end of the month but will now hit your credit card instead. Either way, derailing this reading goal today directly causes $30 to come out of your bank account later.

See what I mean? @philip made a nice point by email about how this is a lot like credit cards. It’s technically a debt you’re logging, to be paid at the end of the month. I suppose many people bite this bullet and say it’s a bad idea to use credit cards for everyday spending, for exactly that reason.

Point being, technically the sting is deferred but it’s pretty much equally sting-y, arithmetically speaking. You had just enough to buy A City on Mars and, now, because of this honey deduction, you don’t.

Oh yeah, some people brought up objections like the time-value of money, but honey money pays more interest than a bank account so I don’t think that objection holds up. Other quibbles like foreign currency exchange rates may matter, but the claim is just that a honey money deduction technically stings about as much as a US dollar deduction. If you don’t want a bank account with US dollars from which you pay for Beeminder derailments then you may not want a honey balance either.

So… I rest my case I guess? But, again, this whole sidebar is pretty academic!

PS, here’s an edited version of the beemail straw poll for posterity:

You probably know that I’m a huge theory-of-rationality nerd and am practically the poster child of the so-called rationality community. Well there’s some fun discussion in the forum about whether it’s important (as we’re assuming it is) for it to always be opt-in to have your honey money applied to derailments.

My rationality-nerd answer is “well, technically, [pushes up glasses] what you should do is just mentally treat your honey balance exactly the way you would any other asset like a bank balance because the opportunity cost of drawing down honey is 1:1 with real dollars”.

Which of course made me curious:

Honey Money and Sting Immediacy
  • Need sting immediacy because Psychology – honey doesn’t feel like money
  • Need sting immediacy – honey ≠ money because I may actually never derail again
  • Need sting immediacy – honey ≠ money for other reasons
  • Sting immediacy, Schming schmimmediacy – honey ≈ money
0 voters

In the beemail replies (I encourage people to repeat their votes here!) about half of people picked the honey=money option, with the others split between the others, making various arguments that were often hard to distinguish between “because psyshology” and “because you’re all wrong about the homo economicus argument”.

Let me reemphasize that I’m already convinced that sting immediacy – where we actually charge your actual credit card when you actually derail – needs to always be the default.

1 Like

This is interesting!

There are definitely potentially strong psychological elements that reduce sting immediacy when paying in honey…

Maybe one way of getting at the intuition for me is if I imagine setting a “budget for derailments” and just buy $50 of honey at the start of each month: then if I haven’t used all my budget after a couple of months, the temptation would definitely be there to just derail on something that was uncomfortable, because I’d pre-paid for it and I can’t get the honey out as money, so it’s lost already, and I may as well get some value out of it now. (After all, who knows when Beeminder might stop - maybe Danny will win the lottery and give it all up tomorrow!)

And I think that it’s maybe the not-true-fungibility of honey that also stops it being truly honey=money. Even if you accept Danny’s crux of “eventually I’ll derail”, there are risks there - Beeminder might shut down for all sorts of reasons (maybe Danny doesn’t play the lottery, but still it turns out to be illegal to run Beeminder under some weird new EU law and that makes it uneconomic to run), or I might need the money for something vital right now, or I might get bored and leave Beeminder, or maybe I just want to spend it on something other than a hypothetical future derailment. Who knows, but if you can’t buy your lunch with it, it isn’t money!


This is the claim I’m arguing against in the Philosophy Funtimes sidebar above, with the example of buying a book you’ve been coveting. It’s money in the sense that losing H$1 has approximately USD$1 of opportunity cost. Modulo counterparty risk or risk of getting bored with Beeminder or whatever. I was assuming away those things in my argument. Said more precisely: to the extent that you’re sure you’ll eventually use your honey balance, losing honey is equally sting-y as losing dollars. So whether or not it “is” money in whatever sense, homo economicus should be equally incentivized to avoid losing it.

Of course homo economicus doesn’t need Beeminder in the first place, highlighting how academic this whole debate is!

But breaking news, @philip and @bee have made further compelling cases that this idea of a checkbox to opt in to using honey for derailments is bogus. I’m still digesting it but here are the bits that stuck out for me:

  1. You want derailments to directly hit your bank account or credit card? Great, don’t buy honey money.
  2. If you got honey money somehow, the optics of “go check this checkbox to actually use it” are terrible.

I think there’s going to be an elegant answer to all this (besides convincing everyone to be homo economicus!) but I can’t see it yet.

Brainstorming: What if you could easily gift honey money to a friend (including friends who don’t yet have Beeminder accounts)? Then you could get that honey out of your account, retain your sting immediacy, and help spread the Good Word.

The phrase that kills your argument is “it’s money in the sense that…”. Real money isn’t “like” money, it just is money - well, technically, the test in modern society is “can I use it to pay my taxes?”. If you can’t use it to pay your taxes, then it’s not “real” money, it’s some local, limited, medium of exchange (honey money=cowrie shells!). This not-complete-fungibility thing is the crux for me.

On the opt-in box: the crux for me here is student discounts. You’ve just given them 6 months worth of honey-money or whatever, explicitly so they don’t have to buy the next 6 months of subscription. Then you burn it all for them in derails, and hey presto, they need to pay for subscriptions again. Yes, you may argue, it’s “just psychology”, but guess what, it’s all just psychology (including the value of money in the first place!).


a million times this! (and also what @shanaqui said above! can relate to the results of their experiment as if i’d done it myself!)

i think one possible elegant solution to all this, @dreev, might be a combination of “changing how student discounts work” + “ability to gift honey money”, although i doubt i’d be 100% happy with that, either.

  • the whole issue with student discounts could just be averted if they didn’t involve honey. i buy a subscription for 6 months, i want a student discount, and so you simply add 6 more months of subscription to my account, not the honey equivalent! that’s honestly how i expected it to work before i subscribed, because it makes more sense than the current system. (but i’m sure there’s code-related reasons for the current system, i know nothing about that.)
  • gifting honey seems like a decent idea at first sight. but i don’t know many beeminder users, all of which are active on the forum. what if none of them want my honey? what if one or two people would like it, but many others gift them their honey as well, and it would subsequently dilute their stings, too?

i think maybe i’d be most content with reworked student discounts + the ability to use honey for completely different things! (i don’t know what, honestly. stickers? other merch? real :honey_pot:? :joy:)