Beeminder Forum

Thoughts and experiences with big(ger) pledge Amounts?

For me, I found that pledge amounts were functionally uniform in their motivational effect, UNTIL $90. $90, it turns out, is my motivational point, and I think I’ve only derailed once at that point.

$90 is also a lot of money (…there’s a correlation there) so I only use it for my Actual Important And Hard bees (completing my entire to-do list daily, and doing my set number of work pomodoros), so I have most of my “just for tracking” or “low priority” bees set at $5.


@erijohns I think you’re exactly right about where the problem lies. My typical failure might be something like this: All day, I vaguely know something like “I have to journal for Beeminder today,” so I’m tuning out the eep messages from Beeminder because “I know” already that it’s an eep day. I journal at some point (but don’t enter the data yet) and then at bedtime and realize, oh crap, I was also supposed to run today!

When I write it out like this it’s kind of hilarious how many obvious points of intervention there are.

  1. Read the dang eep day notifications, they’re kind of important.
  2. Enter beeminder data immediately instead of waiting until bedtime (so I know any further eeps are meaningful)
  3. Add “look at beeminder and note any deadlines approaching” to my morning routine

But I think you’re right that the primary fix needs to be adjusting my goals and my routine so that they actually fit together. Habits being much easier than conscious decisions and all that.

@dreev the point about psychological precedent definitely resonates with me. Good reason to let the pledge bump up. “Deciding to pay” is how I typically think of my derailments, but actually at lower pledge levels this seems to be a difficult decision to make rationally for me. Just like how paying $30 a month for 2 years is easier psychologically than paying $720 up front. I might be willing to say “eh, 10 bucks, oh well” every week, and then regret it in retrospect a year later.

I think this is much less likely at higher pledge levels, where I’m forced to actually consider the opportunity costs of spending $X. Maybe this is kind of the discontinuity that @lanthala brings up: a $90 purchase happens with a completely different mindset than a $10 purchase (for me, at least).

Okay–I think it’s worth a try. I’ll choose one or two important goals that are part of my daily routine (and actually adjust my routine if necessary), increase the pledge cap, and see how it goes!

Thanks everyone for your super useful and thought provoking responses.


$90 is a good motivator, but more importantly see constantly derailing on a goal as a sign that the goal isn’t something you really want to do, or is badly structured and archive these types of goals.

I did this back in March after derailing multiple times on goals that my heart wasn’t really into - they were just ‘wouldn’t it be nice goals’. Since then I’ve kept the defaults down and actually feel more focussed.


One other tip is to stagger the eep notifications, so they hit at useful times and also aren’t all clustered together so you end up missing the important ones. I went through recently and made sure everything eep’d either at the right time of day to remind me (pills notification in am, etc) or early enough that I would have time to complete it before the EOD (so journaling still warns me at 10pm, but “do daily to-do list” shows up around 6pm).


Or stagger the deadlines themselves:

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I sometimes think that the one-way system of pledge escalation is unhelpful. If we’re trying to maximise awesomeness, or whatever, then an overly-high pledge creates some combination of stress and conservativeness of ambition.

Wouldn’t it be great if my reward for staying on track for a substantial period of time was that my pledge automatically drops to the next level down?


This is a good idea!

Quoting @dreev in today’s Weekly Beemail:

PRO: First, it’s a reward for staying on track that most users will appreciate. More importantly, when the pledge is scary high it makes you less ambitious in your goal-setting or even weaselly. Scary high pledges are, empirically, not actually awesomeness-maximizing.

This problem has already been solved by the ability to set a maximum pledge threshold. Maybe not for everyone, but that works great for me.

Automatically backing the pledge amount down would only make me more likely to derail, by reducing the disincentive.


The weekly email said 30 days, I wouldn’t call that a substantial period of time. Perhaps ‘substantial’ could be user-goal-defined? I can think of some goals where 3 months may be more appropriate.


I really like this idea. I tend to keep my pledge limit low, because high pledges stress me out and make me feel like my life is out of control even when I’m succeeding in my goals, but if I was able to get money off for good behavior, so to speak, I think that would give me incentive to keep pledge caps high and let dropping pledge amounts act as a reward for keeping up my goals. That would reinforce good behavior while not letting me give into the temptation of autocapping all my pledges at $5 because anything higher is too stressful.


I feel conflicted about this. When I think about it as a “reward” for keeping up with my goals, I like it.

But, umm. On the other hand. I started this thread because I was curious about whether large pledge amounts actually work. It sounds like they do, at least for some of you (testing now to see if it works for me). So: let’s say a $90 pledge works for me, but I’ve consistently found that a $30 pledge does not. So, I’ll succeed for 30 days with the $90 pledge, then be “rewarded” with a drop to $30, at which point I’ll derail and be boosted back up to $90.

So the “reward” here possibly turns into… “being charged $30 every 37 days.” Which would obviously be… unfortunate.

I don’t yet know how this will actually work, though (I am super self-aware about my lack of self-awareness). Maybe after 30 days at $90 my habits will be super dialed in and I’ll have no problems keeping on the path at $30. But I would be super hesitant about such a feature unless it were at least optional and preferably opt-in.


You wrote pretty much the same thing I wrote as a reply to the Beeminder daily beemail. (Except that in my example I used $270 and $90, since that seemed even more “unfortunate”.)

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i totally agree! i do this manually on my goals now, but i would love it if it were a feature


Yeah, this is exactly my concern with the idea.

It may depend whether you’re trying to maximize awesomeness and achievement or to minimize financial penalties. Let’s aim for some of both. There’s two legit ways to stay on a goal’s road: do the thing and make the thing easier to do.

I definitely noticed that my high pledge goals gravitated toward the latter, by having more conservative slopes and less ambitious fine print. For me, that’s a net badness.

Part of the reason that we introduced pledge caps, iirc, was an attempt to stop the side-effects of monotonically-increasing exponential pledge amounts.

A good example is a mustdo goal, where each day you specify the task to be done. Eventually, your task becomes ‘get out of bed’ and the goal isn’t worth very much any more. It’s a less visible slippery slope than a rising pledge amount.

An automated down-pledge might counteract the tendency toward awesomeness-reducing conservativeness. Yes, it might have a financial cost, but on balance I think we will create higher quality goals as a result.

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This sounds a lot like @dreev’s reflections on the evolution of his use of the system. It seems reasonable that over time you end up with less ambition but more confidence that you’re actually going to do the thing.


Not a coincidence… we’ve talked about this on and off for years. :slight_smile:

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Such fascinating discussion about the auto-decaying pledges idea. I took a straw poll in a weekly beemail and put it like this:

The proposal would be that whenever you go 30 days without derailing, your pledge automatically drops a level. (For now, assume no ability to opt out of this, other than to be Beemium and be able to manually bump the pledge back up.)

CON: It seems a bit mercenary on our part to be like: “Oh, you reached your Motivation Point? Well we can’t have that, let’s put you back at the level where you’re actually willing to derail and pay us!”

PRO: First, it’s a reward for staying on track that most users will appreciate. More importantly, when the pledge is scary high it makes you less ambitious in your goal-setting or even weaselly. Scary high pledges are, empirically, not actually awesomeness-maximizing.

Here are the results of that:

  • 20 people said “fine by me”
  • 28 people said “that would definitely help me”
  • 19 people said “I have mixed feelings but overall it would probably help me”
  • 11 people said “I have mixed feelings but overall it would not help me”
  • 3 people said “i count on scary high pledges”

And a couple people pointed out the bias in the poll, like omitting an option for “that would definitely not help me, for reasons other than counting on scary high pledges”.

But overall I was surprised by how much demand there is for this! The arguments against it though are really good, so I don’t think we’d do this without at least making it very easy to opt out of.

Let me try one more poll here:

  • definitely add an auto-decaying pledges option! it’s worth the added complexity of making the user make that choice.
  • ok, it’s not that big of a deal to do this manually or just stick with low pledge caps.

0 voters

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My original response to the Beemail:

That would definitely help me.

It gives a meta-goal to keeping on the straight and narrow – not only do I stay on track with my goal for the sake of the goal itself, but because if I’m good I can reduce my pledge! It’s hard to describe but this would be catnip to me. It’s like the carrot where the sting is the stick. This is something I have found lacking with Beeminder: positive reinforcement to balance the negative of being stung. I think being out at $90 (the highest I’ve dared pledge) with no way to earn my way back would actually be demotivating (and reducing my pledge manually would feel like cheating).


Fascinated by this part. Upon introspecting, I realize that I’m the same. I hadn’t realized that till you said it. I thought it was just the friction / remembering to do it.