Applying Jerry Seinfeld’s “Chain” Concept To Personal Finance

SeinfeldI bet Jerry Seinfeld is not a person you’d ever expect me to discuss on The Simple Dollar. I didn’t expect to talk about him either, but then I read an article at LifeHacker outlining Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret. Here’s an excerpt:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain.” He said again for emphasis.

Basically, once you start accomplishing a task every day, if you create an obvious visual reminder of that continued success, you’re going to want to keep going. Seinfeld applied this philosophy to writing comedic pieces, but you can directly apply it to anything in your life, from weight loss to reading to, well, personal finance!

Here are six ways you can use this chaining technique to improve your personal finance state:

Devote fifteen minutes a day to investigating money saving techniques Each day you manage to do this, put an X on the wall calendar. Soon, you’ll find that that fifteen minutes a day is actually shaving a lot of money from your budget. Here are forty ways to get started.

Research in detail one stock Let’s say you’re an individual stock investor and you have a hard time staying motivated with the necessary research. Start a chain for this – go through your research routine for one stock a day, then mark a big X over that day. As the chain grows, you’ll want to keep up your streak of success – and hopefully, you’ll find a sweet stock pick or two.

Eat at home Many people get started eating at home, but then get burnt out on the effort. Each day you manage not to eat out, put a big red X on the box. Soon, you’ll find yourself trying to keep the streak alive – and discovering a lot of extra money in your budget.

Check your online account balances I do this every day, methodically, to make sure there aren’t any errors (and because I enjoy watching my investments and my interest go up). For some people, though, they need reminders to do this, so this “chain” technique can work really well.

Don’t watch television Television is expensive in a lot of ways. Many people want to give it up, find the initiative for a few days, then slack off. Use this technique to psychologically push yourself to keep that television turned off.

This is a very clever psychological technique for providing extra motivation for yourself. Don’t break the chain.

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.