14 March 2006

Turn off the lights or pay up

Bill came up with a playful way to remind his kids that wasted electricity costs money:

Kids (and dads or moms) leaving lights on? Doors left open to heat the outside? Tired of haranguing and complaining about the background whirring noise of that gas and electric meter? Time for some economic incentives! We put a jar in the kitchen with a “Gas and Electric” tape-label. When anyone leaves a light on that should have been turned off, the charge is 25 cents (per light switch). Or 25 cents for a door left open that should have been closed. Why 25 cents? High enough make it real (in our house anyway) and not too high to cause any huge meltdowns. The amount may vary in your house depending local economic conditions and price of electricity and gas. You decide. When dad or mom gets busted (the kids love that part), the key is to model exemplary behavior: dig out the change and with great flourish and visible contrition, put the money in the jar. No double-standards allowed. After a few days or weeks of this, you could well be amazed at what a little Skinnerian behavior modification can do. Results? Nothing less than lower gas and electric bills AND family harmony. Note: This technique can also be used for other irksome behaviors: bad table manners, bad language, belching at the table, etc.

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My neighbor combines this with her fitness goals. If she leaves the light on/fridge open/etc. she does pushups. Her kids catch her and think its so funny that she gets them physical for their offenses too. "Drop and give me 10!"

we charge our daughter whenever we have to do her house work for her, but forgetting to turn off lights? i hadn't thought of that one!

at a quarter apiece, between my wife and my daughter, i could have enough for that macbook pro in a few short months... ;)

I know someone who runs a student office at a university who does this with swearing. The jar racked up well over $100 in a year.

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