How To Stay Motivated When You’re Giving Something Up


ne of my mates recently told me about a pact that she had made with a group of friends. They all partied a little bit too hard over Christmas and they were keen to dry out, so they made a pact that they would all go for three months without alcohol. This meant not drinking for all of January, February and March this year. To keep them all motivated and staying on track they added a monetary incentive that I really want to share with you because I think it’s bloody clever.

coin in the bottle

The Rules

1. Everyone puts in $100

2. If anyone breaks the pact, they forfeit their $100 and the pool of money gets split amongst the remaining participants. In the end, those who successfully finish the challenge get to split the pool of money between them.

I’ve been observing this pact as an outsider for most of the year and it’s been a huge motivator for my friend who hasn’t had so much as a sip of wine since January. Here are a few suggestions based on my observations, if you want to try it yourself.

Young woman standing in the street with a paper cup


1. It’s best if you collect the cash and have it kept securely by an impartial third party. Last I heard one of the challengers had a night on the booze and miraculously decided they hadn’t actually committed to the plan, which is a bit cheeky. Collect the money before the challenge starts so you know exactly who is playing and who isn’t.

2. Up the ante. I’d be able to go a month without alcohol to save $100 but three months? It would have to be at least $300 to keep me motivated for that long.

3. Two of the participants had a wedding in the middle of the challenge so they kicked in an extra $25 for a free one night pass. I really like this idea because I never go three months without a wedding or an important party where I’d like to celebrate with champagne. The rule is engagements like these need to be pre-booked and should be proper occasions like weddings or important birthdays. You can’t just chuck some extra cash in the kitty whenever you feel like a beer.

4. It needs to be a challenge for everyone. I could never play this game with Mr Smaggle because he rarely drinks so it’s not fun to compete with him. It has to be equally as challenging for all the participants.

Are you trying to give anything up? Do you think a motivation bet would help you stay on track?

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  1. nessbow 7 years ago

    This idea is genius! I think the idea of a monetary prize or penalty would be a great way to keep yourself accountable when you’re trying to give something up. In addition to the prize, it’s also helpful to have the support of a group who are all going through the same thing.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 7 years ago

      Exactly! I was bummed I didn’t know about it when they started it or I would have joined! My mate and are planning on doing an exercise incentive soon!

  2. Amanda @ Gourmanda 7 years ago

    I’m going to boast a bit here, and say that I’ve been alcohol-free for a year now. While I was never a big drinker, I can still definitely see the difference in my moods and overall health. If a financial incentive is not enough, just think of how nice it’ll be to not suffer from hangovers the morning after!

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 7 years ago

      Wow, that is amazing! I’ve often toyed with the idea of doing a year alcohol free. I do at least 2 to 4 alcohol free months each year and I just feel so much better without alcohol in my system. I also do special occasion only months where I can drink if I’m at a wedding or a very special birthday. It just cuts out those Friday nights getting boozy for no reason situations. That’s very impressive! I hardly ever drink during the week but I work in the writing and acting worlds – avoiding alcohol is almost impossible and I actually really love wine. I think I could do though. You’ve inspired me! x

  3. Recycled Interiors 7 years ago

    I gave up alcohol 17 years ago and have not touched it or missed it since. My life is all the better for it. I also gave up smoking many years ago, coffee as it was making my gut problems worse, chocolate, chips, pies and cakes after losing a lot of weight. I have an addictive personality – if I start something my endorphins go all “give me MORE”. I have found stopping and then just sticking at it the way to go. The problem with short term goals like this is that you do it for 3 months and then just go back to it. I guess it really depends on why you are giving something up and if you are in it for the long run or will just spend your win on a huge piss up!! 🙂

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 7 years ago

      I don’t have an addictive personality at all but my brother does so I totally get it. He’s an all or nothing kind of guy and I’m the queen of moderation. I usually have 5 alcohol free nights a week but even 1 or 2 glasses of wine affects me the next day and if I’m doing plays or lots of events I can easily turn my 5 AFDs into none without even trying. I find that giving up things you aren’t addicted to has it’s own challenges – I gave up social smoking last year in June. I’d go months without cigarettes and then have ten on a Saturday night and feel like balls. There’s no way I was addicted to smoking but I kept casually doing it and it became a habit. I’m so glad I stopped though – I feel so much better after a few glasses of wine than I used when you add cigarettes to it! I’m not a huge ‘piss up’ kind of gal. I’d do that maybe twice year, if that!

  4. What an awesome idea!! I love it and can see it would work so well! I’m not much of a drinker so for me that is a really easy one. That kind of motivation would keep me on track for sure.:)

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 7 years ago

      It’s good for stuff like exercise too! I’m a bridesmaid for two of my mates this year so I think there’s going to be lots of this stuff going on with exercising and eating healthily before the big days! 🙂

  5. Isn’t it funny how when money is involved, we take things a bit more seriously? Not that that’s a bad thing, just interesting to note.
    I’ve been toying with an idea for a while now – to take mini-detoxes throughout the year – and go alcohol-free one week each month.
    We swore after Christmas/NYE that we’d slow down and have plenty of quiet weekends, but events and invitations just keep popping up and life stops for no one, so I’m thinking if I can steal one week each month to just take it easy and not drink, that could be a very good thing indeed. x

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 7 years ago

      That’s a great idea! I really recommend it. I go alcohol free for a few months every year but I’m really lucky because Mr Smaggle doesn’t drink. We don’t even really keep alchohol in our house. It makes it so much easier for me. I’m a binge drinker though – if I have 1 wine, I’ll probably have 5, so that’s where the mini detoxes work. I hate it but I’m just a different person when I don’t drink. I just had my second alcohol free weekend in a row and all cylinders are firing today! It’s awesome!

  6. I like the idea of an incentive like this when you want to give something up – as you said; very clever.

    What I fail to understand is the sobriety movement, not just here but in general. I had never been a big drinker despite being youngish (28) and now can’t drink due to (unrelated) health issues and I can still have incredible nights out and do silly things (I’m due to do a nude swim with a bunch of strangers in a couple weeks). So I suppose I wonder how it is that people can’t go without it? That they feel the need to always have it when going to a party or out for a meal etc. But anyway, my point isn’t really related to this post so I’m simply say ‘good for them’ and I hope they manage it – they should be able to do if you can ‘pay for a pass’ 🙂

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 7 years ago

      That nude swim sounds amazing! I’ve never been hugely reliant on alcohol to have a good time (I’m just as fun at 9am as I am at 9pm!) but I really enjoy having a glass of wine. I do think it’s the ‘treat’ aspect of it though. If it wasn’t full of empty calories and seen as something ‘naughty’ I wouldn’t care that much about it. It’s silly isn’t it? I’m fine for almost every occasion but I love a glass of champagne at a wedding and if it’s a special friends birthday, I want to be able to share a lovely bottle of wine with them. Most of my friends are very decent drinkers though so drinking is a very normal/accepted thing in my friendship group which makes it difficult. Mr Smaggle doesn’t drink and sometimes his mates won’t invite him out because of it. It’s a bit shit really.

  7. Bec @ The Plumbette 7 years ago

    I rarely drink but I love this idea! A great way of keeping accountable. 🙂

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 7 years ago

      I’m going to rope my mate into doing it for exercise next month! 🙂

  8. merilyn 7 years ago

    a good incentive i think smags, if people need support! … all good!
    my sister and my ex gave up smoking together on a bet, on the same day 30 yrs ago!
    I’ve been off the booz for 1yr now! … and honestly do not miss it!
    I was a cheap drunk! slurring after three drinks!;0
    but I really thought I had the alcoholic gene, because I always had one drink a day at least!
    my sister stopped drinking just before me, so I thought I’d give it a go!
    nothing to loose … everything to gain!
    I have absolutely amazed myself! I’ve only had 2 small glasses of moet
    one at Christmas and one at new year!
    I’m not addicted and I’m healthier happier … no hangovers, headaches, not so fuzzy thinking in the morning! … and I lost weight!
    I can still say cheers to you hun! love m:)X

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 7 years ago

      Oh my goodness that’s amazing of them! What a great story. I’m definitely err-ing on the side of going a full year without alcohol… It’s an idea that’s been buzzing away at me!

  9. Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid 7 years ago

    I have one of those weird personalities where once I know I can’t have/do something I want to have/do it so bad, almost obsessively. That’s why I’m sure I would fail dismally in a scheme such as this. I need more of a carrot and stick thing to keep me motivated. For example, I have a workout tip jar and every time I exercise I drop a coin in. When the jar is full, I get to empty it out and splash the cash in whichever way I choose. Of course, it doesn’t have to be money, it could be marbles or something, with an incentive at the end. I need that constant positive reinforcement to keep me on track, and if I do fall off the rails, instead of being penalised, there’s an incentive to get back and pick up where I left off. Although it’s not for me, good on your mates, I think they could really be onto something!

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 7 years ago

      It’s funny how people work isn’t it? I was chatting to my mate last night and she’s the best dieter in the world. She can drop 8 kilos in 8 weeks and won’t stray at all from a healthy plan but then she’ll stop and gain it all back. She’s all or nothing kind of gal. I’m the queen of moderation. Like I’m doing to Whole 30 but I can’t do it 100%. I’ve had the odd cappucino or a teeny bit of sweet chilli sauce here and there but I’d never totally give up eat Maccas. It’s just funny the way people do stuff. Like my brother has an addictive personality so when he quits something, it’s cold turkey. It’s interesting right?

  10. Maxabella 7 years ago

    A few years ago a bunch of work colleagues and myself had a pact just like this to lose 5kg in 6 weeks. It worked for every single one of us. It’s a great motivator – the ‘club’ feel, not necessarily the cash, I think. x

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 7 years ago

      Oh totally! It’s the club feel 100%. I’m in the process of trying to convince my mate who’s doing the challenge that she could take one night off when we go wedding dress shopping in March (because I’m a bridesmaid for her and you only get to do that once in your life!) her sister is also in the challenge and she won’t even consider it unless her sister is also on board. Strength in numbers!

  11. Giulia Porro 7 years ago

    I’m giving sugar up but I’m not sure a money incentive would work. Especially because no one wants to do it with me! 🙂

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 7 years ago

      Giving up sugar is so tough! People are all on board with it until they’re like ‘No sauce??? WHAAAAT?????’. Good luck – the first week really hurts but you’ll fab after that!


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