Zero Reward Living is a term I coined a year or so ago when it became obvious that no amount of low reward living will help many people who are totally entrenched in high reward living to the point that every aspect of their lives revolves around FOMO (fear of missing out) and “affording” high reward activities.

Lowering reward to zero

It sounds unmanageable, and even I didn’t think it was possible, but thanks to the gig economy options out there (such as Uber or Instacart), I realized that this is the first time in history that a middle class person can actually opt-out fully from reward living of any kind.

Zero reward living means just that: living, working, behaving in a way that earns you no strong dopamine reaction.  Why would someone do something so aggressive?  Because their past years have been so destructive to their futures that they have no other choice.  They need to undo that which they have done.

Zero reward living involves 10 actions that need to be started with immediacy and eventually take over one’s life until they reach each milestone and their final goal.  In general, I think 24 months is about the maximum one might need this form of living, but I also think less than 6 months is unlikely to help anyone.

The 10 methods to low reward living are:

  1. Unplug.  Turn off as many social networks, streaming apps, TV shows and other digital consumption as you can.  Reduce your social network “feed” to just close family and any friends who are part of your lower reward lifestyle.  If they party or watch TV a lot, you need to mute them entirely.  They will pull you back in.
  2. Undiet.  Don’t pick a diet for physique or long term health.  Pick a short term diet for cost effectiveness.  You want the calories you need to survive, but you aren’t going to be focused specifically on physique goals here.  If you can live on $3 a day in food, that’s what you’re eating the entire time.  Intermittent fasting daily means you only need 1-2 meals a day to satiety and for energy.
  3. Gig it up.  Find the gig economy apps that you can do well, and then sign up for them.  Some apps offer sign-up bonuses so search those out before signing up.
  4. Start a savings account.  You need a way to put your new proceeds aside for your emergency nest egg.  Every dollar you can save is a dollar that must be saved.
  5. Consumerism is paused.  No need to go shopping or pay for Amazon Prime anymore.  No need to pick up new clothes or video games or anything that gets in the way of you actually working and saving.  This is a good time to unsubscribe from literally every email you subscribe to.  Every one of them.  If an email comes in with an unsubscribe link, click it.  Empty inbox every morning is a good goal to aim for over your zero reward living months (or years).
  6. Be aware of friends and family who pull you in.  Many people who fix their past mistakes find they’re no longer compatible with people they used to appreciate, love and have fun with.  Expect relationships to break as you take a break from the things that bonded you.
  7. Manage your sleep.  You want 8 hours a night if possible.  This isn’t negotiable.  Sleep absolutely is a big part of resetting brain rewards, and if you’re not able to get good sleep, we need to figure out why.
  8. Create relationships with others doing the same thing.  These should be either phone or email relationships, not online chat on a social network feeding you constant ads and events you want to know more about.
  9. Keep track of hours invested, actual hours worked, and total money made.  Start a spreadsheet to track this daily so you can see what gig economy apps work best at what time and on what day.
  10. Mystery is marketing.  Don’t share with others what you’re doing or why.  It’s like a fat person bragging about going to the gym every January but then they’re 5 pounds heavier in a year.  Don’t market your lifestyle, be mysterious.  Go and do, don’t share.  If in 2 years you’re on top of the world with your first investment property, you can start helping others.  You can not help others if you haven’t helped yourself and conquered your coaddictions.

You’re welcome to join my forums and share your experiences or post any questions you have.  I’m here to help, free of charge.