Fooling Your Brain to Escape Debt

| 1/3/2012 2:07:16 PM


Chances are you know someone sweating under serious financial debt. It might even be you. I’m fresh out of college and have student loans looming over my shoulder.

The hardest part of getting out of debt, in my opinion, is keeping everything straight and organized. Lenders send about ten letters a week, often with confusing or conflicting information. Due dates get pushed back to pay the electric bill. Online resources are separated by account, and it’s hard to synthesize it all. And finally, there are a legion of private companies that want to “help” you with refinancing and consultation services. Well, good riddance to all that, I say!

ReadyForZero, a new online resource recently profiled by Fast Company, tries to make paying down debts less baffling through data synthesis, minimal visual design, video game theory, and psychological mind hacking.


Here’s how it all comes together. When you sign up for the free website, you plug in account information for your credit cards, bank accounts, student loans, mortgages, etc. (Presumably, the company will find some way to monetize the data it uses, but it claims your information will never be sold. Also, the site seems to have Department of Defense level security.) ReadyForZero knows that the Internet is addicted to infographics; thus, the site uses illustrative graphs and visualizations to clearly display your financial information. You can then use slider bars to calculate different repayment schemes and how it will affect your income, savings, and interest. Playing off of popular web-based games like Farmville, ReadyForZero sets benchmarks and goals to beat (also sort of like badges on Foursquare), turning debt repayment into essentially a really responsible video game. Finally, the company is trying out little tricks to help you manage your spending habits. For example, they provide stickers to place over your magnetic strip and credit card number that remind you of what you’re buying—and of the lingering debt you’re trying to eradicate.

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