The Clever (Super Easy) Trick That Will Help You Spend a Lot Less Money

This super-simple tip might just change the way you look at shopping.

We’ve all got those purchases that we regret. Something that seemed like a great buy in the moment, but wasn’t so great looking back. It might be an article of clothing, an accessory, or even some crazy food item that seemed delicious at the time. Whatever it is, you know those hard-earned dollars would’ve been better spent elsewhere (for instance, these six things are definitely not worth the money). Oh well, it happens, right?

The-5-Second-Trick-that-Trains-Your-Brain-to-Spend-Less-MoneyDedMityay/shutterstock

Thankfully, Reddit user Willwalt has shared a tip that might make a huge difference the next time you’re on the fence about a purchase. It works like this: look at the price of the item. Now imagine you have the item in one hand and that dollar amount, in cash, in your other hand. Which would you rather have? If your answer is still the item, then the purchase is probably worth it. If not, you’ve succeeded in saving yourself some dough. Here’s what financial experts would do with some extra cash.

Business Insider calls this the “stranger test,” putting a little spin on it. Instead of imagining the merch and cash in your own hands, imagine a stranger is offering them to you. You can only have one.

This trick will jar your brain into thinking in terms of, not the “stuff” you’re getting, but the money you’re losing. This might seem obvious—it’s the true nature of shopping, after all. But we often don’t see it this way. Especially in today’s world of credit cards and Venmo, we can tend to lose sight of the fact that we’re spending cold hard cash. This tip really puts your purchases in perspective.

The-5-Second-Trick-that-Trains-Your-Brain-to-Spend-Less-MoneyAaron Amat/shutterstock

If that doesn’t work for you, try imagining the purchase not as cash, but as time! Another Reddit user, ChipsHandon12, suggests imagining how much time at work it would take you to earn that amount of money. So imagine you make $15 an hour and you’re trying to make up your mind about a $30 dress. Tell yourself that the dress is not $30 but two hours spent at work. Is it worth it?

Whichever tip works better for you, it’s bound to leave you with a clearer shopping conscience, and a little more money in your pocket. Next, here are 30 ways to make easy money in an hour (or less!).

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Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.