Updated on 06.05.14

Master the Ten Second Rule (6/365)

Trent Hamm

I’ve been going to the same barbershop most of the time for the last fifteen years or so. We grew up in the same area, so it’s rather fun to catch up with him on things that are happening in our hometown area.

He’s a good barber, so he’s also pretty busy. He also operates almost entirely on walk-in business, so when you show up, you get on a list and have to wait for about thirty minutes or so.

When I go there to get my hair cut, I’ll often wander around the small shops nearby – and there happens to be a shop that sells board games about four doors down. Board gaming is one of my biggest hobbies, so I’ll often walk in there to browse the shelves.

That’s when I have to be careful.

Master the Ten Second Rule (6/365)

When I’m in that store, there’s a lot of temptation for me to pick up and buy a new board game. I’ll think about playing it with my wife and with my friends and recall the many great experiences we’ve had around the table. I’ll think about playing it with my sons and my daughter in the future.

I’ll be sorely tempted to just buy the game. After all, I can afford the sticker price. Why not just buy it and make those dreams a reality?

That line of thinking leads to a lot of unnecessary spending. It rides the emotional wave of impulse buying right to the conclusion, where you’ve got an item you bought open in your home and you’re realizing that maybe buying it wasn’t the best idea. With those board games, for example, I often realize that we have quite a few games that we love playing already on our shelves.

My first line of defense against these types of impulsive purchases – the ones where I know I could afford the unnecessary item – is the ten second rule, which I’ve talked about before.

Whenever I’m considering making a purchase of any kind, I simply stop for ten seconds and ask myself whether this is really a worthwhile purchase. Do I actually need this item? Does it cause any sort of fulfillment in my life that isn’t already achieved by the things I currently own? Could I not put the cost of this item to better use?

I don’t watch the clock on this or anything – I just do it for roughly ten seconds or so.

At the end of those ten seconds, if I’m still convinced that making this purchase is the best idea, then I’ll go ahead and buy it without guilt or remorse.

However, I’ve come to find that the ten second rule frees me from making a lot of unnecessary purchases. By facing the doubts I have about the purchase before I make it, I often end up making the right decision rather than a decision that I’ll regret.

Doesn’t this eliminate spontaneity? Sure, it does. However, the only time I really want spontaneity that results in me spending money is when I’m with other people, and when I’m engaging in a social event, I make up my mind how much I’m going to spend on that event before I go. Spontaneity when I’m by myself is mostly just an excuse to spend money on things I don’t really need.

If you’re having trouble keeping control over your impulse spending, try practicing the ten second rule. Whenever you’re tempted, stop for ten seconds and ask yourself whether you’ll regret this purchase in the morning. If you find yourself putting the item back, you’ll end up feeling good about yourself and you’ll still have that money in your pocket.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book 365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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  1. Steven says:

    What about if you find something you know that you’d like to have (in the future) but it’s priced exceptionally low? Do you pass it up or buy it on the spot?

  2. lurker carl says:

    Passing time in stores is foolish when you are prone to submitting to your whims. Wouldn’t it be better to avoid temptation?

    Why is spontaneity alone bad yet spontaneity in your social circle good. I don’t understand the logic.

  3. Valleycat1 says:

    If you enjoy passing the wait time at that store, you could just carry enough money for the haircut & leave the checkbook or cc at home. Then you’d have a passive barrier in place no matter how much you are tempted. The better way may be to just take a book & wait at the barber’s.

  4. kiki says:

    What’s with the picture of the woman with the shoe? There wasn’t another gender-normative stereotype you could come up with?

  5. Alice says:

    The photo of a woman shopping is a gender stereotype. Given that this blog is written by a man, the photographer should have tried for something gender neutral or male specific, or Trent should have caught it before it was posted. Unfortunate, as other things in this blog have previously seemed to present a subconscious gender bias (anyone remember that post about women’s swimsuits?)

  6. Misha says:

    Yeah, the only thing I can react to here is the photos. Really? Really? You couldn’t have had your intern take a picture of you at a gaming shop or bookstore? You just had to go for the “lol women shoes” trope? Really

    Well, that and the fact that Trent has repeatedly admitted that he has an impulse spending problem, and repeatedly told us his solutions for not giving into it involve every convoluted invented avoidance technique he can think of, everything short of not actually going to stores or sites where he’s tempted to spend.

  7. kc says:

    I imagine Brittany made the decision on the photo; she probably just grabbed a friend, went to the mall, and took a few shots of whatever came to mind. Trent might have exercised a little editorial control, but it probably didn’t strike him as offensive or stereotypical.

  8. Kathleen says:

    Seriously guys, hands off the photos. The photographer is a kid who’s learning, and part of that is deciding on how to present an idea. Lighten up on the gender nonsense.

    Britney, you’re doing a great job. Also, I recommend Jim Miotke books for nice basics on photography.

  9. *sara* says:

    Yup, as a woman who buys women’s shoes, I didn’t think twice about the photo. Its not biased, its a realistic photo of a situation that actually happens.

    I really like the regular pics, and am sure we’ll see a ton of growth in the intern’s photography skills by the time we get to 365/365!

  10. Johanna says:

    Kathleen, part of learning is receiving feedback from other people, and that feedback may reveal that other people aren’t receiving your ideas the same way you intended to present them. If your goal is for your work to be appreciated by people other than you, that’s important.

  11. Kathleen says:

    Johanna, the way people present “feedback” on this site is almost universally negative and NOT constructive. And you, my dear, tend to be the queen of that.

  12. Johanna says:

    Well, you’ve just been a shining beacon of positivity in this thread, haven’t you?

  13. Alice says:

    Reinforcement of stereotypes about women is not “gender nonsense.” I doubt Trent or the intern thought much about the photo for this post; but that’s the point, a gender stereotype was used, likely without the photographer or author even thinking about it. It’s good that people who see it differently have posted, perhaps a learning experience for the intern not to cave whenever someone disagrees. But being an oblivious cheerleader for “a [young adult] who’s learning” is potentially more destructive in the long run that people voicing sincere concern about the image.

  14. Melanie says:

    As usual the comments never disappoint.

  15. Jules says:

    I must admit the women-shoes thing does bug me a bit, in the senes that I have rarely–only once–seen a pair of shoes that I HAD to have (and even then, I could wait until they went on sale). No, my impulse buys are books. Yesterday I bought 5 (admittedly, 3 of them were from the thrift store).

  16. Riki says:

    Why do people assume that negative feedback is not constructive feedback? Learning doesn’t come from constantly hearing how good you are; learning comes from making mistakes and having them corrected or from listening to different points of view and correlating them with your own.

    For the most part here, the comments that are negative in tone are actually presented in a fairly polite, well-reasoned way. Most people say what they think is wrong and then explain why it is wrong. I see nothing wrong with calling Trent out on bad advice or poorly reasoned arguments. Sure, there’s a little bit of snark, but why should we take what Trent says at face value? If he puts it out there, he needs to be prepared to listen to other points of view. Sometimes he even needs to be prepared to take some heat. That’s the nature of the business and the world is not a care-y share-y place where we all think the same things. If I see something that’s incorrect or that I don’t agree with, I will absolutely present my side of the argument, even if that means systematically deconstructing the other argument. In fact, I think we all have a responsibility to be active participants in a conversation.

    Ultimately, I don’t read this blog because Trent shares magical wisdom. It’s probably obvious by now that I rarely agree with him and I fully admit to being one of his most vocal critics. I make an attempt to write well-reasoned rebuttals and there have been many times when I drafted comments that I ultimately felt were too snarky so I decided not to post them. I read this blog because the community is active, interesting, and willing to debate. I hate comment sections that have 32 variations on “Great article! Go you!” It’s uninteresting.

  17. Riki says:

    For Brittany, I do think we need to be very thoughtful in any feedback (positive or negative), but I agree that part of learning to be a photographer is understanding that not everybody will like or “get” your photos, and that it’s important to hear how different people receive your work. This is especially true in the visual arts because you really, truly can’t please everybody. It takes a thick skin for certain.

    I’ve actually been thinking about this for a while now – Brittany, if you’re interested in some good-quality feedback on your images, I’d be willing to help out. I won’t pull any punches but I’m also a certified teacher and have significant experience teaching amateur photography so I won’t just tear things apart either. I’ve been a decent amateur photographer since 1999 and have doing paid wedding, portrait, food photography for three years now. If you like, I can contact you through your facebook page.

  18. Andrew says:

    Hey, I’m a man, one who thinks a lot of “gender” issues are overblown, and the photo stopped me abruptly in the middle if the article. It was glaringly wrong for the piece, given the author and the content. A photo which detracts from the message it us attached to is worthy if criticism.

  19. Andrew says:

    Sorry for the typos above

    Also, I do want to say it was a good photo. It was just wrong for this article.

  20. valleycat1 says:

    I’m with Andrew @ #18 & 19 on the photo. It is jarringly out of place to have a woman’s photo pop up in a totally male-oriented scenario (barber, Trent in a game store).

  21. Lisa says:

    I related to the photo, because, as a woman, I am tempted often by shoes on sale, especially red ones. They always fit, they last for a long time, they don’t take up a lot of space in my home, and their sale prices seem affordable. Rather than being gender stereotypical, this photo was inclusive, as the story described a man’s impulse purchase and the photo showed one woman’s impulse purchase.
    The readers’ criticism birdwalked from the main idea of this article…the message was about purchase impulsiveness. Both the story and the photo depicted the same message.

  22. Emma says:

    What could be more sexist than a picture of a woman with a red shoe in a shoe store? So deep there the author knows the root of ant frugality- THE WOMEN!As they say a picture is worth a thausand words.

  23. graytham says:

    Yeah, I have to agree with the last few comments. It’s a fine photo, and if this was a general post on shopping, I wouldn’t think twice about it. The “reinforcing gender stereotypes” nonsense wouldn’t even occur to me. But a photo of a man with a board game probably would have been more appropriate.

  24. graytham says:

    Hmmm…#21 makes a good point.

  25. Gretchen says:

    The photo didn’t even register with me because how. many. times. can you talk about wandering into X store and randomly spending money?

  26. Lisa says:

    The point is that the story isn’t just about a man. Its to both men and women, buying impulsively. I buy shoes. My mother in law buys food on sale. Lots of it. My son buys movies. My daughter buys stuff for her daughter. Its silly to be sensitive about the picture, and the story wasn’t just about Trent buying a board game. The article was about impulse buying, and a good idea to stop doing it is to wait ten seconds. Good idea, Trent!

  27. Alice says:

    @26 Lisa,

    Dismissing someone who doesn’t agree with you as “silly” is not constructive.

    The point is that women are often stereotyped as being impulsive and interested only in superficial things like new shoes (when they already have plenty of shoes); the photo of a blonde woman eyeing a pair of red shoes detracts from the point of the article. Regardless of the merits of the actual image, it reinforces stereotypes and distracts from the article, so it was not a good choice to accompany this post.

  28. SLCCOM says:

    Better would be to have two photos — both men and women. That would solve problems, provide equal context, and avoid the sexism, whether deliberate or not. And I think probably not, in this case.

    However, the feedback is important to help writers and photographers realize that we all bring our own personal experiences and baggage to content. Finding out what others say and share expands our worlds, too.

    Good comments, constructive, reasonable, and enlightening. And that’s what I love about this blog.

  29. SHW says:

    I don’t usually comment but as a photographer I would like to weigh in.

    You have to consider the process of publishing. Brittany was told to do a picture for each post. This was probably quite some time ago in order to get the pictures, have them put with the posts and scheduled for publication as most bloggers, Trent included, usually scheduling blogs ahead of time.

    Trent said that these are not reprints but include new materials. This means Brittany could not plan her shots to match the context of the post exactly. She had to go with the information she had and was working on this some time ago.

    This is why while an internship like this might be good for exposure, it limits her chance to grow as a photographer because what she would have shot for this post two months ago might be very different from a shot she would take for it today – If the posts are done in advance she is not going to be able to incorporate the feedback right away.

    There seems to be a lot of criticism without specific ideas for improvement. This isn’t helpful. Every creative person knows they can improve, but it is only useful if we are told “HOW”

    For example – The best photography advice I ever received was to take your first picture (or idea for a picture) and discard it. This will be the one everyone takes. Discard your second picture/idea. This will be the one amateur photographers take. Carry on. It is only in the fourth and fifth picture/idea that you will find your own unique and specular viewpoint.

    This process will help you step out of stereo types and getting those “Snap shot” pictures anyone can take.

    Also, besides being a photographer you have to be a good stylist of both your subjects and backgrounds. This comes with practice and Brittany will find her voice.

    I looked at Brittany’s website and she shows promise and much enthusiasm.

    Good Luck Brittany and thank you for having the courage to share your work in such a public arena. I can’t wait to see what wonderful things you do with your photography!

  30. Kate says:

    OMG! Can you people be more snarky? And, Riki…if you don’t read this blog then why are you commenting? That, in itself, makes no sense. And, yes, Johanna, I have to agree with #11. This whole thread is aimed towards newbies. Why not spend your time giving support to those people instead of filling up the comments with negativity?

  31. Kate says:

    The ten second rule is good for internet use, too. Example: When I am booking lodging, I check tripadvisor reviews. I noticed, yesterday, that a new(?) feature when checking availability of rooms is flashing messages saying things like “book now! only 1 room available at this price!” Messages like that lead to a sense of urgency that is not there–I know this because when I actually called the establishment there were a number of rooms available and the price was cheaper than the “book now! only 1 room available at this price!” price.

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