The Ten Second Rule

A few times in the past, The Simple Dollar has mentioned some reference to a “ten second rule” or a “count to ten rule” without explaining this incredibly powerful tool in detail.

In short, the “ten second rule” says that any time you are about to spend any money at all, count to ten slowly and spend that time considering whether or not you should actually spend the money. It’s quite simple, isn’t it? It’s something that anyone can do, but it’s something that most of us never even consider doing as we’re writing a check or handing items to the checkout clerk.

Why do this? The point of purchase is the point of no return – it is that exact point in which our money becomes a distinct item that we may or may not need. If we take a few seconds to really look at that item and ask ourselves whether we really need it or not, it becomes much easier to separate the necessary spending from the unnecessary spending.

I use this every time I purchase anything, from writing a check for rent to buying gasoline to buying groceries. It makes me really think about what I’m spending and what I can do to reduce that spending, thus increasing the amount of money I have to follow my big dreams instead of regularly spending it on little stuff I don’t need.

Here are some specific examples to inspire you:

Count to ten as you’re standing in the checkout line at the grocery store while looking in your cart. Do you really need that bag of cookies or that six pack of Sam Adams? Maybe they’re vital comforts for you, but for many of us, these expenses are ones that are wasteful.

Count to ten as you’re paying your bills. You’re thinking about buying a new car, but your old one isn’t paid off yet. Do you really need that extra expenditure each month, or is your current car good enough to last for another year or two?

Count to ten at the clothing store. This one gets my wife every time. As she heads off, credit card in hand, to buy some clothes, I whisper in her ear, “Count to ten, honey.” She stands there for a bit looking at what she’s about to buy and then several of the items usually find their way back to the rack.

Count to ten at the bookstore. Look at the books and magazines cradled in your arm. Couldn’t you just read them at the library or check them out there? What about the unread books at home?

The ten second rule is incredibly powerful at helping you to get off of the consumerist treadmill and get on track with building your personal savings.