The 10 Dollar Rule

Chris G. wrote about how he reduces stress when traveling, and among all the good tips is this:

I often get stressed out spending small amounts of money. Overall, this isn’t always bad — it’s led to a healthy paranoia about debt and a lifelong adherence to frugality. However, it has its downsides too, in that I can spend hours walking around trying to decide what to eat, or hours trying to figure out the public transit system somewhere instead of just flagging down a taxi.

…I finally created a $10 rule for myself that has been rocking my world. The $10 rule is that when I’m traveling, I deliberately avoid worrying about most things that cost $10 or less. As I said, this makes a big difference. I actually eat three meals a day now. If I can’t find free WiFi, I’ll walk into a hotel and pay for the connection. SO MUCH LESS STRESS.

Rules like this reduce stress because they reduce the amount of thought you have to put into each decision (and ultimately reduce the total number of decisions). Evaluating options, weighing pros and cons, and then deciding: this taxes emotional and mental resources.

I should put in place a similar rule when I’m looking at music on iTunes. I will buy a song for $.99 or $1.29 if I know it to be good. But I will never experiment with music because I don’t want to pay a few bucks downloading songs I might not like, yet I will still spend ridiculous amounts of time debating it in my head.


Here’s a piece on Salon titled the Art of Choosing: The hidden science of choice. The most interesting point is cultural: in America we glorify choice and teach our kids at a young age to do the same. Japan is different.

18 Responses to The 10 Dollar Rule

  1. Chris Hoover says:

    Scientific American had a great article some time back on the “Tyranny of Choice” which argues, among many interesting points, that a great breadth of choice is psychologically damaging. This because when making a choice you are also choosing *against* a broad variety of options; the aggregate positive qualities of the rejected options overwhelms the positive qualities of the option selected. People that put a lot of effort into researching the “correct” option (“maximizers”) are thus prone to feeling perpetually screwed.

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