Posted by: nedpelger | July 28, 2009

Make Better Spending Decisions with the Stranger Test

In these challenging economic times, you may be feeling more stress about the ends not quite meeting. The Beautiful Wife has a simple concept regarding finances, “Cash in…good, cash out…bad.” While this concept fits her nature, TBW doesn’t always behave that way and I certainly don’t. Many times, we have more control over the “Cash out” side of the equation.

I came across a simple concept that helps control impulse buying.  The “Stranger Test” moves us past what we think we can or cannot afford to another way to view the purchase decision. If you are considering buying a HDTV for $800, think about a stranger walking up and offering you $800 to not buy the HDTV. Would you rather have the $800 of found money or the HDTV?

You may think, “Wow, if someone gave me $800 I’d pay down my credit card.” Then you have your answer. On the other hand, you may conclude you’d rather have that cool new TV. The value of the concept lies in getting out of the purchase only mode for a few moments and seeing the issue from another point of view.

In significant interactions, most of us benefit from a bit of reflection. It’s valuable to look at the issue from another point of view. Of course, those of you who seem to do nothing but consider options and never make a decision don’t need to use the Stranger Test. You need to stop living in fear and start living with some gusto.

For those of us who have no problem grabbing the gusto, though, the Stranger Test may be a helpful tool.


  1. Great tip, I always try to think of the Cashflow diagram, but this is a good example to keep handy!

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