I’d Rather Have the Money, Bob

Did you see us? My husband and I were on TV with Bob Barker. Before you run to check your DVR or YouTube, I’d better tell you this was a while ago. Try 1971.


We were plucked from the live audience of that old favorite, Truth or Consequences along with two other couples. Ours was a kind of “newlywed game” stunt. They put the guys in a sound-proof booth and we ladies had to predict how our husbands would answer questions.

Of course, the hubs and I won. And a mighty fine prize it was: $50 in prize money and a blender! 

We already had a blender so I remember thinking I’d rather have the money. We could have walked away with a grand total of $85 …

Catching Bob on reruns of The Price is Right brings back fond memories. And whenever some lucky contestant wins the Show Case—a mishmash of all kinds of stuff to clutter their lives—I can almost hear what the winner is thinking: I’d rather have the money, Bob! But instead, the winner gets all the stuff and has to pay taxes on the full retail value to boot. (We got off easy … not much tax due on $50 and a blender).

Every day you should be telling yourself the same thing: I’d rather have the money! Let’s say you see a great new pair of shoes you simply cannot resist. They’re on sale … this won’t last and it’s such a great deal. No matter how you pay for them (cash, credit, check, Paypal), it’s a done deal. You’ve got the shoes, they’ve got your money.

Here’s where your thinking gets all messed up. Your choices, you believe, are to either 1) have the shoes or 2) not have the shoes. One is a happy outcome, the other negative, or so you believe.

How would your decision change if the salesman had the shoes in one hand and the $50 cash in the other. Would you take the shoes or the money?

That is exactly the choice you have with every purchase. Either you get the [fill in the blank] or you get the money. Either you buy the shoes or leave $50 in your bank account.

If you could see your lifetime earnings in one big pile of money and how each spending decision diminishes the amount you get to keep, I have a feeling you would take your decision much more seriously. You’d opt to take the money more often than the stuff to clutter your life.

The next time you think to spend money—any amount—ask yourself: Do I really want this, or would I rather have the money?

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  1. Jo says:

    Been doing my best to practice ‘need vs want’ over the years with fair success. Would have been more successful if I’d also practiced the visual of ‘money in hand over item’ for I would have chosen $$$$ for sure. Now like Marilyn I must consider where to keep it as well!!!!

  2. ann says:

    I am thinking about Seasonal Clothing and that 3 month Bathing Suit which I get emails from Stores Egging me on to a New One. I would rather see a Good amount in my Checking Account, Thank you.

  3. Debbie says:

    Great post! This is so true. The item may bring me happiness but short-lived. A lot of the time I would rather have the money.

  4. Luisa says:

    Thank you for this post. It reminds me of some of your posts from the early days, the ones that first got me hooked on your column, really hitting home.

  5. Linda Radosevich says:

    Whenever I’m about to take the plunge and buy something, I ask myself, “Is this something I NEED or something I WANT?” if it’s something I NEED, then I buy. If it’s something I WANT, I ask, “How bad do I want it? How will I use it? Will it take the place of something I should get rid of?” and now, I’ll add…”would I rather have the money?” Thanks, Mary!

  6. Lija W says:

    “If you could see your lifetime earnings in one big pile of money and how each spending decision diminishes the amount you get to keep… ”

    I’ve been frugal my whole life, and this sentence really resonated with me more than any other. It really helps to be able to visualize your spending in this way. I’d always rather have the cash! 🙂 Thanks, Mary.

  7. marilyn b says:

    What an excellent comparison as I am cleaning up my house with NO basement nor attic. Where do I put things I NEED to keep , not just WANT to keep. Great analogy …. thanks

  8. Lisa V Miller says:

    I’ve been a fan for years, but never commented before. I think this is my favorite tip you’ve ever offered, and I’m going to try to bear it in mind every day from now on – and share it with my (adult) kids! Simple, yet profound – thank you!

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