Want to save money? Try the One-Finger Rule

Don't touch the merchandise. I learned this great tip from Kelly Whalen during recent tweetchat hosted by Wise Bread (#wbchat).  The theory is that the more you touch, the more you buy.  But can saving money really be as simple as learning to keep your hands to yourself?  For many people, the answer is yes.

study conducted at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, concluded that touch can influence purchase decisions.  Their statistics prove that some people have trouble making purchase decisions when they can't touch the merchandise. The reason we are so susceptible to touch was also covered in the study.  The University of Wisconsin researchers found that touching seems to increase the sense of ownership of a product. In other words, holding that cashmere scarf is just one small, but significant, step away from actually owning it.  This is important for consumers to understand if they want to have a fighting chance of making smart decisions.  Savvy marketers are fully aware of the importance of touch in the buying process. There is even a name for the study of touch in marketing: “haptic” or sensory research.  

The problem is that the seemingly simple solution of implementing a "no touch" rule is easier said than done.  An MIT researcher found that our need to touch begins in infancy.  He believes that we use touch as the easiest route to obtaining information by drawing on ideas we developed in childhood.  

Because the importance of touch goes back to childhood, maybe we need to look back to childhood for a solution.  During the tweetchat, a friend (who coincidentally works for a company that produces extremely touchable clothing!) suggested that I reinstate the 1 Finger Rule that I used several years ago whenever shopping with my very hands-on children. 

1 Finger Rule: You can touch anything you want, but only with one finger.

I came up with this rule after a visit to the museum where a very patient volunteer allowed 30 preschoolers to touch different animal pelts, but only with one finger.  It worked so beautifully that I decided to turn it into a shopping rule.  

The 1 Finger Rule turned out to be very successful because it satisfied my children's overwhelming need to touch EVERYTHING, but it kept them from breaking things or, more importantly, grabbing things off the shelf (have you ever noticed how toddlers have super-human grip strength when they get a hold of something they want?).

I thought that the need for the 1 Finger Rule was unnecessary now that my kids are older and understand more about money.  However, with this new information in mind, I think it's time reinstate the 1 Finger Rule for the entire family.  I challenge you to try it too.  If you do, please let me know how it works!

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.

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