Reality Check: The Rather Card

Even when you know that what you’re doing isn’t working well for you, it can still be hard to make a change. How about a helpful tip? Here’s one: the “Rather Card.”

How does it work? As it was originally intended for money management/impulse control, you cut out a piece of cardboard about the size of your debit or credit card. Put it in your wallet, in front of your bank card.

What’s on the card? Write the following sentence, filling in the blanks to reflect what’s important to you.

“I’d rather have enough money to _________ than spend money on __________”

Whenever you pull out your bank card, there is your “rather” sentence staring at you in your own handwriting. It’s a nice little reminder of what you know you’d rather have your money for.

For example, I’d rather have enough money to pay off my credit card than spend money on another pair of shoes I don’t really need.

(One could argue as to whether there is such a thing as “another pair of shoes I don’t really need” but that’s irrelevant here.)

The point is that it gives you pause, even if it’s only a few seconds. When you look at the sentence that you wrote when you were thinking clearly about what you really want, you might think, “Huh. Maybe I would rather put these dollars toward paying off my loan than buying shoes right now.”

This tip came from a money management book called The Smart Cookies Guide to Making More Dough and Getting Out of Debt. It’s presented as a way to help control impulse spending.

Impulse spending is one behaviour that folks may want to change, but it’s occurred to me that the Rather Card is useful for other impulsive behaviours, too.

Do you have an impulsive behaviour that you don’t want? Food is a good example. Maybe you are perfectly self-controlled until you have a setback, or you’re fidgety, bored or unhappy. Then emerges the ice cream or chips or whatever your favourite comfort food is. Then you indulge. Then you’re unhappy.

What if you had a Rather Card sitting on top of the ice cream container? You see it and ask yourself, “Would I rather have this snack or would I rather stick to my resolution?”

A few more examples: “Would I rather have this cigarette now or would I rather delay for a bit?” Would I rather spend this hour on facebook or call my friend? Would I rather spend my free afternoon in the stores or playing with my child?

The Rather Card could even be an interesting way to deal with thoughts.

For example, “Would I rather think about how badly I was treated in my childhood or the accomplishments that I’ve achieved as an adult?” Would I rather spend my energy trying to turn my spouse into a more “perfect” person or appreciate the person I married?

How about feelings?

Would I rather worry about a future event that might be a disaster or feel secure in the moment that I have right now? Would I rather feel jealous about my friend’s success or feel happy about it? Would I rather lash out instantly in anger or take a quiet moment?

Whatever the behaviour that you are choosing to change, keep your Rather Card readily available. Of course, if it’s super-personal, you may not want to put it on your fridge! Then again, if others know what you are trying to do, they could help and support you.

Either way, the Rather Card can only help if you can see it.

Are there behaviours that you think a Rather Card could help?

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