Unique Filters We Apply To Money

5 Minute Read

By Jon Acuff

My friend once got disappointed in an app she purchased for her iPhone. Her frustration was that after playing the app, a video game, for six weeks in a row, she was able to beat it. Once she did, it wasn’t fun anymore. The app had essentially lost its value now that it had been conquered. She was mad she had wasted money on this app and didn’t feel as if it had met her expectations. How much did this particular app cost?


The app my friend was mad about cost her less than a dollar. For less than a dollar, she had been provided with six weeks of entertainment. For less than a dollar, she had instant access to digital happiness in the form of this app. For less than a dollar, she got six weeks of distraction from boring moments like waiting in line at the grocery store.


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It cost her less than a dollar, but she didn’t feel like she got her money’s worth.

Let’s reframe that problem for a second.

A 20-ounce soda costs about $.99. Most people will drink that entire beverage in 20 minutes. If you had one and drank it, would you ever say, “I expected that soda to last me six weeks and it didn’t, what a letdown.” If you bought a double cheeseburger for a dollar, would you say, “I hoped this cheeseburger would last me for more than six weeks. What a rip-off!”

Of course not. That would be ridiculous. You’d never complain about a pack of gum running out or a song you stopped liking after a week or a magazine you bought that cost five times as much as the app but failed to provide six weeks of entertainment. So why was my friend frustrated?

Because we all have unique filters we apply to money.

We all have experiences and ideas that shape the way we look at finances. We all have hidden beliefs and prior situations that impact how we think about this thing called money. And when we apply them in weird ways, weird things happen.

The challenge is to not become a slave to your filters. If you don’t ever identify them or deal with them, they tend to be controlling. They subconsciously hijack your emotions and can drastically change your actions. My friend’s particular filter was about the worth of a dollar in the context of an iPhone, but other filters can have much bigger consequences.

Take, for instance, some peoples’ opinions of new cars. Some of us grew up in a family where it was “new or nothing.” The belief was that new cars were the safest, most reliable, most desirable option. “My dad’s dad drove a new car. My dad drove a new car. I’ll drive a new car, too!”

In that situation, what type of car do you think will be purchased? Regardless of the cost or the financing or how wildly unrealistic a new car loan might be for someone, if they’ve got the new car filter, they’re going to buy the new car.

So how we do deal with our filters? How do we break through this type of thinking? The best way is to ask a really easy question when you think about buying something:


All too often we think about the “what” of a purchase. What am I going to get? What am I going to buy? What color? What size? What price point? We think about the “where,” too. Where am I going to find the one I like? Where can I get the best deal? Where do they have the largest selection? We might even think about the “how.” How am I going to pay for it? How am I going to get it home in my car? How am I going to get it installed?

But rarely do we consider the “why.” Why do I need this? Why do I think this is so important to have? Why am I buying this thing, right now? Why not later? Why buy it at all? Why do I think this thing will improve or enhance my life? Why do I want friends to see that I have this? Why am I always thinking about this?

The why is an easy question to ask but sometimes a difficult question to get an answer to. But the more you can honestly dig into your “why,” the closer you’ll get to your real motivations. And at the heart of our filters are our motivations—the things that inspire us to act and do and ultimately to buy.

Six weeks is an awful long time for a $.99 app to deliver a bit of interactive happiness. It was a little silly for my friend to feel ripped off, but I promise she isn’t the only one with filters for money. I’ve got some. You’ve got some, too. And the sooner we find out what they are, the sooner we can tweak them and change the way we think about money.

One way to help discover your financial filters and apply them correctly is with Financial Peace University. Dave's life-changing class will walk you through changing not only your thoughts about money but also your behaviors as well. Learn more about this class now!

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