If you’ve come home with an impulse purchase that you’ve regretted weeks down the track, you’re certainly not the only one. But a finance expert writing for the New York Times has designed a tick that will help you correct your spending habits forever.

The trick is called the 72 hour rule, and while it may seem complicated at a glance, it’s simpler than you think. The 72 hour rule is the brainchild of US-based financial planner Carl Richards, who uses it as a touchstone for every discretionary purchase he makes.

In simple terms the rule is designed to increase the time between figuring out you want something and actually buying it by waiting 72 hours. Richards explains, “Before I started following the rule, I had stacks of unread books all over my office. Now if I hear of or see a book that sounds interesting, it goes on a list I created in my Amazon account called ‘The 72-Hour List.’ If I still want the book when I return 72 hours later, I buy it.

“There’s now a really long list of books I’ve never bought and fewer piles in my office.”

The 72 hour rule is based around the work of Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who famously examined the relationship between a stimulus (wanting something) and a response (buying it). Richards suggested by creating more space between these two elements, we have more power to correctly choose our response.

Richards explains, “This is just one simple trick to create space. I think you’ll find that by focusing on the space between, you can let go of your anxious grasp on the stimulus and response. If you get the space right, the other two take care of themselves.”

What do you make of the 72-hour rule? Do you employ a similar trick to control your finances? Let us know in the comments below.

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