Is “The Ice Cream Rule” Helpful?

hustling ice cream and other thingsThink about a big delicious bowl of ice cream. What could be more delightful during these stifling, humid months? Ice cream is gluten free, so our annoying friends can enjoy it. There are coconut milk-based varieties for the lactose-intolerant and low-sugar versions for the weight-conscious. Slap it between two cookies or in a cone, and you can visit heaven en route to wherever you’re headed.

No matter how much you enjoy your dessert, though, you probably don’t begrudge someone you love a bite, right? Sharing is caring! Even better, what if you were able to put aside that bite for yourself and enjoy it in the future?

You can probably see where we are — or, more precisely, Money Crush is — going with this. The “ice cream rule” encourages us to think about money like ice cream. One bite of a two-scoop serving is about 10%, and if you can convince yourself to put away 10% — without feeling like you’re depriving yourself of anything right now — you’d be in great shape!

Consistently putting away 10% of your salary toward a long term goal can make an enormous difference. In fact, 10% of your salary can make you rich over the long term if you invest it wisely and consistently. 10% of a bowl of ice cream isn’t very much. It’s no big deal. It’s only when you think things like “How can I ever save 10% of my salary?! That’s an extra X thousand dollars!” that you get overwhelmed and it seems like a huge amount. Yet many of us regularly spend more than 10% of our salary on things that we don’t even have any longer without giving it a second thought. The thing is, 10% really isn’t very much in comparison to the other 90%, no matter how big of a number you’re dealing with.

As Lifehacker puts it, “If you think about saving 10% of your income like you are sharing a bit with your future self, saving becomes a lot easier.” It is worth saying, though, that it’s easier to offer someone 10% of your ice cream while the serving in front of you is abundant and you get to see the satisfaction and gratitude in your friend’s face. It’s harder to take 10% of what’s in your bowl and put it in another bowl and put that bowl in the freezer. Not impossible, just a little more challenging.

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26 Comments / Post A Comment

Also, it’s not as if you get to enjoy every bite of the other 90% either. It’s more like you are having to give a bunch of bites to people you don’t even like first, and then you only have a few bites left for yourself. If you’re saving 10% of your discretionary income this metaphor might apply, but that’s certainly a much less significant amount of savings, maybe nothing at all. And if 10% (or even 20%) of your income is all you have left over after your bills, then it’s less like sharing a bite of ice cream and more like sharing the last bite, which everyone can agree isn’t so easy to do. Not saying you shouldn’t do it, just that it’s not always so easy or obvious.

@Punk-assBookJockey THANK YOU. 10% of my gross income is twice my discretionary money left after bills, which is 10% of my net income. A realistic savings goal for me right now is like, 1% of my gross.

potatopotato (#5,255)

Ice cream is a novelty. A treat. Never something you NEED. Sometimes I want it! And I really enjoy it! Sometimes I don’t want it, because I’m just not in the mood.
Money is a necessity, a tool. Until you hit the point where you already have enough? It’s not a fun thing that you simply enjoy. My electric doesn’t get shut off if I don’t have ice cream. Relationships aren’t ruined over someone hitting you up for a lick of your Drumstick. I don’t spent half my waking hours wearing business casual and dealing with other people’s bullshit so that I can go home with a nice treat.

seakelps (#5,146)

@potatopotato exactly! If I had enough income to support myself without a job, I would not work.

(That’s a little bit of a lie because I’m both a bit risk adverse and workaholic. But I would work very, very, very differently.)

Lily Rowan (#70)

@potatopotato Also, if anyone asks for 10% of my Drumstick, the answer is NO. You can have your own, but I am keeping mine.

jennonthego (#5,366)

@potatopotato This story was covered on Lifehacker and the first comment was something to the effect of “If I paid my rent in ice cream, I’d be thinking of that bite all week” and I have to agree. Money is not a novelty I can do without. I get what they are trying to say (sorta), but it assumes a level of monetary freedom that a lot of people don’t have.

HelloTheFuture (#5,275)

@jennonthego I love how, on Lifehacker, the author is all “if you don’t have a lot of ice cream in your bowl, learn how to save more money! Try drinking water instead of soda!”

Like people who are living ice cream cone to ice cream cone aren’t already drinking water instead of soda. We aren’t buying root beer floats here!

potatopotato (#5,255)

@HelloTheFuture: OMG, extending that metaphor just gave me brain freeze.

potatopotato (#5,255)

@jennonthego: Exactly! If your basic needs are already set, then the bonus money that you do fun things with can be a treat! But this metaphor only applies to the people who are already well enough off that they have fun money to enjoy. And anybody who’s ever been below that mark is going to remember how awful it feels.

potatopotato (#5,255)

@Lily Rowan: That’s why I said relationships aren’t *ruined.* They can absolutely be damaged if you try taking liberties with my Cherry Garcia.

Li'l Sebastian (#3,297)

Saving 10% of my income is much easier than putting aside ice cream that is already in my bowl for later.

garli (#4,150)

@Li’l Sebastian Totally. Although taking less out in the first place with the intent to have more for later isn’t that tragic – for money or ice cream.

potatopotato (#5,255)

@Li’l Sebastian: Cold hard cash doesn’t get freezer burnt.

garli (#4,150)

I have yet to discover an amount of love that would include sharing ice cream. Unless the ice cream was ordered/purchased with the intent to share.

Sharing money with others or my future self? Way easier.

ThatJenn (#916)

Agreed with the others above that this makes more sense when you’re talking only about discretionary income, but yes, thinking of it as sharing with your future self is definitely helpful.

Also, not really the point of this, but – I take really, really tiny bites of ice cream (sensitive teeth, also prone to cold headaches) so the idea that a scoop is only five bites is kind of laughable to me.

Mike Dang (#2)

So, when I buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, I usually have three spoons of it for dessert and put the rest back in the freezer to eat slowly throughout the week. Perhaps this explains a lot about me.

But! Since we’ve been discussing the need for New Financial Advice in a New Era, with stagnant incomes (wages have fallen to a record low as a share of our GDP), it can be difficult to set aside money for savings or aggressively pay off debt. And in that case, it’s less about the ice cream rule and more about seeking a better salary.

beastlyburden (#6,122)

@Mike Dang I bought a pint of ice cream on Saturday to bring to a picnic on Sunday, but my partner and I ate all of it on Saturday night. It started with “well, just one spoonful each…” and ended with “WHAT HAVE WE DONE.” But we do save half of our pay, so there’s that! In Billfold-speak, we are Cookie Monster-Bert hybrids.

Lily Rowan (#70)

This is the worst metaphor ever.

Tripleoxer (#5,676)

I have $100/a week direct-deposited into my savings, which I just calc’d out to be 18% of my take home pay. However, I do this at the cost of paying down my credit card and student loan debt less aggressively. I realize this is a psychological thing, and not necessarily the smartest financial tactic. So maybe I should apply the ice cream theory to debt reduction instead of savings?

gridmonte (#5,744)

@Tripleoxer I guess it depends if you feel like you have ‘enough’ in emergency savings, then you could switch the theory from savings to paying off debt, then back to savings when you have no other obligations. Unless you somehow get a better return on your savings account than your interest charges!

HelloTheFuture (#5,275)

The day everyone gets two big scoops of ice cream is the day when we should all start talking about saving 10%.

@HelloTheFuture A great point.

seakelps (#5,146)

@HelloTheFuture I support saying “ice cream in every fridge” instead of “a chicken in every pot”

ATF (#4,229)

I just did the math and I am putting 15.8% of my take home pay away in savings each paycheck. That is on top of contributing 6% to my 401K pre-tax that is matched at 6%.

And you know what? It’s not enough. It is never enough in this world were everything costs so much and seems so out of reach.

Allison (#4,509)

@ATF Yeah, I put away about 12% of my gross each month, and then there’s 6% in retirement with a 5% match and it’s good! and sustainable for my life style…for now I think. Life is expensive.

chickpeas akimbo (#6,745)

There were definitely times in my life where saving 10% of my income was just not going to happen. So I saved less, because not defaulting on my student loans was more important. But I found that as my income increased, I was retaining the same mindset that I’d had previously — that I couldn’t *possibly* save 10% of my income. And then, one day I just started doing it, and, lo and behold, did not really miss it at all. It was a mental thing, not a math thing. So maybe 10% is not the right number for everyone, but I think the principle here is sound.

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