Are Dirty Bills Costing You Money?

Author: Jeffrey Strain
Published: November 25, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Do you want to save yourself some money? It might be a lot easier than you ever thought it could be. All you need to do is makes sure that you're carrying around clean and crisp money in your wallet. A couple of recent studies have shown that having dirty bills in your wallet can end up costing you money.

While we all intellectually know that it really doesn't matter if money is dirty or clean since it's worth the same amount either way, that's not how we actually respond. A new study shows that consumers subconsciously act differently depending on whether their money is clean or dirty. Those who keep crisp bills in their wallet are more likely to hold onto them for a longer period of time, while those with dirty bills will spend more to get rid of them. In other words, consumers have a bias against dirty money and it shows in the way that they spend.

This dirty money bias doesn't end with how consumers spend their own money. It also leaks over into how merchants treat their customers. Retailers don't like to receive dirty money, and they'll make consumers pay for using it. In another study, vendors at a farmer's market were found to be more likely to cheat customers who gave them dirty bills as payment rather than toward customers who handed them new bills. The study also found that those who simply handled dirty bills ended up behaving more selfishly while being less concerned about fairness and reciprocity.

It wouldn't seem that something this minor would cause people to change their spending behavior, but if the studies are correct, those who want to spend less and get treated better when shopping need to make sure that their wallet is full of new money.

Photo Credit: Jinx!


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Article Author: Jeffrey Strain

Jeffrey is a professional blogger and digital nomad whose writing focuses on personal finance and saving people money. His main website is

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