Dirty Money: Consumers Spend Crumpled Bills Faster, Study Reveals

crumpled bills money

Researchers say that consumers would rather spend the old, crumpled bills in their pockets than the clean, crispy ones they just got out of the ATM.

The Financial Ramblings blog flags a study out of the Journal of Consumer Research that examines how the appearance of paper money influences consumer spending habits.

"People want to rid themselves of worn bills because they are disgusted by the contamination from others, whereas people put a premium on crisp currency because they take pride in owning bills that can be spent around others," concludes the study, which was conducted by two marketing professors in Canada.

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(Speaking personally, I also have a tendency to spend my crumpled bills first, but for a different reason: I want to save my crisp dollar bills for the vending machine. That's less of a factor now that many vending machines take credit cards, but I still try to liquidate my gross bills first and leave the crisp bills in my wallet. )

The study gives us an idea for an economic stimulus plan: Instead of putting crisp new bills into circulation, the Mint should crumple up its bills and rub them in dirt before issuing them to banks. People will be so eager to get rid of the dirty bills that consumer spending will inevitably rise, and the economy will be stimulated without spending any taxpayer dollars.

But it's not a simple matter of consumers being more eager to spend dirty bills: The study also suggests that when other people are around, you'll be more eager to spend the crisp ones. We suppose there's a social currency (no pun intended) to paying your check with a stack of crisp twenties as opposed to a fistful or rumpled dollars that look like they came out of the gutter.

How about you? Do you find yourself trying to get rid of your crumpled, dirty bills before you use the crisp, new ones?

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.