Mastering Irrationality

A Multimedia Project by Damiano Ferrari

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I realized this multimedia project for the online class A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior, taught by Prof. Dan Ariely.

The main inspiration for this project came from the material studied in the second week's unit, Psychology of Money. In particular, I wanted to explore the concept of opportunity cost: what are we giving up when we decide to buy something?

About this project

While studying the unit's material, I recalled a conversation I once had with my (now ex) wife after I had purchased a new laptop. My wife observed that if I didn't spend so much money in gadgets and electronics, we could pay off our credit cards at a faster rate, or maybe go on a cruise. My counter-argument was that I would likely keep the new laptop for a couple of years and that I had only spent $300 more than I had earned from the sale of my previous machine. When she insisted that $300 was still a significant sum, I asked her a question she hadn't pondered before: how much money do you think you will have spent on Starbucks coffee, over the next two years?

We then proceeded to make a quick calculation:

I wasn't particularly surprised by the number. My wife, on the other hand, seemed quite shocked by the realization of how much she would be giving up by patronizing Starbucks on a daily basis. We could go on a cruise, after all!

This project is a little game that, tongue-in-cheek, will help you answer that question: what are you giving up when you decide to buy something?


Please think of the many things you buy in a typical week. How many of those things are superfluous? How many are actually bad for you? How many could be replaced with less expensive options that would serve the same purpose? A few examples besides the daily coffee I talked about in the About section:

Do your best to calculate the amount of money that you could reasonably save every week by making more sensible choices. Once done, please enter the amount (numbers only) in the following field. All amounts will be assumed to be expressed in US$; if you have used another currency, convert the amount you calculated to its equivalent in US$.