I’ve been working on a new habit. I’ve been trying to resist getting a second scoop of ice cream when I go into ice cream shops.

I don’t go into ice cream shops often, but when I do I nearly always get two scoops, or some other “large” option.

It happens for two reasons. The first is simple: ice cream is delicious. The second is the pricing. I’m susceptible to the temptation of super-sizing. For example, when one scoop is $2.95, and two scoops is $3.95, because the second scoop seems like such a bargain, it seems almost wrong not to, despite being the wrong decision relative to my health.

I realized something recently that helped me get over this feeling. It’s about smartphone apps. Nearly every app I have on my phone is a free app. I think I’m not alone when I say I find it hard to spend 99 cents on an app. Yet, I know I waste 99 cents (and more) in many different ways all the time.

Why is it hard for me to spend 99 cents for an app? Because it’s all relative. When comparing a 99 cents app to a free app, that 99 cents seems like a lot. Yet, the same 99 (or 100) cents for a second scoop of ice cream, when compared with $2.95 for the first scoop, seems like a bargain.

It’s the same 99 cents. If I want the app, 99 cents should be a non-issue. Conversely, with the ice cream, I shouldn’t get the second scoop just because it’s a bargain. I resist plenty of bargains. The second scoop is hard because it’s not just about the bargain, it’s also about imagining the ice cream lasting longer, and it takes a lot of willpower to stop myself.

I like the “one scoop” challenge because successfully forming habits is a way to build on my ability to form more habits. And as I have learned, I remember the delicious single scoop with the same happiness as I feel when I eat two scoops. In fact, probably more because I likely ate it more slowly, savored it more, felt better physically after I finished it, and felt better about myself.

Consciously making buying decisions is a good thing.

I don’t often buy ice cream at the supermarket to bring home, but when I do I have the same problem of relativity. Whatever we buy, we eat. If not that night, then over the next few nights. The best choice is to get a small container—just enough for a special treat for that one night.

But when I see a huge container of Edy’s ice cream for $3.99, and a much smaller Ben & Jerry’s container for the same $3.99, my plan to buy a small container may be at risk. It helps me to remind myself: one scoop of ice cream at a shop is probably about that same $3.99. That helps me look at the Ben & Jerry’s in the supermarket as a good deal—because it is, compared to the price at an ice cream shop.

Meanwhile, this is also hard for me because it goes against how I like to buy. When I see something I need at a sale price, for example, buy one, get the second one half off, I tend to buy two. But there’s a difference between things I want and things I need. If it’s something I need and am going to use—for example buying cereal or other food with a “use by” date long into the future—I will do it. Otherwise, it’s better not to.

What is your version of the 99 cents decision? Please join the conversation with your comments…

Best regards,