Smart Wallets Get Harder To Open As You Spend More



An MIT Media Lab team has developed a series of wallets that physically react when you electronically spend.

The wallets communicate with your bank via a bluetooth connection to your smartphone and come in three variants. The “Mother Bear” has a hinge that gets harder to open as your balance dwindles. The “Bumblebee” vibrates every time a transaction gets processed, with one vibration for debits, another for credits. And the “Peacock” swells and shrinks along with your account balance.

“An unusually high balance results in a wallet large enough to be visible to potential mates,” write the researchers.

Part of the reason some consumers get sucked into credit card debt is that the plastic is too abstract. Anything that increases the distance between your labor and what it earns you is going to make it harder to be frugal. That’s why arcades give you tokens and casinos give you chips.

In a world of credit card swipes, electronic transactions, and “Tap N Go” charging, a project like this makes purchasing once again corporeal. So maybe you’ll feel the pain of spending a bit more acutely, make wiser buying decisions, and think twice before making a harmful splurge.

Proverbial Wallet: Tangible Interface for Financial Awareness (PDF) []
Smart Wallets React to Electronic Spending by Refusing to Open [Ecouterre] (Thanks to Bec!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    What I need is a way to make my debit card take longer to process the more times I use it in a given week >.

  2. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    My ideal wallet would be one that, each time I spend, it responds screaming, in as shrill and loud a voice as possible: “HEY JACKASS! DON’T YOU THINK YOU’RE BROKE ENOUGH ALREADY?”

    • dragonfire81 says:

      Or my wife saying “you don’t need that!”

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        that’s easy, take the recording part out of a voice message greeting card, get her to say it, then stick it in the wallet so that when you open your wallet, you get the vocal reminder

  3. Muddie says:

    Cute idea, but I don’t want *anything* talking to my bank that frequently. That’s just waiting to get tapped and hacked.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    BRILLIANT!!!! I wonder what the maximum force is that the wallet exerts?

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Ever see the opening sequence from Diamonds Are Forever, where that one mook tries to frisk Connery? ;P

  5. AngryK9 says:

    How about a wallet that exerts an zaps you each time a transaction is processed. The lower the balance, the more painful the shock. The larger the transaction, the longer the shock.

    I can see the headlines now: “Holiday shoppers die from electrocution after spending too much at Best Buy”

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    “”An unusually high balance results in a wallet large enough to be visible to potential criminals,” write the researchers.

    Fixed that for you.

  7. Rena says:

    Fairly close to what I’ve always wished I could do: replace or supplement my bank card with an app on my phone. The app could do such useful things as providing additional security (algorithmically-generated PIN), keeping a history, and displaying obnoxious warnings or even just refusing to allow certain transactions (could even be by location) if I’ve already spent too much on a given thing this month.

  8. AllanG54 says:

    Many of the people here are eloquent enough with their comments that it makes me think that they could keep all of their monetary dealings in mind long enough to get home and write them in their checkbooks or spreadsheets or whatever they use. This sounds like a waste.

  9. smartmuffin says:

    How much more does this product cost than a regular wallet, and does it take the purchase of itself into account?

    Because having, you know, the willpower and intelligence to spend and live within ones means is absolutely free!

  10. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I’m waiting for the wallet that automatically punches me in the face if I need to borrow money.

  11. Frank says:

    Imagine trying to explain why your wallet looks like that to airport security.

    • Scoobatz says:

      Or, imagine trying to explain to anyone why you’re such an idiot and need something like this to help manage your spending.

  12. evilpete says:

    If i have too much money in the wallet will it open on its own?

  13. ColoradoShark says:

    Keep the the Peacock version wallet in your front pocket, expect remarks like: “Is you balance high today or are you happy to see me?”

  14. HoneyB says:

    i’ll take two!

  15. Airos says:

    People that don’t have the sense or ability to manage their finances don’t need this, they need credit counseling.

    People who are addicted to shopping don’t need this, they’ll simply “misplace” the wallet after the first time it gets in the way of their addiction. They need therapy/group counseling to overcome their addiction.

    People who are reading consumerist don’t need this, as they already have a suite of tools and resources available to them to better manage their money.

    Seriously, if you have enough common sense to know that you over-spend, carry X amount of cash with you when you go shopping. When your wallet’s empty, you stop spending.

    If you’re thinking this would be the “perfect” gift for someone in your life, your money and their time would be better spent with an appointment with a credit counselor.