Skip to content
The Best Interest » The McDonald’s Test

The McDonald’s Test

The McDonald’s Test is a simple way to ask yourself: am I really enjoying the fruits of my labor?

While chatting with a client last year, we covered a vital financial planning topic: spending their retirement savings. It’s challenging for many retirees to switch from a saving mindset to a spending mindset. This client, quite plainly, hadn’t started spending at all.

Of the cuff, I asked him, “Humor me…what’s your favorite meal?”

He answered, “Gotta be hamburger and fries.”

I replied, “What’s the best burger you’ve had recently? What’s your go-to spot?”

“Honestly…I’m pretty easy. McDonald’s is fine for me.

I paused.

  • Perhaps it’s a frugality decision? Frugality is certainly a tenant of The Best Interest. I’m never going to begrudge someone for including finances in their decision-making.
  • Or is it a flavor decision? I’ll admit, the picture above makes me hungry. But the burger spectrum is vast. Surely McDonald’s has rivals? Wouldn’t he want to explore what’s out there?
  • Or is it a simplicity decision? In the same way Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day (it reduces decision fatigue), perhaps my client decided on McDonald’s…and that’s that.

Trying to be respectful, I asked if he’d tried any other burger places in Rochester.

“Eh, not really.”

I knew he liked driving his old-school car, so I replied,

“You know, Mr. Client, if you wanted to, you could plan a trip-per-week to the most renowned burger joints in Upstate NY. Drive new roads, try new fries, take notes along the way. That’s just one example. My bigger point is…you’ve saved your whole life, and now you can spend it. And the way I see it, you might as well spend on your favorite things. I want to make sure that you know what I know – you can eat all the McDonald’s you want. But you can also afford any burger and fries you want.”

That question, it turned out, was the creation of the McDonald’s test. Since that meeting, about once a quarter, I get an email like this:

We took Routes 5 & 20 from Lima to Skaneateles, then went north into Syracuse. Final destination: Ale N Angus. Fantastic burger, I can see how they’ve gotten all those accolades. 10/10, you should go. It was a rainy weekend, but still nice to drive through some of those cities I hadn’t been to in years (Waterloo, Auburn, etc).

Readers: if you’re big savers, that’s great. But eventually, run the McDonald’s test on your own life. Ask yourself – are you at least spending money on the stuff that brings you joy? Are you remembering both sides of bimodal spending?

If you just want McDonald’s all the time, fantastic. Don’t let me turn you off.

But if you want to day-trip to Ale N Angus, and you can afford to day-trip to Ale N Angus…why aren’t you? Are you Big Mac’ing through the rest of your life? Or are you enjoying the fruits (and meats, and potatoes) of your labor?

That’s the McDonald’s Test.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, join 8000+ subscribers who read my 2-minute weekly email, where I send you links to the smartest financial content I find online every week.


Want to learn more about The Best Interest’s back story? Read here.

Looking for a great personal finance book, podcast, or other recommendation? Check out my favorites.

Was this post worth sharing? Click the buttons below to share!

4 thoughts on “The McDonald’s Test”

  1. Interesting insight for sure! It can be incredibly difficult trying to deprogram yourself from being a frugal person. This is especially true if you have been that way for most of your life.

    Although, if you have the resources, you should definitely be having fun and enjoying the good things in life.

Leave a Reply