Photo: Flickr / John McNab
Ever wonder why it “hurts” to pay with cash but not credit? A marketing professor at New York University might just have the answer. In a Psychology Today blog post, Hal Hershfield says it all goes back to coupling, or the link we create between how much something costs and what it’s like to consume it.
When we pay for lunch with cash, for example, we immediately feel the cost because we’re consuming it right then and there. But when we go to pay with credit, the opposite seems true. We get the bill later and might even be willing to spend more as a result. Makes sense: Downloading on iTunes or swiping our digital card can feel blissfully painless.
So how can we derive the most pleasure from purchases? The answer is to pay in advance, writes Hershfield: “Doing so decouples the pain of paying from the consumption of the experience,” meaning you might feel as if you’re enjoying the purchase for free once you receive it. Just ask anyone who’s ever pre-booked a hotel—it’s nice to know you’ve already squared up.
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