Love trumps budget in sentimental buys, study finds

March 14, 2016
Love trumps budget in sentimental buys, study finds

Brides and the bereaved beware: You, like many shoppers, may have a tendency to reject thriftiness when your purchase is a matter of the heart, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.

People are reluctant to seek cost-saving options when buying what they consider sacred—such as engagement rings, cremation urns, or even desserts for a birthday party—for or to commemorate loved ones. The paper, published in the most recent volume of Judgment and Decision Making, is the first to examine the implications of this phenomenon.

Even when they identify a less expensive alternative to be equally desirable, choose the more expensive of two items. They also avoid searching for lower prices and negotiating better prices when the goods they're buying are symbolic of love.

"People's buying behavior changes when they're making purchases out of love because it feels wrong to engage in cost-saving measures," said Peter McGraw, lead author of the study and associate professor of marketing and psychology at CU-Boulder's Leeds School of Business. "People abandon cost-saving measures when it comes to sentimental buys because they want to avoid having to decide what is the right amount of money to spend on a loving relationship."

The findings highlight how wedding, funeral and other industries can exploit consumers, said McGraw.

In one part of the study, which involved nearly 245 participants, the researchers asked attendees at a Boulder wedding show about their preference between two engagement rings. The attendees nearly always chose the more expensive ring when deciding between a more expensive ring with a bigger carat and a less expensive ring with a smaller carat.

"It's important to be aware of this tendency not to seek cost savings because, over a lifetime, consumers make many purchases that are symbolic of love—whether for weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries and even potlucks," said McGraw. "The loss of savings can really add up and put people in compromising financial situations."

Explore further: Welfare recipients seen as immoral for buying ethical products, study finds

Related Stories

How smart are the mobile shoppers who use smartphones?

April 24, 2015

In the age of the smart phone, how smart are the mobile shoppers who use these almost ubiquitous devices? A study from South Korea published in the International Journal of Mobile Communications hopes to answer that question.

Recommended for you

Amber specimen offers rare glimpse of feathered dinosaur tail

December 8, 2016

Researchers have discovered a dinosaur tail complete with its feathers trapped in a piece of amber. The finding reported in Current Biology on December 8 helps to fill in details of the dinosaurs' feather structure and evolution, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.