Paying In Cash Hurts So Good, According To Research

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Think about how easy and painless it is to swipe a credit card through the machine to make a purchase. You don't really think about how much you're spending because, well, you just don't have to. The act of fumbling through your wallet and counting out your cash forces you to confront your spending habits, which can be unpleasant. According to research from Avni M. Shah, an assistant marketing professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough, the discomfort and pain that comes with spending cold, hard cash is really a positive thing — not just for your bank account, but also for your soul. According to The New York Times, Professor Shah was inspired after she bought a latte with cash and thought it tasted much better than it had on previous days when she paid with a card. She ran with the feeling and began an experiment to prove that people enjoy things more when they pay with cash. In her first study, Shah had one group use credit cards to buy $2 mugs and another group use cash for the same purchase. After that, Shah attempted to buy back the mugs, this time with the owners naming their own price. Those who made their purchases with cash named a price that was, on average, double what those who paid with a credit card named. Shah said she even had some cash-payers straight-up refuse to let her buy it back. If that isn't enough proof that people value the purchases they make with cash more than those they make with plastic, Shah conducted a second study. In this one, she gave $5 to each participant to donate to a charity. One group was given the $5 in cash; the other was given the same donation amount in the form of a voucher. After making their donations, each person was given a ribbon to show off his or her generosity. Shah found that the people who donated in cash were much more proud. We know that using cash comes with lot of emotions, such as impatience while you dig through your wallet. But in the end, it looks like all the fuss could be worth it. At least that's what science suggests. We're not sure we're ready to give up our plastic.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series