Black Friday: The Science of Tightwads and Spendthrifts

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The researchers, who describe their findings as tentative, note that if some consumer preferences are determined by genetics, that may explain why our purchases are sometimes irrational. You can't necessarily blame genetics for that new car you bought right after taking a cut in pay. However, it may explain why you bought a family van instead of a snazzy two-seater.

"Specifically, we found large heritable effects on the tendency to choose the compromise (or middle) option and avoid the extremes, select sure gains over gambles, prefer an easy but non-rewarding task over an enjoyable but challenging one, look for the best option available and not do with what is just good enough," their study concludes.

Black Friday Spending: Hidden in Your Genes?

So genes act in a general way. Your genes may lead you toward buying a hybrid car, the researchers say, but "people are not born with a Prius gene." And your genes probably have nothing to do with your passion for cilantro.

It seems probable, however, that genes are a huge factor in whether a person is a spendthrift, a tightwad, or unconflicted. And according to some research, income has nothing to do with whether someone is cheap or generous. You are what you are.

But come on. It's nearly Christmas, or so the marketing experts tell us. So how can you make a tightwad loosen up? Rick offers a few suggestions.

Use a credit card, thus at least delaying the pain of handing over cash. Think about the person you are buying the gift for, and how cheap you will feel if the crummy watch doesn't keep good time. Shop when you're depressed, because that's when people are more likely to spend themselves into poverty.

And if none of this works? Blame it on your genes.

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