Black Friday: The Science of Tightwads and Spendthrifts

Spending patterns are in one's genes, says research.

ByABC News
November 16, 2010, 4:27 PM

Nov. 24, 2010 — -- Black Friday is just around the corner, marking the beginning of holiday shopping, and chances are most folks already feel a tingling sensation in their wallets. Even if it truly is better to give than to receive, giving inflicts a certain amount of pain, dividing shoppers into three categories:

At least that's the way Scott Rick sees it. Rick is a marketing professor at the University of Michigan. He and his colleagues have used brain scans to document how the human brain processes pain when spending money. And here's a little Christmas cheer: there was little difference between tightwads and spendthrifts when buying something for someone else. But tightwads tend to spend less if using cash because the pain is immediate.

Rick has been particularly interested in how tightwads and spendthrifts co-exist, and a few years ago he came up with evidence that they tend to intermarry.

People generally choose mates who are more like themselves, according to other research, but when it comes to tightwads and spendthrifts, opposites do attract. And that, of course, leads to all sorts of problems, because one spouse likes to spend, and the other doesn't, and financial quarrels are among the most toxic family disagreements.