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Finding Financial Balance

Do you experience purchase pain with cashless transactions?

mobile payment

When trying to bring awareness to your spending habits, do cashless purchases register the same for you? The pain of paying is a term used to describe the negative emotions experienced during a monetary transaction (Zellermayer, 1996). Some may remember their thoughts and emotions about spending their physical money before so many alternative options became available. The action of purchasing was a more tangible experience than a swipe of a credit card, the click of a button online, or the scan of a phone at the checkout.

Paying with cash

Research shows that paying with cash gives a sense of loss to the consumer as you are physically giving something up in exchange for your purchase. With the many alternatives (credit cards, digital currency, mobile wallets, etc.), the exchange is no longer a physical transaction. Although you know that your credit card and digital currency options are taking money from your possession, it may incite less thought and emotion regarding spending.

Using noncash payments

According to the Federal Reserve Payment Study (2022), the amount of noncash payments in the United States increased to $128.51 trillion in 2021. With the changes in technological abilities, there is also a change in experience. How does the spending experience register with you today? With all the options for payment now, there may be differences in the level of emotions experienced during financial transactions. According to Wang et al. (2022), their research suggests that mobile payments may stimulate spending as a result of the “pleasure of paying” and mobile payments are more likely to enhance purchase intention when compared to a cash payment.

Making payment option decisions

Some small town locally owned businesses still prefer cash to avoid the service costs associated with other methods of payment and even give a discount for using cash or charge a service fee for using credit cards. When it comes to a choice of paying a lower amount by paying with cash, what do you decide to do? Do you pay for the convenience of going cashless or do you save a little by carrying cash? For some people, the service charge at an ATM may be a deterrent to using cash as this may be similar to the cost of using other methods of payment. Both ATMs and credit/debit/digital methods of payment provide a convenience that allows customers to spend money without going to their bank to obtain cash. Being aware of the costs associated with your daily choices may help you to improve your financial well-being.

While there is no one “right” way to make your purchases, take the time to think about each of your purchases and the method used to make the transaction. Everyone must decide what works best in their lives based on their circumstances but making a spending plan and tracking expenses may help to bring more acknowledgment to those transactions that now take place so easily.


Federal Reserve Payments Study (FRPS). (2022). Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. 

Wang, M., Ling, A., He, Y., Tan, Y., Zhang, L., Chang, Z., & Ma, Q. (2022). Pleasure of paying when using mobile payment: Evidence from EEG studiesFrontiers in psychology13, 1004068. 

Zellermayer, O. (1996). The pain of paying. (Doctoral dissertation). Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.



Meet the Author


Jamie Mahlandt is a Financial Educator for Bond, Clinton, Jefferson, Marion, and Washington counties in Southern Illinois. She provides financial education to the local community with an emphasis on financial literacy and financial well-being.



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