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Everyday Cheapskate: The Pain and Pleasure Principle

Mary Hunt on

I don't care much for pain. In fact, I'll do almost anything to avoid it. I also know that pain can be a good thing.

The human nervous system triggers a sensation of pain to stop us from doing something that might cause a severe injury and to let us know that something may be wrong.

While we mostly think of pain in terms of physical wellbeing, I experience a certain amount of pain in parting with hard-earned money. It hurts. I hate the pain of payment. It takes away from the pleasure of the purchase.

Years ago, as I merrily made my way down the path of financial stupidity, I found two ways to avoid the pain of payment so I could fully enjoy the pleasure of purchase. It was like I'd discovered the ultimate way to have my cake and eat it too. I used credit cards. I wrote checks.

In my distorted way of thinking, paying with plastic or writing a check allowed me to enjoy the pleasure of the purchase absent the pain of payment. Payment by check meant to me that I got the goodies and the money was still there in my checkbook or my wallet. Oh, I knew that technically I'd spent it, but who wanted to be technical? It could take days, maybe even a week back then, for the money to really not be there. Pain delayed was pain denied -- pleasure enjoyed.

Payment by credit card was even better because I could push the pain way into the future -- far, far away.


Before long, having developed and practiced these painless purchasing methods, the very thought of mixing any pain of payment with a purchase seemed absurd and terribly unnecessary. Swiping a card or writing a check was more like a promise to pay later when it would be more convenient.

I was able to have the reward and enjoy the pleasure without any of the pain.

It was not unusual for me to come home from a shopping trip with all kinds of neat stuff and honestly announce that I'd not spent a dime. Pleasure without pain -- it was a wonderful way to shop.

Deferring payment became so easy. I especially liked the fall months when all of my favorite department stores offered deferred billing. I could charge in October knowing the purchases would not be recorded until January.


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