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By Denver Nicks
March 15, 2016

Finally, a social science study to back up what anyone who has loved—or loved and lost—already knows: Sentimentality can lead to some financially irresponsible buying decisions.

Researchers at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business and other institutions found that, when it comes to matters of the heart, people tend to spend more money than they should. They eschew cost savings, common sense, and prudent negotiations on things like engagement rings, cremation urns, and even birthday party desserts, according to the paper published in the latest volume of the journal Judgment and Decision Making.

More often than not, people in love or in grief avoid negotiating and searching for lower prices. They will even opt for the more expensive item when an alternative is deemed to be just as good, the study found.

“People’s buying behavior changes when they’re making purchases out of love because it feels wrong to engage in cost-saving measures,” says Peter McGraw, a UC-Boulder marketing and psychology professor and the study’s lead author. “People abandon cost-saving measures when it comes to sentimental buys because they want to avoid having to decide what is the right amount of money to spend on a loving relationship.”

The answer, authors say, is not to avoid falling in love but to be cognizant of this psychological tendency, and to remember that sentimentality can cloud our better judgement.

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“The loss of savings can really add up and put people in compromising financial situation,” McGraw says.

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