Alleviate buying pain with these marketing and copywriting tips

You’ve probably heard that “people spend money ‘til it hurts”. But at which point does it hurt and is it the same for all of us? How can marketers and copywriters ease buying pain?

Before we delve into the ways we can ease buying pain, we first need to know what buying pain is.

What is Buying Pain?

Have you noticed how some purchases hurt more than others? You might be perfectly happy to spend $35 on a fancy glass of wine but annoyed at having to pay $5.50 for a soft drink from your hotel’s minibar.

When we discuss buying pain, that’s essentially what we’re talking about.

Buying pain refers to the ‘pain’ we feel when we have to pay for something. In other words it’s the ‘pain’ we experience when we make a purchase.

The concept of ‘the pain of paying’ is a topic that psychologists have been studying for a long time. And for marketers and copywriters alike, this is a particularly interesting subject that is important to understand.

Woman holding multiple shopping bags

There are Three Types of Buyers

You’ve probably heard that “people spend money ‘til it hurts”. But at which point does it hurt? And does it hurt the same for all of us?

The oft-cited Tightwads and Spendthrifts study by Lowenstein et al looked at the individual differences in the pain of paying and segmented the population into three categories of buyers.

So let’s get straight to it!

Tightwads
  • Tightwads make up 24% of the population
  • They spend less compared to the average person before reaching their buying pain threshold
  • Tightwads derive more pleasure from saving their money than from spending it
  • They have a great amount of self-control over their spending habits (and this self-control is difficult to shelve)
Unconflicted
  • The ‘unconflicted’ are average spenders and they make up 61% of the population
  • Average spenders think about their purchases but they don’t overthink it
  • They don’t focus solely on pleasure or pain – both aspects come into consideration
  • The average spender is more likely to respond to persuasion
Spendthrifts
  • They are able to spend more than the average person before they reach their maximum buying pain, making them marketers’ dream customers
  • They make up 15% of the population
  • Spendthrifts feel little to no pain leading up to and when making a purchase
  • Their focus is on the benefits they gain from making a purchase rather than on the consequences of it

Understanding these characteristics can help you develop suitable marketing strategies and craft persuasive copy.

Ways to Ease Buying Pain

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to increase conversions but there are tried-and-tested ways your copywriting can ease buying pain.

Use Framing

How you frame a message can change a prospect’s perspective. For a higher-priced product or service, consider financial framing. Instead of offering your product or service for an annual fee of $600, you could offer it at $50 per month. It amounts to the same but the $50 option appears more approachable.

Here’s a real-world example from Wiener Linien:

A screenshot of Wiener Linien's annual season ticket promotional copy that uses financial framing

Rather than promoting their annual season ticket as “one year of mobility for €365”, they’ve opted for “365 days of mobility for one euro a day”. Sounds more attractive, right?

Utility vs. Pleasure

Tightwads prefer to save rather than spend. That’s why when it comes time to make a purchase they tend to focus on function over pleasure. What they’re buying had better be worth it—it has to be useful.

Marketing your upmarket massage chair as ‘a luxury you deserve’ won’t work with tightwads but highlighting that it aligns the spine, improves circulation, and relieves stress (not to mention it saves you money in the long run) might.

Use Bundling

Bundling is when you combine several products or services as one (often more economical) package for sale.

It works because it’s harder for the buyer to assign individual prices to each item – instead, bundling adds perceived value.

This type of pricing is particularly attractive to those who are looking for convenience and those who seek out good deals. It’s also a great way to minimize the stress that comes with having too many options to choose from – the paradox of choice.

Here’s an example from Expedia:

A screenshot of Expedia's "Bundle and Save" option and how the search result's copy reinforces what a great deal the bundled packages are

Notice how the copy is designed to ease buying pain—and any apprehensions you might have about price—from the get-go?

They’ve highlighted that opting for a package equals savings (“Bundle and Save”). Then the search results reiterate (and reinforce) what a great deal certain packages are:

  • “Premium economy + Economy / Coach flights included in price”
  • “Per person includes flight + hotel”
  • “Sale!”
Add Perceived Value, Reduce Perceived Risk

Tightwads would much rather save their money than spend it, which is why marketers try to sweeten the deal by adding perceived value or reducing the risk involved with the purchase. That might be in the form of free trial, free shipping, free return, or a ‘lifetime warranty’. (Notice how the magic word is “free”?)

Here’s how Briggs & Riley does it:

A screenshot of Briggs and Riley's lifetime guarantee, which adds perceived value and reduces perceived risk

It’s easier (and less painful) to part with one’s hard-earned money when you feel like it’s worth it.

Use Data

Flowery text and fancy vocabulary only go so far with tightwads. Facts and figures resonate better because these are concrete and, theoretically, can be proven.

Have a washing machine that can get 10kg of clothing thoroughly washed and dried in just 30 minutes? Use that data in your copy – don’t just state it’s the fastest washing machine on the market.


These are just a few ideas you can incorporate into your marketing and copywriting. There are, of course, other approaches that work such as:

  • Offering credit card payments – it’s more painful to physically hand over cash than it is to use a credit card;
  • Or delayed payment options – the buyer doesn’t have to worry about the payment right this instant, so it’s less painful.

What it comes down to, as always, is that you need to understand your customers in order to craft persuasive copy.