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Squeezed: Coping with Constraint through Efficiency and Prioritization

Philip M. Fernbach, Christina Kan and John G. Lynch

Journal of Consumer Research, 2015, vol. 41, issue 5, 1204 - 1227

Abstract: When consumers perceive that a resource is limited and may be insufficient to accomplish goals, they recruit and enact plans to cope with the shortage. We distinguish two common strategies: efficiency planning yields savings by stretching the resource, whereas priority planning does so by sacrificing less important goals. Using a variety of methods to explore both financial and time planning, we investigate how the two types of planning differ, how they vary with constraint, and how they interrelate. Relative to efficiency planning, priority planning is perceived as yielding larger one-time savings, but it feels more costly because it requires trade-offs within-resource (e.g., money for money) as opposed to cross-resource (e.g., time for money). As constraint increases and greater resource savings are required, prioritization becomes more likely. However, the shift to prioritization is often insufficient, and consumers tend to react to insufficient prioritization dysfunctionally, making a bad situation worse. Budgeting helps consumers behave more adaptively. Budgeters respond to constraint with more priority planning than nonbudgeters, and they report fewer dysfunctional behaviors, like overspending and impulsive shopping.

Date: 2015
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