The aim of this research is to explore contemporary consumers’ emotions and irrationality in attitudes towards indebtedness, using the UK payday loan industry as a focus point. UK consumers’ have recently experienced a significant financial crisis, the result of which is expected to alter consumers’ spending, saving and borrowing habits. By using existential-phenomenological interviews to discuss individuals’ experiences of these activities, we observe some of the key issues emerging from this context. A primary theme is the influence of emotions on decision making, and how this shapes ‘irrationality’. This article aims to draw attention to this emotive thinking, which may be significant in thinking about how payday loans are communicated to users in the future.