Debit and credit cards have become so convenient to use that many consumers do not even carry cash.
But if you want to drop a few pounds you may want to reconsider using cash instead of debit or credit cards as a new study shows paying cash for groceries may improve your eating habits.
In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research cash register receipts were analyzed from 1000 random loyal shoppers at a Northeastern supermarket chain.
The receipts analyzed what groceries were bought and what method was used to pay for the groceries.
The study found that shoppers were more likely to buy “unhealthy” groceries when debit or credit cards were used as opposed to cash shoppers. Using debit or credit cards led to more impulsive buying of high calorie foods like junk food.
Researchers examined the types of foods purchased in 100 different food categories in addition to the method of payment. Prior to analyzing register receipts, consumers rated foods based upon their perception of healthy and unhealthy and impulse buys versus planned purchases. Using a debit or credit card led to impulse purchases of more unhealthy foods.
Manoj Thomas, an assistant professor of marketing at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York said “We were surprised to find that debit cards had the same psychological effect as credit cards.”
Despite the fact debit cards are the same as using cash because the money is deducted from your bank account, Thomas says the “mere abstractness of plastic payments can reduce the pain of payment and influence consumer's purchase decisions.”
Another interesting find of the study was that consumers shopping on the weekends tended to stick to a shopping list and were least likely to be impulsive.
The study also analyzed 125 students in a computer simulated shopping assignment to ensure the spending patterns could not be related to the normal habits of frugal consumers. What was observed is frugal consumers were also more likely to make impulsive purchases when using a credit card over cash.
Additionally, payment method had little influence on consumers who spent money freely. Payment method also had no influence on the purchase of “virtue” products such as healthy foods.
Using cash may be the answer to decreasing your waistline. Thomas said “…consumers who find it difficult to control their impulsive consumption might find it helpful to use cash instead of plastic.” “The self-control related advantages of paying in cash might outweigh the disadvantages for some consumers.”
This latest study by the Journal of Consumer Research compliments an earlier study done in 2010, wherein it was determined the decrease in use of cash had fallen by a third in the last two decades while obesity among Americans has been on the rise since that time period.