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Want Healthier Shopping Habits? Pay With Cash

Want Healthier Shopping Habits? Pay With Cash

By Rachel Cernansky, Planet Green

The results of a new study [PDF] show that using a credit card to buy groceries means you’re more likely to purchase junk food.

According to the researchers, cash payments are “psychologically more painful” than purchases made by credit card, making it easier for people to control their impulsive urges when using cash. “Credit card payments, in contrast, are relatively painless and weaken impulse control,” they said.

The study assessed the shopping habits of 1,000 individuals over six months, and found that when shoppers paid with a credit or debit card, they made significantly more impulsive purchases—on so-called “vice products”—than when they paid with cash.

Another surprising find: weekend grocery runs included fewer impulsive purchases on unhealthy foods than weekday trips did. No proof yet, but one speculation is that people are more likely to have written a shopping list before leaving the house.

The Takeaway

Dealing with the consequences of your purchases, financial or otherwise, and planning out your purchases in advance, can help keep your shopping cart healthy.

Even if you’re not going to pay with cash, try reminding yourself that those plastic cards still deplete your bank account—you’re going to have to pay, and if you’re watching your health, you’ll have to pay twice, in dollars now and at the doctor (or weight loss center, wherever) later.

8 Ways to Eat Green by Slashing Your Grocery Bill
18 Tips for Living Within Your Means
Mindful Money Management
Can Money Decrease Joy?

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, General Health, Health, Life, Mental Wellness, Money, , , , , ,

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Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, and, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.


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3:07AM PDT on Aug 26, 2012

Thank you

3:05AM PDT on Aug 26, 2012

Did you ever thank that maybe those that use bank cards are more impulsive?

6:08AM PDT on Aug 25, 2012

I feel as if the last paragraphs were useless, but maybe that's just my writing style. People should be free to make their own conclusions, I just report.

9:36AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

they needed a new study to find this out???

9:35AM PDT on Aug 13, 2011

My spending, impulse and otherwise, has plummeted since I started paying with cash only, especially as I also limited how much of that cash I could get out. The effect has been radical, even though definitely not the best fun I've ever had.

5:17PM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

I love the ease of having my debit card but I have to agree with this post; having the cash on hand and seeing it is a better reminder of what you actually have to spend for your budget. With the debit card, you can say you're going to stick to a budget but then you get to the store and find something you don't desperately need but want and having the card there just lets you buy it.

9:09AM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

credit card helps track purchases better, though...

7:19AM PST on Dec 17, 2010

you have a point, but doesnt work for me tho I dont got paying issues. If I have cash I tend to spend more, while the card I'm more afraid that I dont got enough money on it .. so thats how I dont spend and also I made a big excell file which tells me how much I have to pay monthly on bills and how much I need to save and how much I have for stuff I would like to buy.

4:51PM PST on Dec 14, 2010

Thanks for that, I think I will try that!

6:14PM PST on Dec 12, 2010


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