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?


Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

John S.
Past Member 5 years ago

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

Paola Paniagua
Paola Paniagua5 years ago

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.

iii q.
g d c5 years ago

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

Shirley E.
Shirley E6 years ago

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.

Jennifer B.
Jennifer B6 years ago

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.

iii q.
g d c6 years ago

credit card helps track purchases better, though...

ilse D.
.7 years ago

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.

Kha Bliss
Past Member 7 years ago

Thanks for that, I think I will try that!

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago