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July 11, 2021

Paying in cash may help keep you healthy

It’s no secret that people spend more money when using credit cards compared to cash purchases, or that consumers also spend less when they look at their expenses in detail.

Dol This just in: Shoppers who pay with plastic are also more likely to make impulsive junk food purchases than those using cash, according to a recent study from the Journal of Consumer Research.

In one experiment, participants — who thought they part of a market research study for a large retail chain — were asked to evaluate a series of 20 items, which unknown to them had been independently evaluated as either a “vice” (e.g., cookies, donuts) or a “virtue” (oatmeal, granola bars).

After viewing each item, participants had to decide whether to toss it into their shopping cart or continue on to the next item. The result: Those who’d been told that they could use any of four popular credit cards were more likely to buy the unhealthier products.

In follow-up studies on food purchasing, the researchers found that for many people there is actually a sense of pain attached to paying in cash. When you use actual dollars, you can “feel” the money leaving your pocket, they suggest. For most people, parting with cash is simply a more vivid sensation than merely signing a pledge to pay sometime later in the future.

Given that many consumers struggle so mightily to make healthy choices, understanding that using plastic increases less healthy purchases may help some people control impulsive behaviour, the authors suggest.

Do you agree? Does plastic encourage unhealthy shopping? Do your buying habits change depending on how you settle up?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money

* Follow Gordon on Twitter here.




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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...