Using debit and credit cards have become second nature to most people who don't want to run to the bank every time they're out of cash, but new research shows that cash could help your eating habits.
Over a six-month spread researchers looked at the register receipts of a random sample of 1,000 loyal shoppers at a Northeastern supermarket chain and analyzed what they bought and how they paid for it, reports MSNBC.
The study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that shoppers were more likely to buy items considered "unhealthy" when they paid with credit or debit cards than if they paid with cash, and that weekend shoppers were more likely to stick to a list.
Researchers say they were surprised to find that debit cards had the same psychological effect as credit cards, since money is deducted from bank accounts immediately, but with any kind of plastic payment seems people are willing to spend more.
But to make sure that the spending patters weren't more related to penny pinchers versus those who like to live large, the study also analyzed 125 students in a computer simulated shopping task.
They observed that tightwads were more likely to buy impulsive products when using a credit card than cash, but payment method had little influence on spendthrifts impulsive buys. Interestingly, payment method had no effect on the purchase of "virtue" products -- healthy foods such as fat-free yogurt or whole grain bread.
Scientific American notes that desires that lead to impulsive behavior is caused by "visceral factors," like the anticipation of pleasure one receives from eating something delicious and unhealthy like a doughnut. So the author's note that "vice spending is more susceptible to pain of payment" works well with other studies that have found it's harder for people to pay with cash than with plastic.
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