Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Can Using Cash Help You Be Healthier?

The answer, according to a new study, may be “yes” – using cash can help you eat healthier foods.  Authors Thomas, Desai and Seenivasan researched “How Credit Card Payments Increase Unhealthy Food Purchases” in a recent issue of The Journal of Consumer Research.

The authors analyzed 1000 households actual food purchases over 6 months and found that those who bought food with credit or debit cards were more likely to buy unhealthy foods.

"Two factors contribute to this intriguing effect," wrote the authors. "First, there is a correlation between unhealthiness and impulsiveness of food items: Unhealthy food items also tend to elicit impulsive responses. Second, cash payments are psychologically more painful than card payments, and this pain of payment can curb the impulsive responses to buy unhealthy food items."

Financial author Dave Ramsey says, “When you pay cash, you can "feel" the money leaving you. This is not true with credit cards. Flipping a credit card up on a counter registers nothing emotionally. A study of credit card use at McDonald’s found that people spent 47% more when using credit instead of cash.”

My wife and I occasionally watch the show The Biggest Loser and I have been intrigued that not once, but twice, author Suze Orman has correctly predicted the winner based on credit score (Season 8 winner Danny and Season 9 at-home winner Koli, who actually lost more weight than the show winner).  While Orman hasn’t conducted any research in the area, she says, “If you're not balancing your checkbook and you don't know where your money is going, chances are you're not disciplined about what you put in your mouth either.”

Orman talks about Season 8 winner Danny and said “He had $45,000 in credit-card debt, much of it from gambling—and he had hidden a lot of it from his wife. However, he got out of debt before becoming a contestant on the show. He went on to lose 239 pounds. When Danny came on my show after he won The Biggest Loser, he said he couldn't have gotten rid of the weight without first getting rid of the debt. And he wouldn't have been able to keep the weight off without being debt free because it changed how he felt about himself.”

Having financial problems causes stress – just ask anyone who has had a decrease in their income.  It turns out that financial stress, according to research and observations, may be contributing to larger waistlines.  If nothing else, try purchasing your groceries with cash and see if changes your buying habits.


Ryan H. Law, M.S., AFC
Department of Personal Financial Planning
Office for Financial Success Director
University of Missouri Center on Economic Education Director

239E Stanley Hall
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211


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