The next time you go to pay for your groceries, choose paper, not plastic.
The hassle of paying with cash instead of credit leads to fewer urges to buy unhealthy foods, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. A team of New York researchers analyzed the grocery hauls of 1,000 households over a 6-month period—through frequent-buyer card scanners—and found that you’re likely to buy more food when you pay with a credit or debit card.
“You don’t see that money going out of your wallet,” says lead study author Manoj Thomas, Ph.D., an assistant professor of marketing at Cornell University. “Therefore, you are less careful in deciding what to spend on and what not to spend.”
The researchers found that shoppers typically spent $68 when paying by credit, $60 when swiping a debit card, and $38 when forking over green.
This was especially true when buying treats like candy, cookies, and chips—but not with healthier products like oatmeal, yogurt, and cereal. Why? Thomas says that paying with cash, a limited commodity, lessens your chance of post-purchase regret.
But the trick is to control your impulses, not to just carry around one form of payment. Thomas suggests purchasing what you need, and not everything you want, by bringing a set amount of cash and sticking to a strict shopping list. (Narrow your list down with our 125 Best Grocery Foods for Men.)
Want another easy way to curb your cravings? Talk to yourself. A 2010 study found that people who used self-talk acted less impulsively than those who didn’t. Doing so can subconsciously cause you to think of other reasons why you should resist the impulse, say the study authors.