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Want to Avoid Non-Essential Spending? Skip the Coffee Before You Shop: Study

young woman drinking from a blue mug at home in kitchen

On a budget? Trying to stick to shopping for the essentials amid rising prices and inflation? You may want to skip that extra cup of coffee before you head out to the stores. While a pre-shopping caffeine boost may taste good, a new international study has found that drinking coffee can influence what you buy — and how much you spend.

“Caffeine, as a powerful stimulant, releases dopamine in the brain, which excites the mind and the body. This leads to a higher energetic state, which in turn enhances impulsivity and decreases self-control,” lead author and University of South Florida (USF) professor Dipayan Biswas said in a press release.

“As a result, caffeine intake leads to shopping impulsivity in terms of higher number of items purchased and greater spending.”

Related: ‘Shrinkflation’ is real: package sizes are getting smaller — but not prices.

Studying how a cup of coffee may impact your spending

Conducted by the USF, the study, which was published last week in the peer-reviewed Journal of Marketing, involved a variety of experiments with an espresso machine at the entrances of retail chains, home goods and department stores in France and Spain. When entering stores, 300 shoppers were offered a free beverage — about half of the shoppers were given a cup of coffee with about 100 mg of caffeine, while the rest were given either decaf coffee or water. Then, the shoppers shared their receipts with the researchers when they left the stores.

The results? According to the USF release, the shoppers who drank the caffeinated coffee before their shopping trip bought “a significantly higher number of items and spent more money compared to those who had decaf or water.” How significant? The caffeinated shoppers bought nearly 30 per cent more items — and spent roughly 50 per cent more money during their shopping trip.

While one may argue that perhaps the caffeinated shoppers were simply more efficient in their shopping thanks to their caffeine boost, the study also noted that the type of items purchased appeared to be impacted by the caffeine. Specifically, while the study found that all the shoppers were fairly similar in their shopping habits when it came to more practical purchases (like kitchen utensils), the coffee-drinking shoppers’ purchased more non-essential items (think: nice-to-have but non-essential things like scented candles and fragrances) than the other shoppers.


See also: What is ‘cash stuffing’ and how does it work?

What about online shopping?

In another experiment for the study, the researchers split a study pool of 200 business school students by whether they consumed caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, and then asked them to choose items that they’d purchase from a preselected list with 66 options.

Similar to the other experiments, the caffeine drinkers chose more “impulse” items (like a massager) than “practical items” (like a notebook).

So what does this mean? While no one is saying you can’t treat yourself to a cup of Joe before you head out for a shopping trip, it may be worth keeping your caffeine consumption in mind before you put non-essential items in your cart — especially if you’re watching your budget carefully.

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