Do you want to get your expenses under control? Don’t Shop While Consuming Caffeine, Study Says

They say you should never go shopping on an empty stomach. You’ll end up taking home half the snack aisle. But according to a new study, it’s not just what we eat that affects our spending habits, but also what we drink. And if you’re on a budget, you may want to skip the caffeine.

Consuming caffeine can be bad for your budget.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Marketing, had a simple yet ingenious design. The researchers set up a booth at the entrance of three stores and department stores in Europe that offer shoppers free espresso. Some got a full strength brew, while others got decaf. In return, the shoppers had to fill out a short survey about how they felt while shopping and also share their receipts with the researchers.

It should come as no surprise to coffee drinkers that those who received a regular espresso felt more alert and excited while shopping. After all, that’s the point of caffeine. But you probably didn’t realize that caffeine has more effects than just your mood. Apparently it also makes you more likely to reach for your wallet.

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Those who consumed caffeine bought more items and spent more than those who got decaf. They also bought other things. Those who drank a regular espresso bought more decorative and non-essential items such as scented candles and perfume. Purchases of more practical items, such as toilet brushes, remained relatively unchanged. Which suggests that when you feel a little buzz from your morning brew, you’re more likely to give in and pick up on impulse buys you didn’t intend to buy.

A two-tier takeaway

The lesson here for those looking to cut their spending is pretty clear. Coffee isn’t bad for your body and may even benefit your health, but it can also make it easier to break your budget. So maybe skip that second Americano before hitting the mall or starting up Amazon. More caffeine won’t help you make the healthiest financial decisions.

Retail operators can learn just the opposite from this study. Handing out a free cup of coffee not only makes your customers happy, but also makes them spend more in your store. Which means whatever you invest in beans and an espresso machine can more than be made up for in additional purchases. It’s worth a try at the very least.

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