Coffee shop and takeaway coffees are often one of the first things you are told to cut down on when trying to save money. But it turns out the price of a coffee isn’t the only way coffee can drain your wallet; a new study finds that consuming caffeine before shopping can actually make you spend more!
How caffeine influences your buying behaviour
A recent 2022 study published in the Journal of Marketing revealed that people who consume a caffeinated drink before or while shopping are more likely to spend more money. Shoppers who drank a cup of complimentary caffeinated coffee prior to roaming the stores spent about 50% more money and bought nearly 30% more items than shoppers who drank decaf or water.
But what is it about caffeine that makes us spend more?
The lead author, Dipayan Biswas, the Frank Harvey Endowed Professor of Marketing at USFOne explained the impact of caffeine further: “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. As a result, caffeine intake leads to shopping impulsivity in terms of a higher number of items purchased and greater spending.”
Caffeine encourages impulse purchases
Interestingly, drinking caffeine also appears to influence the types of items shoppers buy. Shoppers who drank caffeine bought more non-essential items (such as candles or fragrances) than the others. However, caffeine seemed to have little impact when it came to making more utilitarian purchases (such as kitchen utensils or storage baskets).
The researchers also conducted an experiment testing the impact of caffeine on online shopping. Again, people drinking caffeine chose more “impulsive” or “high hedonic” items (such as a massager) from the list of options while others tended to choose more practical goods (like a notebook).
How to avoid impulse purchases
While moderate amounts of caffeine consumption have positive health benefits, caffeine can also have unintended negative financial consequences regarding spending. Hence, avoiding caffeinated beverages before shopping might be helpful if you are trying to control impulsive spending.
Stores use various retail psychology tricks to make us spend more, so it’s useful for shoppers to be aware of these and other factors that might make us spend more. In addition to avoiding caffeine (including coffee, tea or energy drinks) before shopping, here are a couple of other tips to avoid impulse buys:
- Shop with a list and budget and stick to them.
- Wait at least 24 hours before you make a purchase.
- Avoid “retail therapy”, i.e. shopping when you are emotional or upset.
- Avoid shopping when you are hungry or drunk. (Turn out coffee is not the only drink that makes you spend more; according to a separate survey, people spend an average of $444 a year on items while drunk.)
- Use cash instead of a card.
- Unsubscribe from retail newsletters.
- Remind yourself of your financial or savings goals.