Overspending Affects Those on Budget Worst of All

New study conclusions are counterintuitive

  Professor Brian Wansink's research shows people on a budget overspend more than those who have money to spare
A group of investigators from the Cornell University has recently made a very weird finding. They have learned that people who shop on a budget, and who need to keep track of every single penny are actually more likely to overspend than those who shop without money restrictions. It is currently estimated that, in the United States, almost one in three families needs to shop on a budget, and that one in six households only has the money to buy the basic necessities. Under these circumstances, the finding is all the more baffling, the researchers say.

Intuitively, if you don't have much money when shopping, you tend to keep track of the products that go into your shopping cart, so as to minimize spending. This is what the Cornell team thought at first, as it noticed that about 78 percent of those buying on a budget tended to pay more attention to what they were purchasing. Out of the group that did not shop on a budget, only 37 percent tended to inspect the contents of their shopping cart with a critic's eye, and not indulge in purchasing unnecessary things. People use this type of monitoring behavior so as to get a good idea of how much they would need to pay once at the check-out line.

But these estimates apparently don't work very well, especially in the case of those who had only limited funds available. The team behind the investigation noticed that these individuals tended to overspend by as much as 19 percent, considerably more than those who had money to spare. Details of the finding were published in the March issue of the respected scientific Journal of Marketing. The basic trend the team identified was that people tended to underrate the costs of the products they were carrying in their shopping cart, by a considerable margin.

“But those who try to calculate the exact total price almost always do worse than those who just estimate approximate prices,” the Cornell University John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing Brian Wansink explains. He has also been the coauthor of a series of researches on the issue, alongside Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) colleague Koert van Ittersum, and researcher Joost M.E. Pennings, from the Maastricht University, in the Netherlands. A total of four research papers were produced, two of which dealt with conclusions of investigations conducted on the field. The other two depicted results the team obtained in the tightly controlled confines of laboratories, PhysOrg reports.

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By    31 Mar 2010, 08:23 GMT