Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Grocery shoppers who try harder to track costs do worse, study finds

Date:
March 30, 2010
Source:
Cornell Food & Brand Lab
Summary:
Almost one in three US households shop on a budget -- and one in six can only afford basic necessities. So it's no wonder that 78 percent of budget shoppers try to track how much their groceries are likely to cost. But the harder they try, the worse they do -- overspending by as much as 19 percent, according to a new study.

Professor Brian Wansink shares tips on how shoppers can more accurately estimate grocery costs. A recently published study indicates that the more shoppers try to track their expenses, the worse they do -- overspending by as much as 19 percent.
Credit: Jason Koski/Cornell University Photography

Almost one in three U.S. households shop on a budget -- and one in six can only afford basic necessities. So it's no wonder that 78 percent of budget shoppers -- twice as many as those who shop without a budget (37 percent) -- try to track how much their groceries are likely to cost as they roll through the aisles.

But the harder they try, the worse they do -- overspending by as much as 19 percent, according to a new study, which was conducted by a Cornell professor and colleagues and is published in this month's Journal of Marketing.

In general, the researchers found that all consumers tend to underestimate how much their groceries are going to cost.

"But those who try to calculate the exact total price almost always do worse than those who just estimate approximate prices," said Brian Wansink, Cornell's John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing, who co-authored the series of studies with Koert van Ittersum of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Joost M.E. Pennings of Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Their work included two field studies and two laboratory studies.

It is low-income shoppers who try most to calculate, rather than estimate, Wansink said.

That means that those on the tightest budgets -- those most motivated to track their spending -- may be at greatest risk for spending more than their budget allows, said Wansink, forcing them to cut back in other areas, which "could cause shoppers unexpected financial distress." This chain of events can also cause these shoppers to develop negative feelings toward the store they patronize because they spent more than they planned.

The researchers also found that the most accurate shoppers based their estimates on the dominant range of price endings in their baskets -- such as the 99 cents in $4.99. In other words, if the price endings of most of the grocers are between $.50 and $.99, people rounded up to the nearest dollar. "When people don't round up, it leads to some unpleasant surprises at the cash register," said van Ittersum.

Wansink suggests that the retailers might help consumers estimate the cost of their groceries with cart scanners, by changing their price-setting strategies or by providing shopper trainings in the principles of decision making, statistics, and mental computation.

In the meantime, the researchers offer these tips:

  • Round each item to the nearest dollar -- $2.25 becomes $2 and $5.50 becomes $6.
  • If you lose track, estimate the total number of items, then guess the price of the average item and multiply them together.
  • If you really want to calculate the exact total price, use a calculator.

For more information, visit www.mindlesseating.org/tryingharder


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell Food & Brand Lab. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Koert van Ittersum, Joost M.E Pennings, Brian Wansink. Trying Harder and Doing Worse: How Grocery Shoppers Track In-Store Spending. Journal of Marketing, 2010; 74 (2): 90 DOI: 10.1509/jmkg.74.2.90

Cite This Page:

Cornell Food & Brand Lab. "Grocery shoppers who try harder to track costs do worse, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330210955.htm>.
Cornell Food & Brand Lab. (2010, March 30). Grocery shoppers who try harder to track costs do worse, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330210955.htm
Cornell Food & Brand Lab. "Grocery shoppers who try harder to track costs do worse, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330210955.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Who Could Be Burnt by WHO's E-Cigs Move?

Who Could Be Burnt by WHO's E-Cigs Move?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 28, 2014) The World Health Organisation has called for the regulation of electronic cigarettes as both tobacco and medical products. Ciara Lee looks at the impact of the move on the tobacco industry. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
JPMorgan Chase Confirms Possible Cyber Attack

JPMorgan Chase Confirms Possible Cyber Attack

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 28, 2014) Attackers stole checking and savings account information and lots of other data from JPMorgan Chase, according to the New York Times. Other banks are believed to be victims as well. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Director On Ebola Outbreak: 'It's Worse Than I Feared'

CDC Director On Ebola Outbreak: 'It's Worse Than I Feared'

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) CDC director Tom Frieden says the Ebola outbreak is even worse than he feared. But he also said there's still hope to contain it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN: Ebola Cases Could Eventually Reach 20,000

UN: Ebola Cases Could Eventually Reach 20,000

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) The Ebola outbreak in West Africa eventually could exceed 20,000 cases, more than six times as many as are known now, the World Health Organization said as the US announced plans to test an experimental Ebola vaccine. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins