Since it’s the time of year when many of us have committed to losing weight or saving money, we’re drawing parallels because often our attitude to both is similar. Let’s talk about diet foods and deals.
Diet Foods & Discipline
In Brian Wansink’s book “Mindless Eating” he talks about the Atkins Diet and the evolution of low carbohydrate (carb) food products. The Atkins Diet focuses on meats and vegetables, staying away from refined carbs such as bread, rice, potatoes and sugar. When it became popular, major packaged goods companies followed suit by creating all sorts of low carb products for the grocery store.
However, according to Brian Wansink, instead of losing perhaps 40 pounds, people using the low carb products lost closer to 4 pounds. How could this be you ask? Well, instead of maintaining a certain level of food intake lower in carbs, people ate more because they were eating “diet foods”. We were letting ourselves off the hook and throwing discipline to the wind.
Blowing the Budget with Sale Items
Now let’s talk about sales and discounts. If you think about it, the same need for discipline applies. Let’s say our grocery budget for the week is a nice round $100. If we buy food on our grocery list that is on sale, we’ve saved the difference between the regular retail price and the sale price. Now let’s talk about items we didn’t have on our list, and that we don’t really need. Let’s say we’re doing our weekly shopping and we find 12 oz salsa chips regularly sold for $3.29 on sale for $2.99. We decide to buy two bags “because they’re on sale”. We’ve “saved” 60 cents. But our budget of $100 is now an actual spend of $105.98.
Reward or Sabotage?
The true intent of a diet food or sale item should be to help you reach your target weight or budget. But mentally, because these items are “lower” in calories or “less money”, we feel we can somehow reward ourselves for good behavior by eating or buying more than we had planned. In the end, we don’t achieve our true desired result.
It is easy to get lulled into buying or eating without analyzing. Be sure to define your actual calorie intake or actual budget and stick to it.
Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. Behavioral Cents, LLC and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.
Carrie Rattle is a Principal at BehavioralCents.com, a web site for women focused on the mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence. Thoughts always welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org.