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When You Eat Lunch Today, You'll Think of This

3 Minute Read

Can using cash instead of credit make you healthier?

It very well might.

Research out of Cornell University showed that kids in school cafeterias who used debit cards spent more and ate more than kids who used cash to buy their lunch.

Brian Wansink, a behavioral economist at Cornell, researched the eating and spending habits of 2,300 students (grades 1–12) at 287 schools across the country.

“Kids are much, much, much more likely to take desserts and are much less likely to take fruits and vegetables” when they use debit cards, he said. When kids pay with cash, “they not only buy a lot more fruit but they also buy a lot less dessert.”

Wansink said what Dave Ramsey has been saying for years: You spend less when you pay with cash. Why? When you use a card, you delay the payment. In other words, you delay the consequences.

Related: Some Is Better Than None

When it comes to eating, Wansink says the same thing might be happening with the food you buy. “What I put in my mouth doesn’t actually matter, because those consequences are also far off in the future.”

He said that schools could counter obesity issues by making things like desserts and candy more difficult to buy. For example, you only allow kids to use cash to buy the less healthy options.

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Also, making simple changes like putting cookies behind the counter. That way, the kids actually have to ask the cafeteria workers for them, instead of simply picking them up on their own.

“Cookie sales dropped dramatically,” Wansink said. “In some cases, as much as 50%, simply because a kid has to wait for 10 seconds to say, ‘Can you please hand me a cookie?’”

Related: 3 Signs You’re Giving Your Credit Too Much Credit

One of the best things we can do as parents is to make sure our kids understand that every choice has a consequence, either good or bad.

Your money decisions and your health decisions aren’t as unrelated as you may think. The high school student who spends $10 on every lunch could easily turn into a 35-year-old with high blood pressure and a bankruptcy.

Talk with your kids about money every opportunity you get. Teach them the power of cash. When they’re old enough, help them understand why credit cards are a bad idea.

If you don’t teach your kids about money, somebody will. And you can’t afford to take that risk.

How do you pay for your workday lunches? What will you do to help yourself make better choices?

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