How ‘saving’ money increases your waist line



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This week, guest bloggers Amy Jaya and Paul Clifford discuss how saving money can increase you waist line.

Food producers and suppliers are in business of getting us to consume food. Trouble is many of us need to be eating less of the stuff they produce and supply rather than more. According to Monash University and the National Health and Medical Research Council a staggering 14 million Australians are overweight. However some of the tactics used by food producers and suppliers make it harder for us to lose that weight. Even when we are conscious of the tactics it can be challenging to ensure they don’t work on us. When we are unaware of what’s going on we are in prime position to receive their sucker punch. 

One trend I’ve noticed recently is that supermarkets are offering lots of  ’2 for’ deals. For example 1 loaf of bread is $5 but buy 2 and its only $7 which is a $1.50 ‘saving’ per loaf. Now this may seem like a good deal but for a lot of us it’s not a good deal at all. This ‘2 for’ deal is based on the psychological theory called regulation focus theory so often used by retailers – they know consumers care more about ‘savings’ than the price itself. A dress might be $100 which you can’t afford and don’t need but when the retailer tells you that you are saving $100 suddenly you must have it. What it costs doesn’t matter as much as what you think you are saving. As such you consumed when you didn’t need to. The dress may not actually be worth more than $100 anyway.

So when we go into some supermarkets we now see the docket highlight your savings and in much bigger font than the description of what you spent. You may have spent 20% more on groceries than you did last week but you’ve saved $20 according to them.  Well no you haven’t – you’ve actually spent more! You are yet to realise the savings. The only way you will realise the savings is if you spend less next time.

Now here’s the real killer. Most of us don’t realise the savings at all. In fact, some continue to spend more next time and the time after that.

You go home and it sinks in that you’ve now bought two of a number of foods when really you only wanted one. However you tell yourself “that’s ok I’ve bought for 2 weeks. That means less spend next week to even things out!”

Trouble is, as you go through the week, the extra loaf of bread, the second tub of yoghurt and the second bottle of orange juice are all within easy reach. Normally you wouldn’t eat two tubs of yoghurt in a week but its there and so you consume it. We know from research that we are more influenced by visual cues about food than any internal signals that we have had enough food. If we can see it we’ll eat it even if we are not hungry. Countless studies have found this to be the case. Only the most disciplined can make that second Kit Kat or the second packet of biscuits last until next week.

By the end of the week you’ve run out of juice, yoghurt and bread, so it goes on the list for the next shop. The supermarkets keep offering the ‘2 for’ deals and once again you are exceeding your weekly spend.

So the so-called savings is just an illusion. The supermarket told you that you’d saved but you didn’t at all. And you’ve now started a pattern of consuming more food than you need to.

Imagine if every household followed this pattern. We would have a nation of households eating more than they need to on a regular basis. As it is, Monash University is already predicting that “if weight gain continues at current levels, by 2025, close to 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese.

My concern is our supermarkets are littering their shelves with these ‘2 for’ deals, especially on the least healthy foods, and this will lead to further increases in unnecessary consumption levels.

So my advice is be careful into being seduced by the colourful ticket that highlights the so-called savings you’ll make by buying two instead of one. The supermarkets are not in the business of helping you to be disciplined.  They are offering these ‘2 for’ deals because they know you’ll buy more than you need to and in the process increase supermarket profits. If we continue to be seduced we will make Monash University’s dire prediction a certainty.


About the authors – Amy Jaya is a personal trainer, Pilates & Yoga instructor and qualified nutritionist based in Melbourne and Paul Clifford is an Organisational Psychologist with FBG Group.  For more details see



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