Hunger Might Make You Spend More—and Not Just on Food

shopping cart full of groceriesIf you’ve ever grocery-shopped while hungry, only to return home with hundreds of dollars worth of food you don’t need, don’t like, or don’t want, you probably don’t need a study to warn you about the perils of shopping while hungry. A study published in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that shopping while hungry can cause you to overspend not just on food, but on everyday goods like office supplies as well.

The Perils of Shopping While Hungry

Researchers conducted five different studies designed to discern the effects of shopping while hungry. In one trial, participants went four hours without eating. Half of the participants were given cupcakes at the end of the period, while the other half remained hungry. Each group took a survey about office supplies. At the end of the survey, participants had the chance to request as many samples of the office supplies as they wanted. The hungry group requested 70% more office supplies.

In another trial, researchers surveyed shoppers about their purchases and hunger levels after the shoppers completed an expedition to a large department store. Hungry shoppers spent more compared to their well-fed counterparts, with hungry shoppers buying an average of 64% more. In a similar trial, researchers asked people leaving cafes about their moods, then inquired as to how much they’d like to buy certain items. They found that hungry cafe customers typically wanted to buy more.

The study’s authors point out that the purpose of hunger is to encourage you to seek food. But when you ignore your hunger, that impulse may be generalized to non-food items, tempting you to buy more than you need. Interestingly, though hunger increased people’s desire to buy things, it did not increase their satisfaction with their purchases, suggesting that hunger can also lead to buyer’s remorse.


  1. An empty stomach can lead to an empty wallet. (2015, February 23). Retrieved from
  2. Shopping while hungry leads to more non-food purchases. (2015, February 17). Retrieved from

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  • pennie


    February 24th, 2015 at 10:29 AM

    I wonder if this also coincides with online shopping binges too. I mean, it has to somewhat be the same as shopping in person.

  • BESS


    February 24th, 2015 at 3:25 PM

    No more shopping for me without a snack first!!

  • Nolan


    February 25th, 2015 at 3:40 AM

    I would guess that for many people shopping is looking for a way to fill yourself and fulfill yourself in a way that nothing else quite succeeds at doing. Sound fair?

  • Clay B.

    Clay B.

    February 25th, 2015 at 11:32 AM

    Hunger can be a very powerful feeling in some people so I find that it would only be natural to try to satisfy that hunger with whatever that they can find at the moment. It could be food, it could be whatever, but for many people that feeling of emptiness that goes along with hunger, whether it is physical or emotional, can be very powerful in them ad they are looking for anything that they can do to avoid that feeling.

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