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We Gave Eight Households $100 to Spend at the Grocery Store
Can you guess who bought a $62.99 bottle of wine, who spent nearly $50 on pizza rolls and other junk food, and who spent the most on non-food items?
We partnered with our friends at Cut to conduct our own little experiment on buying behavior. First, we handed eight households $100 and sent them to the grocery store. Afterward, we filmed them to get insight into the “why” behind their purchases.
Check out everything that happened here:
Setting the Stage
Our human test subjects came from all walks of life.
A single 30-year-old bartender. A college student who lives on campus with her three roommates. An unemployed, married couple (both artists). A software engineer who’s married with two kids. A tight-budgeted single mother. A retiree on Social Security. A mother with three kids crawling all over her. And a single, young professional woman.
Spoiler alert: They don’t spend the same way.
Putting the People to the Test
Let’s get some background on our test subjects so you can better understand where they’re coming from.
- Age: 30
- Striving to be middle class
- Used his $100 for a night of indulgence
- Parents are tight with money… he’s not
- Age: 19
- College student
- Lives with three other girls
- Obsessed with pizza
- Thinks she is bad with money
- Age: 77
- Currently collecting Social Security
- $100 is 9% of his monthly budget
- Age: 32
- Mother and student
- Has three kids
- Spent nearly half her budget on non-food items like diapers
Mick and Anthony
- Ages: 46 and 36
- Unemployed artists
- Have only eaten out twice in the past year
- Majority of their budget went to produce
- Age: 35
- Mother and software engineer
- Has two kids
- Didn’t buy any pre-packaged foods or non-food items
- Age: 35
- Mother and teacher
- Tight with money, great budgeter
- Purchased a balanced number of items in each category
- Age: 27
- Purchases centered around ingredients she could cook
- Biggest indulgence? A bottle of wine for less than $10
Digging Into the Spending
After everyone spent their $100, we split their purchases into six different categories:
- Meat, Dairy, & Grain
- Oils & Spices
- Pre-Packaged Foods
- Junk Food & Sweets (includes alcohol)
- Non-Food Items
Here’s what they bought:
The Balanced (and Most Frugal) Spenders
Clyde, Toni, and Mick and Anthony were the most frugal of the eight. Each of these three purchased something in all of the categories and got the most number of items for their money. They clearly made a point to get the most for their Benjamin.
The Most Unbalanced
We already know Tripp dropped $62.99 on a bottle of wine, which automatically made his spending the most unbalanced of the group. That’s more than half his budget all in one place. The rest went to avocados, asparagus, a nice piece of steak, a baguette, and a couple of tiny notebooks.
The Most Non-Food Purchases
Erica, the mother of three, also purchased no pre-packaged foods or oils and spices. However, while Tripp sips wine, Erica needs to change diapers and feed her kids healthy food. That explains why 90% of her budget went into non-food items and produce.
The Most Junk Food
Karen didn’t buy any produce or non-food items. Instead, she unloaded 80% of her budget on junk food and pre-packaged foods. She didn’t buy any produce, non-food items, or oils and spices, but hey, she eats those pizza rolls every day.
The two biggest cooks spent the most on spices and oils. Komal’s purchases centered around feeding her family with home cooked food — lots of potatoes, lentils, and produce, but nothing pre-packaged. Joane, the young professional, also focused on foods she could cook and healthy produce items. Her junk food? Only one a $8.99 bottle of wine. Neither spent any money on non-food items.
What does $100 mean to you?
For a single mother, like Toni, $100 means food for the week. For Tripp, it’s one night of indulgence. For Komal, it makes her think of her roots in India — a $100 there is an entire month’s income. For Clyde, it’s 9% of his monthly Social Security income, which doesn’t seem like enough. For Mick and Anthony (who are unemployed), that money just means they have enough to get by a little longer.
While $100 is a constant, measurable value, the perceived value from person to person is not the same.
It is pretty amazing to me how a single value can be thought of so differently. I know a “hundo” doesn’t mean the same thing to me that it does for my parents. Even though my parents have more money than me, I know that $100 means less to me. It’s counterintuitive, but I think it has to be a generational thing. For one, stuff just costs more. Plus, growing up with credit cards and the Internet has made spending $100 like that so much easier.
It was somewhat eye-opening to see I’m currently most like Tripp — I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I don’t have to buy groceries, and I will drop some money on wine (although, not over $60).
What would you buy at the grocery store for $100?
We’d love to hear how you’d spend that money. Do you identify with any of the people in our video? Or would you spend completely differently than everyone else?
Shoot us an email or drop your thoughts in the comments section below.