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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Avoiding Impulse Buys

There are many pitfalls in grocery shopping of which the average consumer may not be aware.
Impulse buys are how grocery stores try to lure you in to spending more money. Strategically placed items on sale are meant to lure you into doing exactly that. Of course you'd never buy apricot scented exfoliating face wash with coconut milk on a regular shopping trip, but its buy one get one free, so how can you pass up on that savings?

Point to remember- its not saving money if you're buying something extra that you would never get were it not on sale. If you would buy that apricot scented exfoliating face wash with coconut oil when it wasn't on sale, and now you're getting two for the price of one, then it is worth it to take advantage of the sale. If something you buy on a regular basis is on sale, it can pay to stock up on the sale items. However, keep in mind that money spent on “extras” that are on sale are not saving you money, but rather, are causing you to be wasteful.
Because of the temptation of impulse buys, frugal shopping enthusiasts advise menu planning and writing shopping lists and sticking religiously to those lists. I shared here what I do about grocery shopping, list writing, and menu planning.

My suggestion to avoid impulse buys is to calculate how much your grocery shopping should cost you and bring that much money with you in cash. I add on a few extra dollars and am set. This way you know that you have a clearly defined limit to how much you can spend, which is harder to remember when using plastic, and that limit helps you to not waste your grocery money on impulse buys.
I sometimes will put an impulse buy in the bottom of my shopping cart. When the cashier finishes ringing up my groceries, if I spent less than I had planned to spend on grocery shopping, I'll allow myself to ring up one or two impulse buys. But only so long as I stick within my budget.
As you become more savvy and aware of how much money you actually need for your grocery shopping, you can allot less and less money for each trip and free up that cash for more important uses.

My other suggested technique for cutting back on impulse buys is to only do as few grocery shops as possible. The ideal frugal shop is to go shopping only once a month. Or so I've heard. I'm still unsure how people manage that and still have fruits and vegetables at the end of the month. If anyone has suggestions for me how such a thing is doable, I'm all ears. For now, I've only gotten my produce to last 2 weeks between shopping trips, so that is why I do a bi-weekly shopping.
The reason fewer shopping trips are recommended is because each trip generally ends costing more money than was originally planned. Even if “I'm just going in to buy eggs and that's it” you'll more often than not proceed to the checkout with eggs, milk, cereal, disposable pans, apples, etc... You get my drift. The more trips to the store in a week, the more money you end up spending.
People usually are tempted to buy extras while in a store. Those who are not tempted to buy anything other than what they came for are few and far between. I always remember something else that I "need" that I "forgot" to put on my lis and end up getting that while shopping.
For all that I think I need these things, I survive and manage quite nicely even without these things, so buying those items that I "forgot" to add to the list is a money waster. The fact of the matter is, I can do without many things that I convince myself that I need.
One month was an especially hard one for us financially, and I only spent a total of 15 dollars for food for that month. I didn't have much of what I usually keep in stock in my home, our meals were very very simple, and I made do without many of my needs. Such an experiment, which I had entitled my "Dirt Poor Experienent" was no fun at all, I will freely admit. It was a time of great stress, and I wish to never need to repeat such an "experiment". However, living on 15 dollars worth of groceries for an entire month taught me much, like the things I took for granted and assumed were needs were really not necessary for living a happy fulfulling life.
I currently am out of wax paper. I am tempted to go to the store and replenish my stock, but am holding off until my next shopping trip. Until I buy new, I find a replacement for the wax paper and have been using aluminum foil in its stead. I know that once I enter the store to buy that one item, I will leave the store with many more items that I've convinced mysef that I need.
Making infrequent shopping trips, at a maximum of one trip per week, preferably less, is one of the best ways to cut impulse buys and help reduce your grocery bill.

How frequently do you go food shopping? What are your tips and tricks to help avoid impulse buys?

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