limit spending by shopping consciously

October 1st, 2008

Limit Spending By Shopping Consciously

I used to fritter a lot of money away on random things.  I didn’t realize that I spent so much, it truly was just a few dollars here and a few dollars there.  But it does add up.  When I started to really buckle down on eliminating debt, I started being more vigilant about tracking our expenses.  And that is when I realized that my behavior needed to change.  I wasn’t buying a latte every morning or eating lunch out every day, but I was spending money I didn’t need to.  And my biggest culprit was just being in stores I didn’t need to be in, or wandering the aisles when I grocery shopped.   Just going along my ordinary day, I was spending money that I didn’t need to spend, on things I wouldn’t remember a week later, and that I might have thought I could afford in singular, but added up, I definitely could not afford.

I began to employ two strategies that really helped me get my miscellaneous spending under control and make forward financial progress.  They basically boil down to shopping consciously – making lists and sticking to them, and avoiding temptation by reducing exposure to things to buy.

If I enter a store without a plan, I am a recipe for disaster.  I wander, I am attracted to random things, and I end up leaving with an assortment of items that I never would have missed if I didn’t buy them in the first place.  So when I need to shop, I make a list.  It doesn’t matter if I am shopping for groceries, toiletries, clothing, household items, or all of the above.  I make a list, as detailed as possible, and I plan my way through the store by the list.  I go to where the items I want are, I skip aisles or sections that don’t contain anything I need, and I try as hard as possible to stick to the list.  Do I completely stick to the list?  Well – most of the time.  I find that if I stray, it is usually because I started a little random wandering.  This, I think, is why stores move things around once and a while.  Just to trick me into buying more stuff.  ;)

That leads to reducing my exposure to things I might want to buy.  There’s a Target right down the street from my house.  In fact, I’ve mentioned before that it was one of my favorite things about our house’s location when we were initially house shopping two years ago.  I love Target.  If there is a store I can find a way to spend money in, it is Target.  So I just don’t go there.  I have been there once in the past 4 months, and that time I went in to buy underwear for my son and left with not only two more packages of underwear than I intended on buying, but a shirt for my daughter as well, and I narrowly avoided buying a new set of bamboo kitchen utensils.   I like way too much stuff in that store.

But reducing my exposure doesn’t just mean not going to Target.  I try to limit my shopping altogether, and if I am not looking for something specific, I don’t go into a store.  For a long time, I limited my grocery shopping to a few specific places that I was very familiar with, but I have started to open that up (because I seriously cannot resist free stuff).  But even with going to more places, I try to limit my opportunity to buy as much as possible, by making specific lists from the circulars  available each week, and sticking to the sections of the store that contain those items instead of wandering up and down the aisles.  Every extra aisle I wander roughly equates to an extra item in my cart.

So if you’re spending more than you’d like at the grocery store or just in general – examine your shopping behaviors.  You may be surprised at what a little conscious shopping can do.

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16 Responses to “Limit Spending By Shopping Consciously”

  1. This is really great advice!! I am HORRIBLE at spending extra money. A magazine here, pumpkin donuts there…just yesterday…I went into the grocery store for 2 ingredients to make dinner. I walked out spending $75!! Those 2 ingredients probably were only $4 at the most! I definitely need to be better about this! Thanks for the post and the reminder! I love your blog!

  2. I recently published a Hub titled “10 Ways to Keep Your Personal Finances in Check” in which I told readers to always shop with a list. This was derived from personal experience. If I go grocery shopping without a list, I’m probably good for an extra $35 in unplanned purchases. With a list, I can cut that down to about $5. I figured this out by studying past receipts.

    Love your blog and check it daily!

  3. I’m snickering about Target. I feel the same way about the store. I’m a Mom & it’s got everything I want and crave, as well as a few things I actually need.

    No more Target until after the recession!

  4. “Way Back When” we used to have the same problem with Toys ‘R Us. Luckily it was inconvenient. What broke us of that addiction was the decline in the standards at the store. It got pretty grim, so there was a cure. Then there was WalMart, but again the quality of the shopping experience was so bad, it was a “cure” ;-)
    But, TARGET!! Ahhhh, clean, wide aisles, huge selection, great “sales associates”: really, really tempting! Like you, I just stay away unless I have a list. When there I never wander–though I always look at items that are on my “staples” list. If there’s a good deal, I’ll get it since I won’t be coming back for a while.
    As with most, the worst is the grocery store, because you can’t avoid it. Lists, and a good price book, are the only way.
    BTW, sometime can you go over again your unit pricing plan, how you keep the data (notebook, ?) and use it (bringing it everytime, etc). Such a good idea.
    Thanks. Great post.

  5. Sure, I can review the unit pricing plan. I’ll try to write it up this weekend. Someone asked for the entire sheet as an example, and I am kind of lame about being able to insert spreadsheets (meaning, um, I can’t figure out how to :) ). I am not sure how useful the actual prices are anyway, because people live in different areas and their mileage will vary. But I think I can pick out 5-10 examples and use those to thoroughly explain it (it has worked really well for me so far, although it constantly evolves as you teach me about Walgreens ;) )

  6. I so agree. I too used to shop for entertainment and toss things into the cart that we didn’t really need. I am much more aware about what I’m shopping for, and I also totally stay out of Target. Those evin geniuses get me every time.

  7. Cool, thanks!

  8. I’ve reduced the desire to shop by buying things in bulk at great prices about once a month at the local salvage store. I also purchase flour by the fifty pound bag,because it’s half the price per pound in large quantities. I use the “pantry principle” as Amy Daczyczyn called it, whereby I plan my weekly menu out of things that I already have, since I know I paid the lowest possible price for everything that I have in the house.

  9. One thing about not having any money….you can’t fritter it away! Since I chose to live on less, I have had to be very diligent about how I spend money. I rarely shop for anything beyond groceries and essentials, take a list and purchase only what we need. I have even stopped going to thrift stores and the Dollar store, where it is very easy to rationalize spending a few bucks. However, I have decided to buy some new clothes, which is a need for me and am enjoying my shopping at Ross where I recently spent $35 and bought jeans, a top, and active wear pants and jacket all for a total of only $35.00!

  10. One of the advantages of living in a very small town – No where to shop! We have a Freddies and a Safeway – that’s it! Pretty easy not to buy anything extra, cuz here at the edge of the earth everything is at a premium.

  11. BakerDancer Says:

    October 1st, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    On a related note: throw away mail order catalogs BEFORE you look at them!!

  12. re: mail order catalogs
    yet another reason to use a service like , or something similar, to stop the flow of “junk” mail into your house. Another strategy is the trash basket right below the mailbox…..

  13. I agree (I used to be terrible in Target). Last year Mr Chiots and I decided it would be a year of “not buying crap we don’t need” and you know what. It cured our unecessary spending. We finally quit shopping because we were never buying anything. This year I started shopping at Farmer’s markets instead of grocery stores and it has also helped save us tons of money. I buy flour at a local bulk food store, produce at a farm market (and freeze & preserve enough for the winter) and meat & dairy at a local farm. I find that I’m spending way less that I used to and I have already purchased much of my winter food already so I know I’ll have super low bills this winter. Shopping this way is much better for us (healthier local food) for the environement (food isn’t processed and doesn’t travel thousands of miles) and it’s so much better for the local economy (the $6 a gallon I pay for organic raw milk goes entirely to the farmer). I love it and so does my wallet. I have found so far that I’m spending abut $50 less a month on groceries shopping this way and it will end up being more this winter when I don’t have to buy much.


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