Eat and Hydrate First
Food is the number one impulse buy for shoppers. How do you avoid those delicious donuts? Don’t shop hungry! This advice is backed up by research: Reuters reports that hungry shoppers buy more high-calorie items than satiated shoppers. Always carry a small bag of almonds or a protein bar to stop that hunger from turning into shopper's remorse.
Avoid Impulse Buys
Stores are money traps—literally. Those tantalizing displays at the ends of aisles are easy bait for harried shoppers, and stores place baked goods near the entrance to encourage sales with their enticing smell. Don't fall for the sneaky sales tactics. Be an informed shopper and learn the store layout so you can quickly navigate to the sections that sell what you need.
Exercise Caution During Sales
Sales are timed for the store’s benefit, not yours. When stores need to increase revenue or compete for attention during the holidays, they have a sale. Make sure you buy according to your timeline and budget, and not just to inflate some company’s bottom line.
Place It on Hold
Here’s the easiest way to gauge if you really need an item. Ask the salesperson, “Can you place this item on hold?” Those seven words give you time for emotions to subside. If you’re not still thinking about the purchase after 24 hours, why would you want to own it?
Beware of Bulk
Those oversize packs of toilet paper will probably save you money and a few trips to the store, but do you really need 12 cans of tuna or 2 pounds of pine nuts? Bulk buys can cost you more because they go unused, sitting on shelves for months or years. It's not a bargain if you end up throwing it out. Make a list of the household items you use all the time, and buy only those products in bulk.
Related: 14 Things Never to Buy in Bulk
Know Your Needs
There are certain groceries and household products you buy again and again. Write down each of these on an “essentials” list that you replenish weekly. Make a separate list for “specialty” items (like vitamins) that you purchase only every few months. Once you have a clear picture of your needs, you can consider wants on a case-by-case basis.
Avoid Lengthy Conversations
While a sympathetic salesperson can offer a helpful ear, she also wants you to buy. A feeling of connection can increase the chance that you'll make a purchase. Always be polite and friendly, but avoid lengthy personal conversations that could lead to overspending.
Respect Your Limits
Some people need a very strict, written budget. Others can keep their spending within flexible guidelines without all that formality. Whatever your approach, respect the financial limits set by your income, expenses, and lifestyle. And no matter your financial situation, keep retail therapy to a minimum.
Bring Your Own Bottle
Those daily $2 coffees add up, and now many grocery stores have put in coffee shops to encourage you to treat yourself to a little something. You'll be better able to resist temptation if you fill your own thermos with your favorite drink before heading off to the store. If you do like to buy yourself the occasional coffee, make it a once-a-week event, not a daily habit.
Pay Attention to Small Stuff
Little purchases like gum and a cold drink at the gas station may seem unimportant. But over time, these small buys can drain your budget and steal funds from bigger spending goals, like a car or furniture. Give yourself a weekly limit for little treats, and reward yourself with experiences instead.
Don’t Be Trigger-Happy
We all have emotional buttons, and stores often know exactly how to push them. Figure out your particular triggers and be aware of common ones like time of day, the environment, your mood, peer pressure, and lifestyle. Before you head to the store, ask yourself: Why am I going shopping today?
Break the Rules, Occasionally
Being overly strict with money usually backfires. Try to achieve a healthy balance. Stick to your budget, but also leave yourself some room for fun, enjoyable experiences—and, yes, an occasional splurge.
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