Stick to your budget by learning these ways to spend less money shopping.
Have you seen that commercial for a money-saving app where the couple gets to the grocery checkout and learns they’ve gone over their budget again? Every time it’s on TV I have to restrain myself.
The thing is, if you’re trying to stick to a budget you should know how much your purchases cost before you even get to the register. So while an app isn’t going to impart common sense, these methods below will.
Confession: I have no choice but to budget.
As a widow with a teenager, I have no choice but to follow a strict budget. It wasn’t easy for me at first, I’ll admit. I’d been a stay-at-home mom and housewife for nearly 20 years, and shopping was one of my favorite ways to get “me time.” But mortgages don’t pay for themselves, and it’s not getting any cheaper to put a kid through college — something I need to save money for along with my eventual retirement some day.
I didn’t see giving up shopping entirely, though I admire people who gave it up for an entire year. By spending less on necessary shopping and limiting unnecessary purchases, I was confident I could adapt to my post-widowhood budget while also managing to put some aside in future tuition and retirement savings. And I was right!
Don’t get me wrong: we’re not rolling in bills here, y’all, but getting my shopping expenditures under control made a big difference. I still watch my budget like it’s a full-time job — because it is — but now that these ways to save money shopping have become second-nature I don’t worry that every trip to the store might break the bank.
If you’d like to breathe easier at the register, here are six ways to save money shopping that have helped me. Give them a try and see if they work for you, too!
1. Know what you are going to buy before you leave your house.
Whether you’re heading to the grocery store or your favorite clothing boutique, take the time to write out a list of what you’re looking for then stick to it. Need to buy the kids clothes for the summer? Decide how many pairs of shorts and shirts each needs, along with things like sandals and swimsuits, then stick to that list. Having a number in mind before you get to the store helps limit those impulse purchases (and can stop kids from begging for more, too).
2. Don’t wander around.
My husband had what I considered a superpower: he could go to Target or Walmart for a huge bag of cat litter, for instance, and leave with just the huge bag of cat litter. Me? I’d go in there for milk and find myself at the register two hours later with an overflowing cart. The difference is that my husband headed straight to the section he needed, got what was on the list, and went to pay for it. I did not.
Once I began grouping items on my shopping list by where I’d find them, and making a beeline from one section to the next, my shopping expenses shrank dramatically. BOGOs or clearance tags on things didn’t attract me, nor did that dreaded $1 Only section at Target. They weren’t on my list so I didn’t even see them!
3. Don’t confuse spending less with actual savings.
If you just read the section above you might be cringing. Why would I pass by a BOGO on women’s t-shirts, for instance? Well, let’s remember that t-shirts weren’t on my list (#1), so I probably didn’t see the sale on my way to getting what I did plan to buy (#2).
Also, and this part is crucial to understand, spending less money is still spending money!!! So, while I might save $15 getting two t-shirts thanks to the BOGO sale, I’m still spending $15 to buy something I don’t need. How do I know I don’t need it? Because if I did, it would be on my list.
4. Shop online whenever possible.
Even if you carefully write a list (#1), head directly to each item (#2), and don’t get suckered into checking out the sales (#3) you are still going to be surrounded by temptation to splurge. The lady at the makeup counter may offer you a free makeover, but she’ll spend the entire time pressuring you to buy a product until you cave. Maybe you’ll stay strong until the checkout line when you simply cannot resist buying a magazine that promises to tell all about the latest celebrity scandal. Either way, you’ll wind up spending money you didn’t want to spend.
The easiest way to avoid those temptations? Shop online, or at least go online to check prices. If you use one of these ways to save money while shopping online you can limit temptation, get the best price, and earn money back, too.
5. Never, ever shop when you’re hungry, tired, or angry.
You know what happens when you grocery shop with an empty stomach, right? Did you know that shopping for clothes or other non-food items while you’re hungry, angry, or tired can wreak havoc on your budget, too? When you’re in one of those moods, buying things acts as a sort of pick-me-up, especially if you’re prone to overspending.
The reality is that any good feeling you get from buying something new will quickly disappear when buyer’s remorse sets in. Stop the shop-guilt-shop cycle by finding other ways to deal with bad moods and never, ever shopping when you’re hungry.
6. Shop alone whenever you can.
Whether it’s because your bestie insists that outfit in the window would look amazeballs on you or because you don’t want to admit you can’t afford it, shopping with friends makes the majority of adults spend more than they planned. No wonder malls and boutiques are starting to throw Girls’ Night Out events!
If you can’t make and keep a pact with your pals to just window-shop then make a point to leave your credit and debit cards at home so you can’t spend. Or find something else to do together like a picnic or a walk in the park.
Bottom line: Be aware that every penny spent is a choice
One thing these rules have in common: you need to know what matters most to you — the fun of owning something new today or the security of knowing you can afford your future. The real key to saving money is knowing that in most cases you don’t need to spend so much, and sometimes you don’t need to spend any money at all.