You’re at the store and you see it: the most awesome and amazing item you’ve ever seen. You just have to have it – now. But you came here for a new pair of socks or a carton of milk, not this new thing, and you try to remind yourself of that. However, as you round the corner of the checkout line, you go back and put it in your cart. It’s only one thing, right?
Most stores are designed to be temptation central, a place for you to find what you came in for and more. That means lots of blown out budgets and items getting charged to credit cards. But there are ways to stop yourself before you get out of control. These 6 simple steps can get you in and out of a routine shopping trip without your wallet taking a hit.
6 Steps to Stop Unplanned Purchases
Take a Handwritten or Printed List
With smartphones in your pocket, you most likely have abandoned the handwritten shopping list. But there are a few reasons why you should go back to writing everything down yourself. First, it helps you plan ahead. Knowing what you need and where it is located in the store can help you visualize your shopping trip before you step in the door. And, having a list in hand to cross out or check off, is a great practice of focus and goal setting.
Leave the Cards at Home
If you have to pay in cash, you’ll find it much harder to buy the object. However, coming to the store with enough cash is a bit risky, especially if you are unfamiliar with prices or aren’t sure if you can use a coupon. Instead, head to the ATM before you get in the store (don’t use the one there). Get enough cash for everything you estimate plus about 10% more in case you need it.
Avoid Temptation Stations
Most stores are designed to attract your attention from the very get-go, which is why all the newest and most popular items are upfront or advertised in larger flyers. Avoid this by using a less frequented entrance, such as through a garden center. For those who are tempted by clearance sections, stick to the middle of the store or away from end caps where those deals are most likely to be found.
Put It In Your Cart
If the item is too big a temptation, place it in your cart and walk around the length of the store. During your walk, ask yourself four important questions:
1. Do you have the budget for it?
2. Do you already have one that works/good condition?
3. When will you use it and how frequently?
4. Do you need it today?
By the time you get through these questions and do the full walk through of the store, you will likely see that you don’t need it after all and will want to put it back.
Check In With a Friend
Like all vices and even addictions, having an accountability partner is key. For shoppers, this person may be a spouse who knows your family’s financial position or a trusted and honest friend who has a frugal side. Whomever you pick, have them on speed dial when you find yourself eying a new pair of gloves or a video game for your collection. Have them repeat the four questions and see what their opinion is on it once you are done. If they give it the greenlight, buy it.
Put It on Hold
If you still want that item badly, try putting it on hold for however long the store will give you. Then, give yourself a break. Try not to think about it for a few hours now that you are away from the price tags and the shopping carts and see how you honestly feel about it. More than likely the attractiveness of the store display or the rush to get a good deal can cloud your judgement. However, if you are still dreaming of it several hours later, do some research. Can you get it cheaper online or at another store? Does it go on sale at a certain point in time?
Bad shopping habits die hard, especially for impulse shoppers (I know; I’m one of them). But by following a few simple steps, you can keep yourself in check, control your urges, and stick to your set budget.
Michelle is a 20-something new mom, dog lover, and freelance writer/solopreneur living in Chicago. She's currently fighting back to get in the black while learning how to make great financial decisions for the future. You can find her personal debt story at fitnpoor.com and her site for parents wanting to raise money-smart children at everylittlecent.com
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