Shopping was a different experience in the past year. The changes the COVID-19 pandemic caused were good for some, because it was an opportunity to save money. But for others, it increased the shopping costs and left them spending more than ever before.
It’s important to understand that we shop to gain a feeling. Even when we buy food, we try to increase our feeling of variety. We could all survive perfectly well on potatoes or bread and butter all day, but that wouldn’t satisfy our need for variety.
I remember years ago I did juice cleanse, and the thing I missed the most was … chewing. I could get all the nutrients I needed from the juice, but it just didn’t give me the satisfaction of chewing.
Too much shopping
Shopping for things we need is not the same as “going shopping”. The problem is that today, people are so stressed that even simple grocery shopping is no longer just buying what we need. Instead, it’s become stocking the cupboard with things we don’t need.
When I was growing up, my mom stocked the pantry with so much food that if, God forbid, we couldn’t go out for a year, we would still have enough to eat. It was definitely too much.
To overcome this disease, I made a conscious decision to stock for less time. If my mom’s stock could last one year, I would keep mine at 3 months’ worth.
When we buy more that we need, we waste money. And then, we waste food. No one benefits from this, except the supermarkets. They work hard to make it easy for us to buy things we don’t need.
Here are some things you need to know about shopping and how shops manipulate you into buying more than you need. I’ll also give you “shopping hacks” – tips to help you stick to your budget, save money, time, and the environment.
How to save money (and time) on shopping
- For every retail business, you are just a wallet. Their job is to make sure you buy as much as possible, whether you need it or not. They try to convince you that without their product, your life will not be complete, so it’s necessary for your survival. It’s not! Relax!
- When we take a large, deep shopping cart, we buy more than we need, and almost always more than we planned. In fact, we buy about 40% more than we do with a small, shallow cart. If you want to easily control how much you buy, take a small shopping cart. When I can’t find a small cart, I put my handbag inside the cart. The bag takes up space and makes the shopping cart look smaller.
- If you don’t have many things to buy, take a basket. It will fill up faster and prevent you from buying more. It’s also heavy and inconvenient to carry, so you’ll hurry to finish shopping and check out.
- Shops with slow, quiet music make us stay longer and buy 29% more than we would have with different music. It’s not a bad idea to put your own fun, upbeat music on when shopping. It’ll really help you save money.
- The colorful, individually packaged items at the entrance of the shop or supermarket are a trap. We often buy them even though we didn’t plan to. Because there are no equivalent products around, we can’t compare their price, so we pay more. Avoid them.
- In the same way, items next to the checkout counters are there to make us buy small last-minute items we have no need for. That’s called “impulse buy”. Make a rule never to buy anything next to the checkout.
- Don’t go shopping often. Once, I discovered that no matter how often I went shopping, I ended up spending the same amount. I was shocked! If I went to the supermarket every 2 days or just once a week, I still paid the same. So I started making lists, sticking to them and going as rarely as I could.
- People who have no shopping list tend to buy more than they need. Make a list and stick to it! Keep a shopping list for the whole family and get everyone to add the items they want. Then, stick to the rule “If you don’t write it down, we don’t buy it”. It’s a great way to save money.
- Check the fridge and the pantry for what you need and add those items to your shopping list. If you go shopping every 3 days, only add what you’ll need during that time. You can get more later.
- People who don’t plan a menu for their groceries tend to buy things “just in case”. If you can, make a weekly menu of the meals you intend to make. It’ll be easier to stick to only buying things you need.
- If you want to save money, eat before you go shopping. Why? Because hungry people buy more.
- Have a water bottle with you when you go shopping. Just buying water (or soft drinks) can become expensive over time.
- Create a mental route of the shops you want to visit. Some shops are cheaper than others, so buy what you need “cheapest first”. Also, if you need to drive a bit farther to buy something cheaper, it might not be worth it overall.
- Avoid going to the shops to buy a single item. It will always make you buy more.
- You know those “tester booths”, where a person offers you the newest range of crackers and dip, or a revolutionary hand cream? People are impulsive and the supermarkets know that. We can’t help it! Just walk around them.
- Skip aisles that you don’t need to grab anything from.
- Some shops are great, and they show you the price per unit of weight or volume. So don’t look at the large numbers. Compare “apples to apples” by always using the price per pound/kilo or ounce/liter. If the price tag doesn’t help, do the math yourself and save money.
- Coupons are a great way to make us buy things we didn’t plan on buying. Never buy something because you have a coupon for it, unless you actually need it.
- The most expensive products are at eye level. The cheaper ones are usually very low or very high in relation to you eyeline. When similar products are available, look down (or up) to get the best deal.
- Buy unprocessed food. Processed food is usually more expensive if you do the math. This will also help you save money on your medical and dental bills…
- Start shopping from the back. It will save you the temptation to buy the eye-catching things positioned at the front to make you buy them.
- Buy fruits and vegetables at the greengrocer, rather than the supermarket. If possible, go to a fruit and vegetable market once a week. Where we live, market prices are half of what we would pay at the supermarket, and the greengrocer is about 30% cheaper. These options may also be fresher.
- When buying bulk products, check to make sure they’re sufficiently cheaper. If you don’t save money, there’s no reason to waste storage space and tie up your cash. Let the supermarket keep the rest and take only as much as you need.
- Have emergency food stock that will keep you fed and watered for a little bit if you find you don’t have time to go shopping. We have spare long-life milk in the cupboard and frozen bread and butter, just in case. This prevents us from going to the shops too often. Of course, don’t overdo it. It’s important to each fresh food.
- When you see a sale, check if it’s a real sale or a trick. We tend to forget the regular price when we see a discount sign, and the stores rely on it.
- Make plans to do something else straight after shopping. The time limit will keep you on track. If you have all the time in the world to look around, you’ll buy more.
- Online grocery shopping is also a good way to avoid waste. You buy things you usually buy, and you limit impulse buying. It’s also a great time saver. The money and time you save may offset the extra cost of items and/or delivery.
- When you need to take care of your kids, consider whether you want to go shopping. Kids often put pressure on parents to buy extra things, and the parents buy them to avoid embarrassment. If your kid is like this, don’t take them with you.
I hope this will give you some tips to control your spending and time when going shopping.