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The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to Changing Your Shopping Style

I’m a writer and therefore I eavesdrop while I’m out and about. One thing I hear all the time is a conversation that goes something like this-

Cashier ‘Did you find everything you were looking for today?’
Shopper ‘I did and more. In fact, I only came into the store for one thing and I’m leaving with an armful/cart load’.

Does it sound familiar? It’s easily done, but it can create a budget crisis. Shopping for groceries without a list, and impulse buying at the department store are probably the top two reasons most of us spend more than we actually earn. Are there ways around this dilemma?

Psychology 101
Stores like supermarkets put lots of effort…and not to mention money, trying to analyze our shopping habits. They arrange their store and placement of goods to try and make us fill our shopping carts to the brim. So, are we completely helpless each time we walk through the door of a store? Not if we use a little psychology of our own. How many times have you run to the supermarket just to pick up a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread and ended up with a cart load of groceries you probably didn’t need? Think about why the milk and bread are usually placed at the back of the store. Yep, you have to roll that cart right by a bunch of shelves loaded with items that are just calling your name. My tip, if you’re just shopping for items like milk and bread, opt for somewhere like Walgreens…that’s hoping you don’t buy a whole bunch of cosmetics on your way to the bread aisle.

End Caps
Yes, some of the end caps in stores are actually bargains. For example, the 10 cans of vegetables for $3. But most of the time they’re not any cheaper than other items in the store. We just assume they are because the store has gone to all that trouble to make a nice display so we can find a bargain that much quicker. And they must have our best interest in mind, right? If only that was true! My tip, check out the prices before you put the items into the cart.

Don’t Leave Home Without Your Plan
Whether it’s your grocery list or a set plan for errands you want to run, stick with it. I know it’s tempting to just pop into the dress store because you were driving by and noticed that they’re having a buy one get one free deal, but the more stores you visit, the more you see, the more you see something you want.

Keep A Spending Book
Okay, this might sound a little obsessive, but everyone I know who keeps a log of how much they spend each day or week are usually the people who always have money left in the bank. If you keep track of where your money’s going, you’ll be surprised just how much of your budget is wasted on items that you don’t really need.

Do Some Research
Don’t shop for big ticket items before you’ve done your homework. Yes, it used to be a hassle going store to store, writing down brands, sizes, prices, etc. but now there’s no excuse. The Internet does the work for you. Know what you want to buy before you head to the store, stick to your plan, stick to your budget, and don’t get swayed about other products you see. And most of all, resist the charm of the sales person who tells you that while you’re buying A, you should also invest in B. Be an informed consumer.

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