Overspending can be an issue in any store; the temptation to buy is what keeps stores in business, and supermarkets are no different. It’s an easy excuse to hide behind how important food is, but it can be bought in excess, just like anything else. And since you need to buy groceries, and are guaranteed to return to the supermarket week after week, watching your overspending can really help you avoid putting a dent in your budget.
Never shop hungry
Eating before you go shopping is essential to staving off those hard to resistant cravings. If you’re starving as you browse the aisles, everything’s going to start looking good. You won’t pick food based on what you need, or what you can afford, but by what you would really like to eat right then and there.
Go in with a plan
Don’t just have an idea in your head. Having a written down list will make it very concrete: this is what I’m shopping for, and nothing else. Having a list in front of you will keep you focused on finding those exact items. You’ll walk to where you know they are, and won’t spend extra time in unnecessary aisles. A list will also make sure you get what you need, avoiding sudden emergency trips back to pick up that last item, which could result in picking up ‘just a few more things’ along the way.
Shop by yourself
Two heads are better than one doesn’t necessarily apply with savvy grocery shopping. A second person, especially one like a child who is not interested in budgets, is not going to stick to your list. Even if they are trying to stay conscious about purchases, two people means double the temptations to stray into unnecessary items. Family can be distracting, and make choosing the right products extra difficult if they begin to argue about your choices.
Give yourself a time limit (but still time!)
Like having a plan, if you have a set amount of time for shopping, you definitely won’t be hovering in aisles you don’t need anything from. Deadlines will make sure you stick to that plan. If you’re uncertain about getting something, put it back. You don’t have time to talk yourself into an item that isn’t for sure for your menu. On the other hand, make sure it’s a time limit you can stick to securely. Don’t only give yourself half an hour if you’re shopping during the store’s busiest hours. Feeling rushed will make you grab the first thing in sight just to get out of everybody else’s way. Give yourself a chunk of time where you can dedicate to picking out the right item, while also not loitering.
Pay attention to labels and costs
Be conscious of what you’re purchasing. If you have a favorite brand, then figure out why it’s your favorite. Is it simply because that’s what you’ve always gotten? It could be that there’s another brand that will work just fine, but is cheaper. Compare prices. Don’t just grab the first thing you see because it’s familiar. You may be passing up a deal. Also, if you’re familiar with prices, you can be conscious of them when you make that shopping list. As you write down each thing, you’ll be able to have a good idea in your head already of what it will cost. Then, when you’re at the store, you’ll be attentive to when you start going over that price. Count up your potential total while you’re still shopping, don’t wait till you’re at the register and feel like you have to commit.
Paying attention to costs will also help you avoid deals that only look good. A flashy sign advertising three cans for $9 might get your attention, but take a closer look. Make sure that you’d actually be saving money, and aren’t just attracted to the bold SALE lettering. On the other hand, if something’s on sale and for a truly good deal, stock up a little! If it’s a non-perishable, then you can give yourself a little boost up for the next shopping trip.
Pay with cash
If you’re paying with cash, and only bring that set amount with you, it will be virtually impossible for you to go over, because you won’t be able to just slide a card. Having a card can make it very easy to forget just how much money you’re handing over. With cash, you feel it in your hand, and are counting it right in front of you. Make yourself entirely conscious of what you’re spending.
It may seem contrary to the purpose, but shopping on a regular basis – once a week, for instance – will help you stick to a better plan; but only if you plan. If you’re out of perishables, but not anything else, then you’ll go and buy only that. Waiting until your cabinets are bare might cause you to overbuy because you’re imagining empty cupboards and feel like you need to refill every single thing. Frequent shopping, for a couple of items per trip, might have you spending money more often, but less money in the long run.
This is only true if you keep to the list of what you need, however. It can easily backfire if you take frequent trips, and end up returning home with extra items you didn’t really need. This can be helped by the step above – only bring enough cash for what you’re going to get- or by making that list and sticking to it.
The supermarket is an easy place to overspend while feeling like you had to buy something. So stay smart about what you’re buying and you’ll avoid unnecessary costs, while feeling both better about your food, and your budget.