This weekend, we did our typical family trip to the grocery store on Saturday. We left the house at 11:00 in the morning and after going to Superstore, Costco, and then a last minute stop to Sobeys on the way home we pulled in our driveway at 2:50 in the afternoon. Not only did it take almost four hours in to finish the trip but as we finished unloading the groceries we realized that almost half of the items we bought we hadn’t planned for on our initial shopping list. Out of curiosity, I went back to our receipts and found that in the $300 we had spent, $89 were unplanned purchases; a whopping 30% of our groceries.
Do you feel like often times when you return home from shopping, whether its for groceries, clothes, children’s toys etc., you have more in your bag then you intended to buy? Well don’t worry, you’re not alone. We all get caught in the trap set by retailers and manufacturers from time to time. What’s important is that you educate yourself on what is smart impulse buying and when it’s the wrong time to indulge in that little extra spending. Today I am going to talk about the various reasons why people get caught shopping on impulse and how you can avoid over spending when you don’t need to.
1. It’s on sale, so I better buy it now so I don’t pay more down the road
Think about the last time you walked in to Wal-Mart. The first thing you probably saw, with the exception of the smiling greeter, was the comp rail sales items. These tend to be front page sales items that give the customers the impression that Walmart is the cheapest place to shop in town. This just isn’t true. It also makes the customer feel like the prices are so good that they have to buy those items today. While this may be true for seasonal items like barbeques, snow blowers or gardening hoses, everyday items like pop, chips, toilet paper and so on go on sale weekly at different retailers. Just because you see an item on sale in the store, don’t think you won’t have access to the same savings in a week or two. I am going to talk about making a grocery list shortly and my advice is make sure you also include a section for items you are running low on and may need to buy within your next two shopping occasions. If you find one of those items on sale on your current shopping trip, buy them then. At our house diapers and toilet paper are usually on this list for us.
The one exception for this is when stores have their anniversary sale, Boxing Day sale, and or BOGO events. There can be some great savings to be had on these occasions but the best sales are on the front page. Don’t get caught up in every red sticker you see around the store highlighting a sales item when you’re shopping during these events. Make note of the front page items that have the greatest value savings and be smart about the rest of the flyer. This will save you money as some of those sales inside the flyer might be better priced next week online or at another retailer.
2. I couldn’t resist the smell of the fresh baked cookies
Do you ever notice how the bakery is usually located in the first third of the store? Desert items, particularly the fresh baked ones like cookies, cake, and bread, can really add to your grocery bill. These are common items that people will leave off their grocery list. For some people it may be because they are looking to drop those five extra pounds for an upcoming wedding, or for others they don’t want their kids to fill up on sugar. Whatever your reasons may be, when you smell that aroma of a freshly baked batch of chocolate chip cookies as you walk through the store, and then you see them sitting on the shelf ready to be claimed, temptations kick in and we often find ourselves buying those darn cookies. There really is no way to avoid these temptations. Just stay strong, don’t look the bakery girl in the eyes, and walk straight on to the meat and seafood department that usually follows.
3. I tried a sample, got a coupon and now I need to buy it
Each year, large companies spend millions of dollars to make sure that their product gets noticed and more importantly purchased by shoppers. Over the course of my 13 years in consumer packaged goods I learned a lot about how companies like Coca-Cola, Nestle, General Mills, Kraft, and other well-known brands get their products from their production lines and into your home.A very common way to do this is through product demonstrations or sample booths. Anyone who has ever shopped at Costco knows exactly what I am talking about. Companies will come out with new products, repackage old ones or try to reignite sales of a slipping product and will often arrange booths for customers to try these products while in store. Usually you will receive a coupon with your sample adding that little extra temptation to buy it before leaving the store. For anyone who has ever fallen victim to this, just because you try a sample of something, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BUY IT.
4. I didn’t make a shopping list for the things I need but I am pretty sure we are out of this
I am really bad for this with the seasonings in my cupboard. When I say bad, I mean really bad. Somehow I have three three-quarter full seasoning jars of Cayanne Pepper in my house. I’ll be walking through the store thinking “I am going to make taco’s tonight and will need cayenne pepper” and sure enough when I get home, there they will all be staring back at me. The point here is, plan your shopping trip. Write down the items you will need right away and as I said earlier also make a sub section for items that you will need soon that you should buy if you see on sale. If you stay disciplined, this will help you cut back on over spending.
5. Everyone else was buying it, so I should too
You will see this lots just before holidays. This past week I was walking through a national retail store and noticed everyone was snatching up turkeys at $1.50/lb. This isn’t a bad price but after doing a little digging I was able to find them on sale for $0.98/lb at a local butcher. I could be wrong, maybe the national chain stores turkeys were “lucky” turkeys and increased your chances of winning the lottery, but otherwise I was willing to go to the butcher to save the $8-$10. What I am trying to say here is, just because everyone else is making un-informed decisions on what is a great price and what isn’t, doesn’t mean that you have to as well.
6. Hockey Playoffs are on, I’ll need pop, wings, nachos, burgers, egg rolls and barbeque sauce
This goes for hockey playoffs, Superbowl, back to school, spring, summer, Christmas, Chinese New Year, you name it. If there is an occasion that will resonate with people than retailers and manufacturers will make merchandising decisions to try and take advantage of those who have a connection with it. Think about when you see those massive displays in the store with 10-15 different items on them. Sure, sometimes those items are on sale, but a good portion of them often are not and are there simply to add more profit to the retailer. So be aware with shopping from these displays. Just because you’re going to the cottage for the first time this year doesn’t mean you need the $10 condiments variety pack, a new barbeque flipper and three tanks of propane. Be smart with these items and make sure you really need them so you’re not being taken advantage of.
7.I only planned to shop for fifteen minutes but time just slipped away
This goes with that whole idea of don’t shop while you’re hungry. The hungrier you are the more things you’ll buy because they look so tasty to you in the moment and it’s easy to give in. The same thing goes with how long you are shopping for. The more time you spend in the store, the more you will stray from your shopping list and buy out of boredom or giving in to merchandising tactics. When you’re buying groceries, refer to your list, move swiftly through the store, and don’t get too caught up in conversation when you run in to your high school badminton partner. If you really want to talk to them, set aside time to grab coffee that week and finish your shopping so you don’t lose track of time…and your wallet.
So there you have it folks. Impulse shopping happens to the best of us. Statistics Canada says that the average household spends $241 per person a month on food and between 20-40% of all grocery purchases are made on impulse. For a family of four, that’s minimally $2,300 a year. Don’t be a statistic. Be smart. Plan your shopping occasions, and spend that $2,300 or more on your next family vacation.