Whether we fly by the seat of our pants or live and die by our Google calendars, we are all creatures of habit. We all have at least a few patterns to our days. We may wake up at the same time of day. We may take care of our grooming in the same order. These little routines are done so often that we do them without thinking.
I’ve made savings automatic in many ways, and it occurred to me that even the way I shop has some a money-saving routine built into it.
7 Things I Do Before I Go Shopping
There are some relatively simple things I try to do before any shopping trip. These are things I do that I have found either save time, money, or both.
One of the most important questions to ask before shopping is, “Why am I going shopping?” Is it to fill a need? Or is it to fill an emotional void? I have found that when I am bored or upset, I will sometimes create false needs to go shopping. If I can identify that behavior before I leave the house, I can usually skip the trip completely. I try to only shop when I absolutely need to purchase an item. And I usually try to only go to town when I have multiple things I need.
Set a spending target.
Hopefully you have a budget that you try to stick to for groceries, clothing and household goods. You should know how much money you have to spend during your shopping trip. I use this number to set a goal to spend less than that number. I try to make saving money a game where I challenge myself to see if I can spend less than I thought I would.
Do an inventory.
Before I shop, I try to make sure that I look in my cupboards, pantry, fridge, freezer and closets to see what I already have on hand. If there are obvious gaps in my inventory, I make sure to add them to my shopping list. I keep a kids clothing inventory on my phone using Evernote to keep track of the things they need.
Make a plan.
Every Sunday, I make a menu plan for the week based on what I have on hand. I then make a shopping list for the week. I make sure I add those items that I discovered I needed when I did my inventory. I also decide where I am going (I live equal distance between two towns with different grocery stores and sales). I plan how many stops I will make and write out the lists for those stores. I try to organize those lists based on how the stores are laid out. The more organized I am, the quicker I can get my shopping done. The less time I spend in the store, the less money I spend on impulse buys.
Look for sales and coupons.
Once I have my list, I make sure to look for any sales and coupons I can use. I use the sales flyers, store apps, and Favado to look for sales. I use the coupon database to find coupons to print or clip. If I have time, I will take a quick look at what offers are available on the cash back sites to see if any of the items I need have rebates available. I make sure to put my shopping list, coupons, and smartphone with my purse so I don’t forget them.
Have a snack and use the restroom.
I can’t shop if I’m hungry or have to go to the bathroom. I’m like a little kid that way. I get cranky, things feel like they take forever, and items appear in my cart that I have no business purchasing. A quick snack (or meal) and a stop at the restroom before I leave the house means I can power through my shopping list without feeling tempted by the middle snack aisles in the store. It means I’ll miss all of the tempting wares I spot on my way to the store restroom.
Grab my reusable bags.
This year, I’ve been working on living greener, and that means I am trying to reduce my use of plastic grocery bags. I’ve got a couple sets of these adorable Esse bags and I keep them right by my purse and coupon organizer so that I can grab them on my way out there door. Some stores even offer discounts for using reusable bags. I love that the reusable bags are sturdier and hold so much more than the plastic bags they give you at the store.
This list may seem like a lot to do before you head to the store, but I’ve been doing them for so long that they are as routine as brushing my teeth. I’ve made them routine because they help me shop faster and save money.
If you’re struggling with keeping your shopping bills within your budget, I highly suggest looking at your shopping routines. You just might discover that there are some small changes you could make that would save big.
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