by Rae Alton
It's a shame that many consumers feel powerless in front of a box of gooey-looking frozen treats or in the make-up aisle with row upon row of flashy, brand new packages of mascara. With proper planning and a tablespoon of self control, you can curb your impulse spending without sacrificing too much of the quality you're accustomed to.
The keyword is control, which is easier said than done! Follow these super simple suggestions and you might be amazed at the check-out.
- Shop on a full stomach. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book and for good reason. Stuffing yourself almost lethargic will not only keep you from lingering in the snack aisles, but also it will prevent last minute candy bar and soda purchases near the check-out. They'll just melt in your purse or get warmed as you're putting away groceries anyway, right?
- Keep receipts for possible tax deductions. No one enjoys crunching numbers and rifling through boxes of receipts; everyone enjoys a sweet little break on their income tax, though. Some of the possible deductions include:
- Food bank donations (must be a non-profit)
- Menu items for entertaining clients and other work necessities (brown bag lunches not included, unfortunately)
- Gluten-free foods for family members with Celiac disease
- School supplies
- Plan meals, plan meals, plan meals. A well-devised menu is a well-calculated grocery budget. It will also mean fewer trips to the store and plenty of time to find coupons you'll actually use right away and build around your bottom-line savings.
- Hit up the farmer's market. If you're buying produce and fresh goods on the weekend, you're less likely to make small trips to and from the grocery store more than necessary.
- Premeditate your splurges. This one's a bit tricky to pull off because switching out one splurge for another seems harmless at the time. This is your reward for being such a clever and frugal shopper! Keeping those rewards within reasonable limitations will give you a quite empowering sense of control without the sense of deprivation. One fun way I let myself splurge every month is by picking up something totally new in the international foods aisle.
- Don't shop alone. It's remarkable what I'll let myself add to the cart when no one's watching. I'm not talking about judgment; it's positive peer pressure that keeps me from buying an extra bag of pretzels or indulging in a buy-3-get-1 deal on watermelons. Sure, it's a delicious steal and your shopping partner could help carry the load but I'll feel ridiculous as there is simply no way I'm going to eat four watermelons before they rot. I'll end up giving away a lot of melon, and with it, I'll give away my money.
- Limit your reusable bags. If you have ten fabric shopping bags and only need to fill seven, bring seven. Don't give your "baggage" any leeway! Bags of dog food, cases of laundry detergent and other large items don't count, just use your best judgment; keep track by separating your large non-baggable items in the bottom of your shopping cart.
Guest contributor Rae Alton is a content specialist and penny pincher from Greensboro, North Carolina. Follow Rae on Twitter at @raezin1984.