How to Be an Intentional Shopper

How to Be an Intentional Shopper

The following post is from Christina of Northern Cheapskate:

woman shopping in grocery store
photo credit: Amy Thibodeau

You’ve probably seen me in the store.  I’m the harried looking woman pushing a shopping cart full of crazy boys too big to ride in a cart, followed by a husband who has checked out of the shopping experience long before we’re anywhere near a cashier.

I’ll probably forget that the little things add up and cave in to buying treats.  I’ll be in such a rush that I’ll forget to use two of my coupons, and will make at least one impulse buy.

It’s not the type of shopper I like to be, and I certainly don’t shop like that very often.   But when those haphazard shopping trips occur,  I remind myself to step back from the situation and recognize what isn’t working.

I have learned that when you shop intentionally, you will save yourself time and stress. You will come home with things you need at prices you can afford.  You will come home with a sense of accomplishment, rather than a feeling of defeat.

Here are a few strategies to help you be an intentional shopper:

Make a list and check it twice.

Make a list of the items you need to purchase.  I like to keep a running list on a magnetic notepad on the fridge.  When I realize I’m almost out of an item, I write it on the list.

Map out a plan.

Decide what stores you will shop at and try to purchase all perishable items at your last stop on your trip. Plan your route so you’re not driving back and forth across town.  Organize each shopping list according to the store’s layout.  Clip the coupons you need to each store’s list.  Eat a snack before you go and fill a water bottle for the car, so you won’t be tempted to splurge on drinks and snacks.

Leave the family at home.

If it is at all possible, try to shop by yourself.  This may mean shopping early in the morning or late in the evening when a spouse can watch the children.  You could also arrange a babysitting swap with another mom.  The fewer people with you, the fewer distractions there are and the more money you keep.

Stay focused on your task.

There are all kinds of tactics stores use to get you to spend more money, so be aware of those temptations and stick to your lists.   Only visit the clearance racks or end-caps if you have a strategy.  For example, I keep a running list of clothing items our family needs in my cell phone.  When I see a clothing clearance, I’ll stop and look for the items we need.  When you shop with this strategy, you will avoid impulsively buying a blouse you will never wear just because it was on sale.

Learn to shop intentionally online, too.

Many of the strategies I have mentioned work for online shopping, too.  Make a list of the items you are looking for, and have a plan for how you are going to save money on those items.  Where will you search for coupon codes and free shipping offers?  Will you shop using a cash back site?

Try to carve out a period of time in which there aren’t a lot of distractions. Shop while the kids are napping or in bed for the night.  Shop while the kids are busy eating lunch or at school.

Stay focused on your shopping list and avoid clicking on anything that doesn’t relate to the task at hand.  Do the math.  It may make more sense to pay shipping than to impulsively buy another item just to get your total to qualify for free shipping.   Read the product reviews and fine print for each offer.

Becoming an intentional shopper is not always easy, but it can lead to a more frugal and fulfilling shopping experience.

Are you an intentional shopper?  Which parts of your strategy do you need to work on? 

Christina Brown is the creator of Northern Cheapskate, a blog dedicated to frugal living through coupons, freebies, and money-saving ideas.  She lives in the rural north woods of Minnesota where she clips coupons, pinches pennies, and chases her three boys (a 6-year-old and twin 4-year olds) as a stay-at-home mom.
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