Got the Urge to Splurge? Fight It! — Supermarket Savvy
With the holiday season fast approaching, it seems a great time to revisit the topic of impulse buys. For grocery stores, convenience stores and the like, impulse items include things like candy and soda at the checkout counter, and all those “snack-sized” goodies that stores have a knack for putting in places that make it hard to resist the temptation.
I’ve written before about how impulse buys can sink your budget. Now a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests they can expand your waistline too, according to ABC News.
Apparently, the presentation of impulse items is so irresistible that people purchase calories they otherwise wouldn’t. As Dr. Deborah Cohen, who coauthored the study, explains, humans are “wired to act first, and think later,” and we’re limited in the number of choices we can make per day.
Basically, once we’ve already trekked through the store making one purchasing decision after another, our brains are fried; when we get to the checkout lane and confront the choice of whether to grab that delicious-looking candy bar or not, we’re more likely to give in. (Hence the reason so many impulse items are stocked in locations just before you get to the cash register — those stores are sneaky!)
The study’s focus was on health, of course, and the results are fairly shocking: according to the authors, women eat an extra 14,300 calories per year just from impulse buys. Men take in almost double that, about 28,350!
I can’t translate those calories directly into dollars, but consider this: my daily caloric recommendation is 2,200. Those extra impulse buys would add up to an extra week’s worth of food for me — and I certainly would rather have that money in my pocket. (As my loyal readers know, I’ve pointed out that impulse items can cost three times as much as larger sizes based on unit cost.)
What to do? Since we can’t wear blinders through the store, here’s my tried-and-true advice: don’t shop hungry, and stick to a shopping list. Recipe.com has a great list app that lets your smartphone scan product bar codes at home. And try to shop just once a week. Consumer studies show you’ll spend less. Do this throughout the year, and it you’ll have more money to spend over the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving!
Shop smart and save! Check out more tips on couponing and savvy shopping!