If you’re struggling to keep that budget in order, make sure your day-to-day shopping habits aren’t to blame. Certain habits can make you more likely to spend money you don’t have and buy things you don’t even need. Planning ahead can help you get your spending on track, but there are a few other things to watch out for. Here are six shopping habits that are putting a damper on your budget:
1. Making Shopping a Leisure Activity
If shopping has become a hobby and not just a task to pick up specific items, you could be struggling to stay within your monthly budget. Shopping with a friend or a group can actually make you buy more, because you don’t have time to compare prices or even consider whether you’re getting a good deal. If you spend a lot of free time strolling around the mall or browsing online stores, you could be at risk for buying items you don’t really need, or worse — fueling a shopping addiction. Make sure those shopping trips have a purpose and that you have budgeted for the items you end up purchasing.
2. Stocking Up at the Checkout Counter
Picking up that bottle of refrigerated soda in the checkout lane or grabbing a few items you forgot to pick up around the store could cost you a pretty penny. From books and magazines, to stationery, games, and other knick-knacks, most items at the checkout lane have a very high markup and you could probably find a much better deal just by heading back to the aisles. Learn to resist the impulse buys at the checkout lane so you’re not wasting your money. If you really need something, step out of the line and go back into the store for it.
3. Shopping Without a List
How often do you find yourself “just browsing” or window shopping, and then come home with a couple bags of goods? If you’re heading to the store — whether it’s a grocery store, retail store, or big box store — without a list in hand, you’re more likely to buy on impulse and pick up a few things you haven’t budgeted for. Make sure every trip to the store is accompanied by a shopping list and stick to it. Taking the step to plan your purchases and make a list will help you save money, because you won’t be buying anything on a whim.
4. Buying Produce in Bulk
While shopping at the warehouse clubs and buying in bulk can help you save a fair amount of money on everyday items, buying all of your fruits and vegetables in bulk could end up costing you. Since you never really know when the expiration date on these items is and how much you’re going to go through in any given week, buying these items in small quantities makes more sense for your budget. Save money on produce by shopping at the local farmer’s market once a week and keep an eye out for deals on different items at the neighborhood grocery store. Buy only what you can realistically consume within a few days — a week at the most — to reduce food waste. Educate yourself on which fruits and vegetables are in season. This way, you’ll always get them at the lowest prices and freshest conditions.
5. Doubling Up on Buy-One, Get-One Deals
Those buy-one, get-one-free deals are oh-so tempting and some can actually end up saving you money. However, don’t get into the habit of stocking up on several of these deal purchases because you might not even go through the item before it expires. Think about where you’re going to store the extra items and if the item has any other uses. Is it an item or brand you’ve never even tried before? Take advantage of just a select number of buy-one offers so you don’t end up wasting your money on items you won’t use or don’t like.
6. Buying items Just Because They’re on Sale
Even when you’ve found an unbeatable deal, really consider whether you would have purchased that item at regular price. Has it been on your “want” list for a while, or did it just catch your eye because of the red sticker price? Can you actually wear it or use it right now? When it comes to clothing, it can be tempting to buy something that doesn’t’ fit quite right in hopes of fitting into it someday. For most people, that day never comes. When it comes to electronics or household items, take a good look at the quality of the item and read consumer reviews so you know what you’re in for. Don’t let a low price tag seduce you into thinking this should be the only item you consider. Shop around so you really are getting a great deal and spending your hard-earned dollars wisely.
Sabah Karimi is a frequent contributor to consumer review blog Wise Bread and Yahoo! Shine.