Impulse Buys Make You Feel Good, But At What Price?

According to the 2012 Shopper Engagement Study, we as consumers make grocery shopping decisions in the store at a rate of 76%, causing us to spend more than originally intended. Even with the best laid plans, coupons, shopping circulars, and a specific list statistics show we are drawn to spend more.

Research shows tough current economic conditions cause us to “splurge” at the grocery store for psychological reasons we don’t even realize at the time. As I pondered that thought I realized even someone who considers themselves financially savvy like me can be a victim.

Reasons why we fail…

Marketers are well aware of our shopping habits. They have become attuned to our needs and know how to make us spend more as we walk down the aisles.

I call it the “Ooh shiny” tactic. By placing their products in carefully selected locations around the store, designing fancy packaging, and an “It’s good for You Label” we fall prey to their techniques and place the item in our cart whether it is on sale, an item we have a coupon for, or on the list.

Taking debit/credit cards to the grocery store.

Sure it’s convenient to whip out the plastic for grocery purchases, but at what price? The plastic gives you more freedom and flexibility to spend, spend, spend! If you are using a credit card and not paying the balance in full each month you are paying interest on that tube of toothpaste you just put in the cart. Didn’t think about it that way did you?

When you shop with cash you are limited to what you have on hand, a pre determined amount based on your budget and pre-planned shopping needs. There isn’t room for impulse buys, no matter how tempting they may be. Your flexibility to spend is in green and white in your pocket.

Common impulse buys you will be more likely to say no to:

  • Buy one get one free items. You think, “Wow I’m getting two for the price of one this will save me money.” The reality, unless you will definitely use double the quantity of the item you aren’t really saving anything. I have done this more times than I would like to admit and wasted both the product and money.
  • New products. A new improved, better than your regular brand, in a fancy package you just have to try product. The reality, unless it is less expensive than your regular brand and essentially identical to it, you will most likely find you have saved nothing especially if you end up not liking the product.
  • In store coupon specials. I am sure all of you have seen these, “Save $1.00 on two of XYZ product” either placed above the product with an automatic coupon dispenser, or directly on the product. The reality of this impulse buy is similar to the other two examples, if you are not sure you will like it / use it you have saved nothing.

By making your shopping trip a “cash only” experience you will be more inclined to pass on these sneaky tactics to get you to spend more than you planned.

Forgetting to take inventory

I take stock of my fridge and cupboards just about every time I leave for the grocery store; nothing makes me angrier with myself than purchasing something I already had at home.

I am a stickler for expiration dates stamped on products and firmly adhere to them no matter what my boyfriend (who will eat anything) says about their freshness. Not checking the current inventory is often a disagreement in our home as he never scans the fridge or the cupboard before seeking out the necessary ingredients he is shopping for. As a result we end up with wasted food and subsequently wasted dollars.

Our fragile psyche

The inability to purchase non-essential pieces of clothing, shoes, and pocketbooks (a personal weakness of mine) currently has me justifying “splurge” items in the grocery store. I can’t buy the Coach bag I want so I’ll get this over-priced, pre-packaged sushi for dinner. It turns out I am not alone! Many consumers are splurging at the grocery store because the splurge at the grocery store doesn’t have the same impact to their budget as a designer bag.

Shopping for anything clothes, food, and household items is a “feel good” activity for many of us. It gives us a sense of power; I can buy this, I deserve this.

With strained budgets, making an impulsive splurge at the grocery store is the only place we can get away with it, and well sometimes you just need that pick me up.

Does this sound like you? Have you ever fallen victim to grocery stores marketing tactics to get you to impulse buy?

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About Suzanne Cramer

7 Responses to “Impulse Buys Make You Feel Good, But At What Price?”

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  1. Travis says:

    For all my financial failings and shortcomings, grocery shopping is my strength. I make a list before going to the store, taking inventory of what is already on hand as the list is made. As I enter the grocery store, it’s like a military mission. Get in, get the stuff on the list, and get out.

    I do actually enjoy grocery shopping as it allows me to look forward to all the yummy things I get to cook and eat for the next week ….and it’s “ME” time. However, I usually do it very early in the morning, and extra time in the grocery store means less time in the gym. I don’t react well to not getting my full workout in – it’s a recipe for a bad day.

    This combination works for me…..since I’m hustling to complete the shopping, I don’t have time to think about impulse purchases!

    • Suzanne Cramer says:

      @Travis I like the way you think 🙂
      I wish I enjoyed the store and cooking more, unfortunately I don’t 🙁

  2. RichUncle EL says:

    I am a good grocery shopper also, but I do like deals like the ones you mentioned above, I’ll admit at times items get bought that were not on my list, but they are still items my family will consume and or use.

  3. Suzanne Cramer says:

    @RichUncle El As long as you use them befor they expire a deal will certainly save you in the long run! And kudos to you savvy shopping is an art 🙂

  4. Mike says:

    I have a friend who falls into the 76% of people who make shopping decisions right at the store, so his shopping savvy wife has barred him from the supermarket and manages this chore by herself! They said it works out financially much better that way.

    • Travis says:

      My wife is the same way, Mike! Many times we have “discussions” in the grocery store when we shop together because I refuse to think “outside the list,” and she views the list as only a “guideline.” We rarely shop together to avoid such discussions. LOL.

    • Suzanne Cramer says:

      @Mike I think the savvy wife has made a financially smart decision 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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