6 C's to Keep You Frugal While Shopping

We can all relate to going into a store for “just a few things” and wheeling out a shopping cart loaded to the brim of things you really didn't need but called to you all the same - “BUY ME!” Each of us may have fallen victim to an impulse buy (or many) over their lifetime but fear not – those stores pay marketing gurus top dollar to make sure you can't resist those buys so it's not entirely your fault. But there are some things you can do to fight back. (See also: How to Really Save Money When You Shop)

When you prepare to go on a shopping trip, there are certain things, 6 in fact, that you should equip yourself with before heading out. By ensuring the following 6 C's are in your wallet, you might stand a better chance of remaining frugal and leaving with only what you have gone in to buy.

May I present the 6 C's:


One of the easiest ways to overspend is to bring your credit cards to the store with you. Many people get into credit card debt by considering it to be extra income instead of something that needs to be paid off each month. Bringing cash with you will limit the amount you can actual spend to what you are able to spend according to your budget. Some will argue about missing out on credit card rewards such as cash back deals but if you are strong enough in your willpower, you can predetermine the amount you can afford to spend and tuck that amount of cash into an envelope at home to ensure you can pay off your credit card debt in full each month. This way you get cash back and still maintain great credit, all the while not going over your spending budget. If you can't be trusted with credit cards, stick with cash.

Concise Shopping List

Never just “run in for a few things”. Instead, have a plan. Keep a notepad on the refrigerator and add to it throughout the week so you will always know what you need for each trip. Limit your trips to once a week and take the shopping list with you. Stick to buying only what is on the list. This helps you focus on only what you needs, avoid the temptations, and gives you more time to comparison shop for quality and price. (See also: 7 Tips for Streamlining Your Shopping List)


In addition to your shopping list, prepare before you leave home by sorting through the coupons relevant to the things on your list. If you have less to struggle with and make a point to bring the coupons you can actually use with you each time, you are more inclined to use them and actually remember to take them with you. Coupons aren't as great as they used to be but hey- savings is savings. Get the most out of the time you have spend clipping, sorting and storing each week.


If you have never taken a calculator with you to the store, it is likely you've underestimated your shopping total at the register from time to time. Instead of the surprise, you will need to ensure you are staying on or under budget, especially if you plan to pay with cash. Keep tabs on your spending by calculating all of the items you put into your cart. You'll never go over budget in the cashier's line again.


It's true what they say – Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You will likely buy way more “wants” rather than “needs” to satisfy your rumbling tummy. If you haven't time to grab something before hitting the aisles, make a habit of keeping some candy, gum or even a bottle of water, in your bag to keep your mouth occupied during your shopping excursion.

Children's Picture

For shoppers with kids, keep a picture of their sweet faces in front of your credit card or in the money holder part of your wallet. Let their picture serve as a reminder of why it is important to save (emergencies, college, retirement) money each month. Switching your money priorities can be a strong motivator to save more and ignore impulsive buys more often.

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Guest's picture

Great ideas, especially keeping your children's photo in front of credit cards. Thanks!

Guest's picture

That last one is classic :) I don't have kids myself, but I could see it "tricking myself" into not using my card for something...maybe like, if I had a picture of a Harley in there or something I was saving for instead would work for those w/out kids. Although, I guess in this case it would have to go as "Cool Harley" so it goes w/ the other C's ;)

Guest's picture

Very solid advice! Shop with a mission-- get what you need and get out . . . that avoids impulse buys!

Guest's picture

I'd add THE STORE CIRCULAR, so you can plan your weekly menu bases on what's on sale rather than buying full priced food that meets your menu plan.

Guest's picture

Great advice. I totally agree that it is easy to overspend when you have your credit cards with you.