This Creative Shopping Strategy Could Save You Tons


We see something we really like. We buy it. We use it (or don't). We move on.

For most of us, this is how shopping works. But what if there was a step that could change the way we all shop? What if you see something you like, but put it back and keep a running total of your "non-purchases?" Could this technique be the path to saving money, and feeling happy?

Let's examine it more closely.

Keep a Running List of Things You Wanted to Buy, But Didn't

It's a technique developed by Tina Roth Eisenberg over at Swiss Miss, although it's an idea many people may have had over the years. Instead of just keeping track of your purchases, you also keep track of the things you almost bought, but didn't.

It's been described as something of a cathartic technique. We all succumb to impulse purchases, or see deals that we just have to have at that moment. But instead of giving in to those quick decisions, this approach makes you take a step back, think, and reconsider. And most of the time, it ends up being a purchase you decide you don't actually need.

How to Avoid Buying Those Items

First and foremost, you have to approach every purchase with the "want vs. need" mindset. Clearly, as you make a shopping list, you know exactly what you need, from bread and milk, to cleaning products and kitchen utensils. But when you hit the store, you can get sucked in by clearance signs, special offers, and BOGO deals that can really add up.

So, before buying anything, look at it and ask "Do I need it, or want it?" Most of the time, you'll know instantly if it's something you really need, or just want because it's on sale, or it's cool, or it's an impulse decision.

Get into the habit of taking things out of your basket or cart before reaching the checkout. Look through it, and ask the same question — "Is this a want, or a need?" Sometimes, the act of putting the item into the cart is enough to satiate your desire for it. Taking it back out again is easier than never putting it in the cart in the first place.

When shopping online, go through the same process. Examine your shopping cart, and look at the prices. Is it worth it? Do you need it? Can you easily live without it? Why are you even considering this purchase? Is it retail therapy? If you're buying something just to feel good, think about how that money could be used on something better.

Some online retailers, including Amazon, have made it very easy to buy something with just one click. You may find it helpful to remove that Buy It Now option from your account, and instead go through the extra steps to purchasing. This additional time is often all you need to re-evaluate the purchase, and turn it into a "didn't buy."

How to Track Your Non-Spending

The easiest way to do this is in a spreadsheet, where you can pop in the name of the item, the price, and see a running total that can give you weekly, monthly, and annual totals.

Of course, we don't all carry around tablets or laptops that we can whip out in the grocery store, so find simple ways to jot down your non-purchases, including:

  • A note taking app on your smartphone
  • A small pocketbook/pen that you carry whenever you shop
  • A notepad besides your computer or tablet
  • A voice recorder, or voice recording app

Get into the habit of doing this every time you are about to pull the trigger on an item, but put it back on the shelf, or remove it from your online shopping cart.

See also: Start Saving More With This One Simple Tool

If you want to go the extra mile, put a chart on the wall, perhaps near the garage door or entrance, showing how much you didn't spend on stuff over the weeks and months. That running total can give you an incredible feeling of satisfaction, knowing you saved over $200 in one month by not buying stuff you really didn't need.

Why Does This Work?

Well, there is plenty of evidence online that explains the psychology behind impulse purchases, wanting expensive new things, and believing that stuff equals happiness. However, there is very little out there to suggest why this new technique works. But, after explaining it to a focus group including working moms, stay-at-home parents, Millennials, and people with a lot of disposable income, there seem to be some common threads explaining why this works so well.

1. Instant Gratification

There is something very empowering about seeing money go back into your pocket, instantly. Even though you haven't actually spent that money yet, when you remove it from the cart and add that money to your "didn't buy" running total, you have immediately saved money. You're paying yourself, without actually doing anything with the money.

2. A Sense of Accomplishment

By examining your purchases, and then making a determined effort to remove unnecessary items from the cart, you have exercised willpower. That, in itself, can give anyone a feeling of accomplishment. When you add to that the actual monetary amounts saved by avoiding the purchase, it further compounds the feeling.

3. Visual Stimulation and Encouragement

By charting the purchases you didn't make, and the money saved, you can see at a glance how much extra money you have in your pocket at the end of each week. This kind of visual graphing works well for paying down debt, or adding money into a savings account, and is just as powerful here. Although it's money that was not actually put into savings, or earned, it is still a great way to show your progress.

4. It Exorcises the Shopping Demons

This one came up a lot. By putting the item into your cart, and then removing it, you are doing something close to buying the item. You have considered it. You have, in many cases, touched it and tried it out. You have almost owned it, and felt that ownership. That can be enough to satiate the desire for the product, and putting it back actually gives you a sense of relief. You had it, but you didn't pay for it.

So, what are you waiting for? Give this technique a try, and let us know how you get on. What did you save over the week, or month? Did you realize why this specific technique works, or doesn't, for you?

Can you think of any other similar strategies that will save money?

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