Monday, March 2, 2009

Not Spending Money in Big Box Stores

So, the weekend went really well as the start of my No Spending Challenge! Over the course of my out of town weekend I spent less than $25. That $25 was my half of meals and my ticket to see the movie "Milk." (We went to the early Sunday matinee for only $5 a ticket.) As I have stated, my No Spending Challenge does not include what I would call "social spending." I am not out to alienate myself from my friends for a month or make them feel like they have to pay for me or what-have-you. My main goal in this challenge is to curb myself of my own unhealthy impulse purchases and to curb my unnecessary spending.

On Saturday my friend and I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond with the specific purpose of picking up a new pillow. I shop quite a bit differently than my friend and it was interesting to see the differences. When I go to a box store like Bed, Bath and Beyond I typically walk in with something in mind. In our instance, we were shopping for pillows, so, I would have gone straight to the pillow section. After I found the perfect pillow, I would have gone back to towards the cashiers, and that is where my impulse cravings might have kicked in. That's the time I would remember that I needed a new cheese knife... or maybe I should see if there were any candles on clearance... that sort of thing.

My friend shopped in a completely different way, and it was rather eye opening...

As soon as we walked in, a handy step stool was spotted - and almost purchased. Then it was to the first section on our right, where next thing I knew, we were looking for omelet pans. Then it was to the section across the aisle where we were looking at gadgets... a vegetable peeler... a lemon juicer... adorable measuring cups. I will give my friend credit, several times they stopped just before putting something in the cart and said "No, I do not need this." However, some things did end up accumulating in the cart.

As we wandered from section to section I saw a lot of very cool things, (including a knife rack I fell in love with), but I am very happy to say that I fell victim to none of them! It really hit me though, how dangerous for the checkbook aimless wandering is. Had it not been for my No Spending Challenge, I would have fallen prey to at least one, if not more, impulse buys. Finally at one point I actually said, "Okay, you know what? I think we need to get out of here." Since I tend to do my aimless wandering at the end after the shopping bug is already engaged, I don't think it ever hit me before how easily stores like that suck you in.

Here's another thing, the wandering induced unneeded buying. Yes, some of the purchases my friend made were handy, but we only had brought one coupon for the needed pillow. Therefor, every other item was full priced. On top of that, when we got home, we discovered my friend already had bought a vegetable peeler awhile ago and had forgotten about it. I have been in that very same situation many times! How easy it is when we are shopping to keep buying. It is like a glass of wine - once you start it is very easy to keep drinking; the first item in the cart enables more items.

The lessons I got from this trip were ones I knew, but with this challenge in mind, they really were hammered home:

1. Wandering is dangerous. Know what you are going for before you go in. Go to it, get it, get out. The likelihood is that if you don't already know you need something - you probably don't.

2. Stores want you to buy stuff, that's their job. So, they put the practical things you want behind lots of brightly colored interesting stuff you don't.

3. If you find yourself picking up things you don't need, it is time to get out the store.

4. Never pay full price if you can help it. If you really need it, come back another time with a coupon or when something is on sale. (It was killing me that I had a drawer full of 20% off coupons for Bed, Bath & Beyond at home!)

5. Shopping with a cart is frequently a bad idea. Had we not used a cart, we might have only been able to comfortably carry half (or less) of the items purchased, but carrying one pillow would have been easy.

6. Although some of what we bought were impulse purchases, my friend had the money set aside for spending, and paid cash. If you are going to do this kind of shopping that is the best way to go: have cash ready, be able to afford it, and know that you are splurging. I have absolutely no problems with splurging now and again under these conditions.

So what about you? What are your tricks for avoiding impulse buys in bug stores?

Photo by: dotpolka


Lise said...

*nod* Absolutely agree. Last weekend, my husband and I went out for breakfast, and decided to cruise the mall on the way back home. (I don't know when I decided this was a hobby of mine; usually I avoid malls like the plague).

Well, of course I emerged with a bottle of hand lotion I *needed* for work (nvm that I had another bottle at home already I could have used) and he with two video games.

In conclusion, as you said, stores are really good at getting you to part with your money. You can't win unless you go in prepared.

Dawn said...

Lise - I agree, they really know how to suck you in. Personally I don't think there is anything wrong with that - that is what stores are for. But as savvy consumers we have be aware of it and know our own weaknesses. Seriously, you should have seen that knife rack... coolest knife rack ever. I am STILL thinking about it. But do I need it? Absolutely not.

Anonymous said...

Good for you! :)

H is REALLY bad for this. Whenever we are in a store, I have to practically drag him by the arm! He gets SO distracted.

We avoid going into stores all together ;)

getting stuff done said...

HA! I am liking your blog. its so honest!! I so know what you mean. The other trap I fell into the other day, was even though I managed to avoid shopping myself during our Sunday wander into Brighton shopping areas, was that I succumbed to a pointless, expensive and fattening pain au chocolate and double shot latte. It was like I HAD to indulge in some way. And I encouraged Hub in some rather pointless spending on MORE shoes and Jumpers (its like he has some sort of obsession with these things - they were nice, they were second hand, but he has SO many already, why did I encourage him? vicarious shopping, that's what)

Mainly I find it best not to go to the shops. Even if I don't buy anything I find I get a bit annoyed or depressed because I find myself wanting something I cant have.

getting stuff done said...

OH and PS I like your other blog. very interesting. I have a shed load of books to shed, so to speak. And CDs. I have found ebay not so good for these.

Frugalchick said...

Dawn, the situation you've described is exactly what's been happening to me over the past month. When I got to a store, I generally like to look in 1 or 2 particular sections and then get the heck outta Dodge. But my friend M likes to wander through stores for *hours* looking through just about every rack in the store. It's too easy to pick up impulse items that way!

Dawn said...

Frugal Dreamer - Oh my yes! Distraction was set on Maximum that day. I'm starting to think you are right - I am going to start doing more online shopping. I almost never over-buy that way.

Getting Stuff Done - Oh, I hear you. The call of the chocolate and coffee. Yum! And I have indulged in my own vicarious shopping in my time - it usually made me feel better about something else I bought. I'm glad you like the other blog - yeah, eBay isn't the best spot for CDs. Try Amazon.

Frugalchick - Agh! You know what I have a habit of doing then? Is buying something out of boredom! I'm spending all this time wandering around, I should get something out of it, right? Yikes. Yep, I'm leaning towards online shopping more and more.

Fit Wallet said...

I never do this kind of shopping for clothes, but get me in Ikea and I'm DOOMED! The marketplace is my worst nightmare--reasonably priced kitchen gadgets, clever items I never knew existed that I suddenly need, etc. BB&B is pretty dangerous too, though it always feels cluttered to me so I tend to get in and get out. But man, wandering while shopping can be dangerous!

Dawn said...

I love Ikea, but I HATE the crowds there. Fortunately my sheer irritation with people contains my shopping impulse. otherwise that would be a dangerous store for me too. BB&B is cluttered, which is why wandering is so bad - you actually start looking at all the stuff!

Slinky said...

When I shop on my own, I do it mercenary style - get in, accomplish mission, get out. With others, I tend to conform to their style. My fiance is an up and down every aisle kind of guy - he's really very thorough about it too! The friend I usually go clothes shopping with has a decent method of just shopping stores that are likely to have what we're looking for.

Dawn said...

Slinky - I'm a go in, get it... then wander kind of gal, usually. This is one of those things I have to work on breaking.

Kristy @ Master Your Card said...

When it comes to stores like this, I've learned - for me - the best method is to shop online. I LOVE Bed,Bath, and Beyond, and every time I'm in the same vicinity as this store, I want to stop in and browse. I'm not a window shopper by any means, and usually walk out with something I don't need. Plus, there's a lot of stuff that I currently want for my house, that I don't need, but would make life easier. Mostly stuff for the kitchen, but I can and should wait on this items. Primarily because I shouldn't be spending the money, but also because my kitchen is just too small.

At any rate, I definitely agree that wandering in a store like that is bad news for the pocketbook! Get in and out with as little interaction with the store as possible.

Dawn said...

Kristy, I love kitchen gadgets!! Although, how many I actually *need8 is questionable. A good knife, a cutting board, a wooden spoon and a pan do it in most circumstances.

I am leaning more towards online shopping myself. It seems to be the best match for me.