”Attention Meijer shoppers, we have a free gift for you while supplies last. Make your way to the area between aisles 8 and 9 to pick up your free gift. We really hope everyone will get one but it is a first-come, first-served basis, so you better hurry”.
I was at my local Meijer grocery store last week. I was minding my own business when an announcement came on over the intercom. It was reminiscent of supermarket sweep and I had never heard the intercom at this store before. Having a fear of missing out I quickly made my granola selection, swung my cart around, and picked up the pace to get to the noted location.
I want my free gift
What I found was a group of people standing around a table with white sheets over the top of it clearly hiding something underneath. I parked my cart off to the side of a main aisle and made my way closer to the table. The group kind of stared at each other awkwardly for a few seconds in anticipation of our free gift.
A woman appeared, introduced herself as Amy, and made her way around the table so she was facing us. She held up new little gadget that was available for sale at the store for $5.95. It’s an apple corer and citrus juicer all in one. She demonstrated how to core an apple plunging the corer through a granny smith and holding it up so we could all see a hole right down the middle with ease. She then popped the same tool into a lime, turned the lime upside down and squeezed demonstrating how this tool is also a juicer. Fresh juice came effortlessly pouring out of the lime and would be good in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Amy handed everyone a free tool. I was giddy at my new free item even though I knew it probably wouldn’t get much use. My assumption was presentation was over and was planning my exit strategy, but then she started talking again.
I was sold by a live infomercial
What happened next was basically a live infomercial where Amy created three stains on three different surfaces and the small crowd of people each with a free juicer tool in their hand watched in awe as special new cleaner took all the stains out:
- Grape juice off white carpet
- Permanent marker off tile & a mirror
- Black spray paint off of wood
As I watched I thought the product looked awesome. It was really impressive how quickly, effortlessly, and safely this product just removed hard stains right in front of my eyes. I felt like I was on a live infomercial you see on t.v!
The Sales Pitch
Then came the pitch. The product is a multi-purpose stain remover called Whip-It and was featured on Shark Tank. The cleaner was not available for sale in Meijer stores yet, and this was a test to see if there was interest in the product in this market.
The product is offered in a concentrated bottle, estimated at a 1 year supply for $29.99. Because the product is new, they were offering a buy-one get-one free offer. Purchase 1 concentrated bottle and receive a second one free. I like a good deal.
Finally, the clincher. For all of the people standing around the circle with small juicers in their hands who have watched the entire presentation, if we purchased right now, we would get two concentrated cleaners and an diluted spray bottle for the low low price of $29.99.
My frugal mind instantly has its guard up. Yes, the product seemed legitimate. I saw right before my eyes how easily it removed stains and I heard it also removes crayons off walls and will basically keep up with any spill or stain your toddler can create. But I’m not wired for impulse purchases so I wanted to quietly back away.
Then something interesting happened. Amy pulled the sheet off the table unveiling the two concentrated bottles and one spray bottle packaged together in one clear bag with the price tag of $29.99 and asked “Who wants to purchase?”
I kid you not nearly every single person standing around the table was raising their hand to purchase a bundle of this cleaner. Like, hands shot up like a rocket ship. She couldn’t hand this cleaner out fast enough.
Fear of missing out
I made a completely uncharacteristic move and actually purchased the bundle myself! It was FOMO or my fear of missing out. There was social pressure because everyone else around me was so enthusiastic about purchasing. It was the voice in the back of my head feeling like this must be a good deal even though I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to use the product yet.
I had the product in my cart but brought up trusty ole Amazon to check out reviews before I actually purchased. This product has amazing reviews with a 4.6 out of 5 rating based on 512 reviews. This reinforced in my brain even further the amazing value this must be. So I purchased.
I got a free juicer, and it only cost me $29.99!
Americans spend a lot on impulse buys!
Have you been there?
Ever make an impulse purchase after listening to a sales pitch?
Have you made an impulse purchase by listening to your stomach or your eyes instead of your brain?
I read an article from the Motley Fool titled You Won’t Believe What The Average American Spends on Impulse Buys. The article reveals that over our lifetime we will spend $300,000 on impulse buys and make three impulse purchases every week. It sounds crazy, right? But think about it.
How often are you standing in any grocery store and grab something you weren’t intending to purchase but that was readily accessible on an end cap. Or upgrade to a better model or purchase a warranty on an item. Or sat through a sales pitch, where, going into it you weren’t intending to purchase anything and came out with something.
You choose to spend, or to not spend
Every day you have a choice. In fact you have many choices. I had a choice to not purchase Whip-It but I did. You can choose to spend or choose to not spend. It really is as simple as that. In many cases spending is fueled by habits. that morning stop for coffee or breakfast. You always purchasing something for your child when you are traveling. How could you possibly go to the movies without purchasing candy and popcorn. I’m starving so an appetizer is always needed when we go out for dinner.
Our days are filled with thousands of choices. Many of them are on auto-pilot because our brains are wired for safety and comfort and it’s easy to have the same routine and habits you had yesterday.
- Want to stop spending so much money?
- Have financial goals you want to meet?
- Are saving for something (vacation, kids college, retirement, etc.)?
Know that YOU have the power to change your spending behaviors, and it can start right now!
Break the spending habit
I wanted to give you some tips to break the habit of mindless spending if you are someone who is an easy target for routine unnecessary purchases and impulse shopping.
1. Write a list
Before you go shopping, anywhere, write a list. This is ideal at the grocery store but could be applied anywhere, even clothes or household shopping. Know exactly what you are shopping for, and that’s it.
Know you are going to be tempted by other cute household goods or items that are on sale, but stick to your list. It will undoubtedly save you from wandering down unnecessary aisles and make you stick to the reason you started the shopping trip to begin with. There will always be temptations. Know what yours are, and take an effort to combat them. An easy way is to start with a list and stick to it!
2. Bring reinforcements
Do you know you are a sucker for grabbing a snack or beverage at the checkout? Keep a bottle of water or a granola bar on you or in your car so if you’re tempted to grab something you know how to talk yourself out of it because you’re prepared.
Also it is so much more cost-effective to purchase the regular grocery item than the ones at the checkout. For example, an individual coke at the checkout is probably around $1.79. You could spend less than that on an entire 2L bottle if you purchased in the regular grocery aisle.
Don’t be a victim of overpaying for convenience items. Know your weaknesses and bring reinforcements to protect yourself from yourself at the checkout.
3. Write down financial goals
If your goals are written down you have a much higher chance of actually achieving them. Know that every dollar you don’t spend is worth more than a dollar saved, because investing that dollar over the long term results in a net worth of much more than $1.00. Keep the end game in mind. Trying to pay off student loans? Medical bills? Your mortgage? Your car? Every dollar you can save by curbing your impulse buying is a dollar you can put toward debt or savings.
This may not be a priority for you. So writing down your financial goals will provide you with something you can go back and reference and remind yourself of why are you are trying to manage your money so tightly.
4. Use tools to help you.
I have a new found love of the Personal Capital app. It automatically tracks spending and saving and keeps me in touch with all of my finances in one snapshot. You can easily see month over month spending so if you are challenging yourself to spend less you can easily see how you are tracking compared to time periods in the past.
You can also see your net worth and how your savings and retirement are tracking. I no longer have to log into Merrill Lynch to see one retirement account, and Fidelity to see the other. You can log into Personal Capital and see your entire financial snapshot in one pretty picture.
5. Ask yourself a question.
Will I be happy I bought this a year from now?
Truly, ask yourself this question. It helps put into perspective all of the things we purchase that may give us limited amounts of instant gratification right now, but don’t really help us in the long run. If you’re buying just for the sake of buying, what is that doing for you?
Short term happiness doesn’t actually do much for you in the short term as you will likely forget about the purchase quickly; but it will rob you of a future where you could have found yourself meeting financial goals more quickly.
6. Ask yourself another question.
Is this a want or a need?
Typically the answer is pretty black and white, but you can convince yourself almost anything is a need. The lines between needs and wants often get blurred because you think you need everything. I need a new jacket. I need to get my haircut.
You do probably need these things. But could you purchase a cheaper jacket or go to Goodwill? Could you find a cheaper salon, stop with the highlights or visit a cosmetology school? Don’t feel like these things are beneath you. Unleash your inner frugalness and you will reap the benefits financially.
7. Wait before you buy.
Have you found a purchase you think you can’t live without? Tell yourself you will not purchase now, and wait 24 hours and re-evaluate. In many cases you will have either completely forgotten about the purchase or de-prioritize it and choose not to spend money on it. We all have FOMO, the fear of missing out. In the moment it feels so easy to spend. But postponing and waiting at least a day and re-evaluating the purchase may give you a new perspective.
I think of the Whip-It purchase. I felt in the moment I got such a great deal. But it has since gone into my cleaning closet and hasn’t been seen since. I could have waited, not purchased, and if I felt the need to purchase a few weeks later could have gone to Amazon. There was zero need for me to purchase on the spot, aside from the great price they were touting. So did I get a great deal paying only $29.99? Or did I just waste $29.99 on a product I’m not going to use?
8. Shop with the intention of not buying.
Do you know you’re the type of person who consistently purchases without really thinking? Challenge yourself to shop without actually purchasing anything. Maybe bring someone along like a spouse or close friend to keep you in check. I know this sounds odd but let me tell you why I’m suggesting this.
If you enjoy retail therapy and like going into stores trying on clothes and browsing, can you compromise with yourself and go “shopping” but walk out empty handed? Do you enjoy the thrill of the shopping experience, but when you get items home they are often left in bags, put in closets or on shelves never to be seen or used again?
Go ahead: entertain yourself and embrace some retail therapy. Find fulfillment in going to a store, shopping as you normally would, but walk out empty handed. Why do you feel like you have to buy something? My mother-in-law has always said “it doesn’t cost anything to look” – she is so right!
Don’t ever feel obligated because you stepped foot in a store that you need to purchase something. I can assure you, you don’t. If you do find something you think you can’t live without, force yourself to walk out anyway. If you’re still thinking about the purchase a few days later and can afford it, then fine. Go back and buy it. But you will likely have forgotten about the item for found another item to focus your attention on.
9. Learn to say no.
About 10 years ago I felt like I was being bombarded by shop-at-home type parties. It felt like every time I turned around I was asked to purchase candy or popcorn for a colleague’s daughter’s dance club, or invited to a Tastefully Simple or a Lia Sophia jewelry party.
Most recently for me it’s LulaRoe, Thirty One and pearl parties. Have you seen these pearl parties? You essentially purchase a jewelry setting in advance, and then watch on Facebook live as the host opens oysters one by one for each paying customer and shows the entire audience the pearl inside. You don’t know what color or size pearl you are going to get until it opens and that’s part of the fun of it. My sister has a friend who is a consultant, Pearls with Melissa, so if you’re interested in lurking, it’s actually good entertainment!
I used to feel guilty saying no to invitations to in-home or online parties and would attend. Then when it came time to purchase something I would, and justify my purchase by buying for other people. “My mom would love this seasoning” or “my sister would really like these earrings” I’d tell myself. So I would purchase and the host or consultant would make commission on my purchases. I would be left with less money in my wallet and not-so-perfect gifts, but they are items that I convinced myself the recipient would like because I felt too guilty to not purchase.
At some point I finally had enough of feeling guilty and I decided to decline invitations. I decided to say “no” to every party or event in which I didn’t want to go to, and the best part, I choose to not feel guilty about it. Why should I? My feeling guilty for not going or for not purchasing was 100% on me. Changing my mindset about these parties has been very rewarding both from feelings of guilt and financially.
10. Express gratitude for what you do have.
Why are you buying things you don’t need? Try to think about all the things in your life that you are grateful for.
Family – I have a loving and supportive network of people who I can turn to for anything
Life – I’m alive and breathing and that makes today a great day
House – I’m creating memories in a place that I enjoy being and that keeps me safe and warm
Friends – Family that I choose who see the real me and love me anyway
You may start to see that the best things in life are priceless and you can’t buy. Are you going to create any better memories in your home by having more stuff hanging on the wall?
Will that get-together with your friends be any less fun if you wear what you have instead of buying something new?
Do you really need that?
I was a few months away from giving birth to our daughter. It was early December 2015 and she was due February 7th. It was winter in the Midwest and I had been pinning everything in sight that I could find regarding babies. Prepping for babies, breastfeeding, getting the nursery together, etc.
I was also highly interested in packing the perfect hospital bag. That would of course include purchasing things. I picked out a cute flannel nightgown I was convinced I needed to stay warm in the hospital. It was red buffalo check and buttoned down the front. I wanted it, and was waiting for it to go on sale before I purchased, so I’d be ready for the hospital.
Then my daughter unexpectedly arrived 7 weeks early. I literally went from a doctor’s appointment to check my spotting, directly to the hospital wearing the business casual pants and shirt I had worn to work that day. There was no hospital bag. I hadn’t purchased the buffalo check nightgown I convinced myself I needed for the hospital.
Guess what? It didn’t matter. In that moment I wasn’t thinking about all of the wants I hadn’t purchased to get ready for this baby. I was hoping and praying for a healthy delivery and that all would turn out okay.
Stop convincing yourself you need things. You don’t. I survived a hospital stay in the winter with a preemie baby without a flannel nightgown and you can too. Remind yourself what is truly important and make money and purchasing decisions with that in mind.
What are you doing to invest in yourself?
When was the last time you did something or spent money to move yourself forward, to invest in you? Anything from exercising to meditation to learning a new skill or trade. Think about it. How much more fulfilling it is to spend time and energy on things that lift you up; things that make you a better you? Instead of mindless spending, try intentionally spending time or money if needed on something that is moving your goals and dreams forward!
Or, instead of spending money on yourself, can you use extra cash to pay down debt? If you find yourself drowning in debt and can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, take some simple steps to get out of debt.
We all make impulse purchases. Even as frugal as I am, I find myself getting trapped by deals and steals that I convince myself I can’t live without. If it is a priority for you to tone down the spending, then make it a commitment to yourself.
Write down your financial goals, and take steps to achieve them by limiting one small purchase at a time. Over time, your lack of impulse purchasing becomes a habit, therefore so does your saving. What small change can you make today that will have the biggest impact on your spending?
Cheers to saving,