If you’re like most people, you probably have a budget that you need to stick to. Unless you’re made of money, only so much of what you make each month can go towards the light bill, gas bill, and so on. For the most part, keeping these in check is relatively easy, but for some reason, when it comes to managing our spending on groceries and eating out, things often go haywire. For many people, spending on food is what causes their budgets to skyrocket, eating into the other items they budget for and compromising their capacity to save.
If this sounds like your situation, then you’ve come to the right article on the internet. Just like taking advantage of special buy 1 get 1 free deals, here are some tricks you can use to limit your spending at the grocery store to make your budget last just a little bit longer.
Eat Before You Shop
This might seem like an odd bit of advice to start off with, but its truth has been borne out by almost every budget resource out there, and it’s backed by science too. Back in the days before we had groceries, before we even knew how to cultivate crops and farm, humans were dependent on hunting or gathering our food from our surroundings. This led to a rather erratic eating schedule for our ancestors. Sometimes, we had a whole animal that our hunters successfully brought down, to be shared with the rest of our tribe. Other times, all we had was a few berries that we scrounged, or maybe an egg from a nest we happened upon.
This kind of uneven eating persisted over the thousands of years that we depended on hunting and gathering for our food, and it had an effect on how we evolved physically. Whenever we have a lot of food available to us, our bodies have evolved to increase our appetites and compel us to eat more, taking advantage of the abundance of food. When we have less, our bodies restrict our appetite to prevent us from feeling our hunger too keenly.
Once farming, and eventually shopping, became the standard ways for humans to acquire food, the scarcity of having to go without was largely left behind, but the evolutionary triggers remained. Therefore, whenever we go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, we’re much more likely to buy more than what we need. We give in to our evolutionary compulsion to stock up, surrounded by the artificial abundance that being in a grocery store creates. However, by eating before we go shopping, we’re able to curb some of the compulsion to stock up and buy more than what we need, because we’re already full.
Stay Away from the Free Samples
People who work in marketing have also known about the connection between hunger and our shopping and have found an effective way to trigger it: free samples. By giving out free food at the grocery store, marketers hope to trigger the same impulses that shopping while hungry triggers, and for the most part, they’re successful. It’s a proven fact that eating while shopping leads to higher grocery bills, and offering samples of a product will often increase the likelihood of purchase of that product.
Keep away from all the free food at the store, no matter how good it looks or tastes, and especially if you had no intention of buying it anyway. Your pocketbook will thank you for it.
Make a List (and Stick to It!)
Today’s groceries are designed to do one thing: get you to spend as much as possible. It’s for this reason that there’s often an array of small items leading up to the cash register, and many times, these items include candy and other treats that appeal to children. Market managers are counting on those items tempting shoppers into tossing them into their carts without really giving it much thought. And they’re right: the bits of shopping real estate that lead up to the cash register are some of the most profitable parts of a grocery store, and while the items they offer may seem negligible, over time, they can cause your shopping bill to expand quickly.
For this reason, make a list of what you need to buy, and most importantly, stick to it. Avoid unplanned purchases most of all, as these have a tendency to snowball out of control. Giving in to a sudden craving once may lead to it happening again, and again, until finally you’ve exceeded your budget for the third month in a row.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge or treat yourself once in a while. Go ahead; your money is meant to be enjoyed. But it’s only right that you plan ahead, even for your indulgences, so you at least know where your money is going.