A Defensive Plan to Combat Impulse Buying at the Grocery Store

Brent Pittman —  02/25/2013
grocery store- impulse buys

Avoid impulse buying landmines. Credit Walmart Corporate.

Are you aware there is a trap waiting for you inside the grocery store? Yes, a well planned attack for the dollars in your wallet or purse.

Impulse buys account for 50% of purchases not on our grocery lists and earn the industry $5.8 billion each year according to a Spirit Magazine article.

This industry knows how to encourage impulse buying once you enter their doors. They are pros and your bank account suffers unless you know their tricks and have a defensive plan in place.

What is an Impulse Buy?

An impulse buy according to the Food Marketing Institute is:

“An unplanned purchase promoted by visual or other sensory stimulation.”

Impulse buying is unplanned by the buyer, but the seller has a whole industry to make you buy items not on your list.

Impulse Buy Traps

The impulse buy traps are set. Can you spot them or will you be a snared into spending more than you planned?

$1 Bins– As soon as you enter the store bargain bins and mini $1 sections (looking at you Target) are hitting you in the face.

Free Samples- While I do love a free sample at the end of every isle, they are tempting our taste buds to purchase a product that we didn’t plan to buy.

End Caps– End caps are the cleverly designed and visually stimulating displays at the end of each aisle.

Products at eye level– The items you see at eye level and at the eye levels of children have paid for those premium position. Wrigley’s gum figured out years ago that when they paid grocery stores to place their products at eye level they sold more gum.

Televisions- I’ve been noticing T.V.’s in the grocery store with the likes of Martha Stewart endorsing a product.

The Checkout Stand- This is a landmine waiting. Candy, magazines. T.V.’s with ads, gift cards, and all those pocket sized items you’ve always wanted. I must admit–I’m a sucker for Snickers candy bars.

Mobile Devices- I know this is coming. Stores are preparing apps and programs to tweet, email, and buzz your phone when you enter a store or travel down a certain isle. This could be the most advanced impulse buy trap to come. A trap that knows what you buy and where you are.–be on guard.

A Defensive Plan to Combat Impulse Buying

Unless you have a plan you’ve planned to fail. Be ready with your defensive plan and you’ll come out with your budget intact.

  1. Make a list and stick to it. This is the best strategy I know of to stay on budget and avoid impulse buying. My wife has made a menu and shopping list for years before entering the store–yeah she’s pretty awesome.
  2. Don’t shop on an empty stomach- Growl. An empty stomach can turn into irrational buying decisions driven by the fog of hunger. Grabbing a snack for you and your kids will help everyone stick to the list.
  3. Use Cash–  A cash envelope system is key to combat overspending. Take only the exact amount in your budget for that shopping trip. If your envelope only has $60, you’ll have to choose between your gossip magazine or little Johnny’s peanut better.
  4. Shop without the kids– This may sound like a dream for some of you, but joining a babysitting co-op will give you a break. Without the kids you’ll be able to focus on shopping and won’t have to tell those cute faces NO 1000 times.
  5. Avoid shopping cart envy– I know it’s hard, but stop snooping in other customer’s carts. It can only produce judgement, shopping cart envy, and impulse buying.
  6. Control your inner child– Learning the difference between needs and wants will help you control your inner child and curb impulse spending.
  7. Add Mad Money (Blow Money) to your budget- Unless you let off a little steam every now and then, you’re likely to blow your spending top. Add a small amount of money to your budget each month to blow and impulse buy with.

I’ve armed you with information on the grocery industry and defensive techniques to combat impulse spending. I hope you’ll fight the good fight to stay on budget and to use your money wisely.

How do you avoid impulse buying in the grocery isle? 

Related posts:

Brent Pittman

Posts Twitter Google+

Brent is a financial coach and writer looking for the perfect donut. He believes personal finance should be both fun and accessible to anyone willing to learn.
  • krantcents

    Good points! My foolproof trick is shopping with a list. If you use that mindset it keeps you disciplined. It has worked for us for over 40 years.

  • May I add one suggestion to your excellent list? Educate yourself on healthy diet. (I suggest watching the documentary film Forks Over Knives as a starting point.) Once that’s done, you’ll find yourself skipping or breezing down most aisles in conventional supermarkets. And you’ll be repulsed by products like those shown in your post image! 🙂

    • Not sure if I’ll become a vegetarian, but avoiding processed foods will help keep you from impulse buying–unless it’s for sushi!