Shopping Cart Envy

Brent Pittman —  10/19/2012
Shopping Cart of Food

Do you compare shopping carts? Credit stijn.

You are a frugal shopping professional. You have a monthly budget, made your weekly menu, have your shopping list in hand, maybe even gathered some coupons–and are rolling through the grocery store pushing your shopping cart.

I bet you’re even calculating the total in your head or if you’re a nerd like me have your calculator in hand to make sure you don’t overspend your budget ( I’d rather be a nerd than be embarrassed by having to place an item back at checkout).

Then it happens. Another cart rolls by and you have shopping cart envy.

What is Shopping Cart Envy?

Shopping cart envy is a twinge of pain felt as you gaze at a passing shopping cart (admit it, you do it too!) and see a lifestyle you wish you had.

From the products in the passing cart you perceive a lifestyle of wealth, health, or perhaps just some good junk food you haven’t eaten in years.

As you turn your attention back towards your cart–shopping cart envy is in full bloom and your inner child is taking over.

Why can’t I have what’s in their cart?

It’s not fair that they can buy ________product when I’ve been deprived of ________ for years. 

I wish I was able to fill my cart all the way to the top. 

I want that now!

Shopping cart envy can lead to a blown budget if you’re not careful and let the envy take hold.

How to Avoid Shopping Cart Envy

I admit I’ve given in to shopping cart envy and bought things that weren’t on my list and/or items I didn’t need. I don’t let shopping cart envy become the norm.

Here are ways to combat shopping cart envy:

1. Have a Plan- You must have a plan before doing battle with your inner child and spur of the moment buying urges in the grocery store. Make a shopping budget, meal menu for the week, shopping list and stick to the list no matter what.

2. Remember Your Goals– When that twinge of shopping cart envy hits–remember why you are sticking to a budget and what your life will be like when those goals are met.

3. Use an Envelope System– By taking only the cash required for that week in your envelope system it limits any impulse buying.

Using these simple techniques will help combat the inevitable shopping cart envy you’ll face at some point in your life. Remember the grass isn’t always greener in the other shopping cart.

Have you ever experienced shopping cart envy? What other ways can you avoid shopping cart envy?

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Brent Pittman

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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.
  • Yes, I have. And I’m pretty sure I’ve also experienced “I have shopping cart judgementalitis”, too. Actually, now that I think about it, I wrote a whole post devoted to just this topic. Great minds, Brent. Great minds.

  • I’m not sure if I’ve ever gotten shopping cart envy, but I can’t deny that I definitely take a look at what other people are buying and make little judgements. Ah I’m terrible.

    • The thing is you never know what their income is or if they’re in debt. It’s hard not to judge, I agree.

  • maria@moneyprinciple

    I can identify with the ‘bloke with the calculator’ – I do this one. I feel that all your advice how to cope with this form of envy sounds sensible – but I have never experienced it. I am interested in what is in my shopping toley and that it that.

    • Glad I’m not alone with the calculator bit. I don’t feel so nerdy.

  • krantcents

    I never thought about it because I shop with a list. It keeps you focused and you can get out of the store faster too.

  • Emily @ evolvingPF

    Honestly, on the occasions when I look at other people’s shopping cards, my reaction 95% of the time is to feel superior because I think they’re making poor food choices.

    • I may be guilty of that too, but I admit their Ben and Jerry’s looks yummy!

  • I’ve seen shopping cart envy. Luckily, I don’t experience this type of thing. Maybe it’s because I hate shopping so much! I guess the only time I’ve experienced something close is when I’ve gone shopping hungry. Then EVERYTHING looks awesome.

    • Good point! Never go shopping when you’re hungry, expect if it’s Saturday and free samples are on every isle!