20 Ways to Save More Money #9: Become a Smarter Shopper


If you are just tuning in to the series this is what you’ve missed as far as tasks:

#1 – Create Short and Long Term Goals
#2 – Make a Budget
#3 – Make a List of Highest Priced and Most Used Items
#4 – Create a Low Inventory List and Maintain It
#5 – Create a Sensible Stockpile
$6 – Learn How to Make a Weekly Meal Plan
#7 – Keep an Organized Kitchen
#8 – Waste Less

As I mentioned in #8, we are moving on from tasks (like in #1 – #7) to moving on to changing our lifestyle to save money. With just a little time spent on changing our current habits, we’ll find that we can start to see some savings long-term.

While we can find ways to save money through hot deals and coupons, it’s just as important that we focus on the type of shopper that we are, as well. Are you one to buy something without thinking about whether you truly need it or if you have the money in your budget for it? Are you one to just pull into a grocery store without any kind of shopping list and fill your cart up with food and then come home to find out you spent $150 on things that you can’t even turn into a meal? We are going to work on these things!

I want to start with shopping lists. In order to create the best shopping list, you should take a look at what you have on your Low Inventory List, your Weekly Menu Plan and also take a peek at the “Loss Leaders” and hot deals that each store is offering.

A “loss leader” is something that a store will drastically discount just to get you into their store. Their hope is that while they may not make money on those items that you’ll buy several more things while you are there. But your goal is to pick up those loss leaders without falling into their marketing ploy. You’ll see things like a “3-day sale” where a grocery store will have something like grapes for $.99lb. Another store may have carrots for $.50 a bag as one of their discounts. While you can greatly lose money if you jump from store to store picking up every loss leader, (think of time and gas money spent) you can pick and choose which ones will bring you the most savings.

So after looking at your low inventory list, weekly menu plan, sales and deals, let’s say you come up with a grocery list that looks like this: hamburger, milk, grapes, lettuce, Cheerios, whole wheat flour, yogurt, bread, soup, chips and lunchmeat. Some people may use that as their exact list but let’s take it one step further. Take one extra minute and organize it by store aisle. I also want you to get into the habit of shopping in the middle aisles FIRST. And here’s why.

Typically the longer you shop, the less likely you are to make smart shopping decisions. If you have items that you need in the middle aisles, buy them first. Those aisles tend to be the highest marked up in price and the unhealthiest. Get in and get out as fast as you can! Once you are done, shop around the edges of the store. So here’s what your list would look like: Cheerios, Soup, Bread, Whole Wheat Flour, Chips, Milk, Yogurt, Lunchmeat, Hamburger, Grapes and Lettuce.

If you take a minute and organize your list by store aisle, it will also reduce the number of times you have to walk up and down the aisles. Less time in the store is extra savings as you won’t be tempted to buy more things. Once you get more familiar with the layout of your store, the better you’ll be at this. Some stores even offer an aisle-by-aisle map of where all the food is located. Ask them for one!

The next thing we are going to tackle is impulse buys. Impulse buys are what take us from a smart $100 a week budget to $200 very quickly! The chance for adding impulse items increases if we are tired or hungry. So here’s a few rules of shopping to always follow:

1) Never shop if you don’t have time. You’ll never go in and just grab milk. You’ll add so many things in your cart. Find an alternative meal/drink until you can shop with plenty of time.

2) Never shop without a list. Most of you have smartphones. Use the notes field for your list or some fancy app that’s out there. That way you won’t leave it at home.

3) Have an idea of how much you are going to spend so when you checkout, you know if something might not have been priced correctly.

4) Never shop hungry. I like to keep granola bars or something similar in my car in case I feel a little hungry. It’s enough to get you through the trip.

5) Put all “impulse” items in one area of your shopping cart. Stop before you checkout and look at all of them and ask yourself, “Do I need this?”

6) Set a 10+ day rule where you need to make yourself think about any higher-priced purchases at any of the stores where you shop. Create a “wishlist” online and then check it later. You’ll be surprised at how many items you saved money on because you didn’t buy them.

7) Remember your long-term goal and that all impulse buys take away from it.

Now I mentioned having an idea of how much the things on your list may cost. Let’s look at our “fake list” again and see how it would look: Cheerios $2, Soup $1, Bread $1.50, Whole Wheat Flour $2.50, Chips $2.50, Milk $3, Yogurt $2, Lunchmeat $2.50, Hamburger $3, Grapes $2 and Lettuce $1 and the grand total = $23.

If your store total comes up to $35, you’ll know something is wrong. You should also ask yourself before you shop, do I have $23 in my budget for these things? If not, maybe you could give up the bag of chips and buy them another day. By putting a price estimation by your items, you won’t go into shock when the clerk tells you your total when you checkout! You may also find that one recipe needs too many higher-priced items. Switch them out for a simpler recipe that won’t cost you as much!


1) Never shop without a list. Find items that you need from your Low Inventory List, your Weekly Menu Plan and from sales to pick items you’ll buy.

2) Re-write your shopping list so it’s organized by store aisle. Always shop middle aisles first so you won’t fall trap to them when you are more tired.

3) Add price estimations on the items you plan on buying so you can see how much you might spend. Ask yourself, “Do I have that amount of money in my budget or do I need to re-work my list?”

4) Avoid impulse buys by never shopping hungry, tired, with little time to shop or without an idea of what you need.

5) Make a time period that you have to wait for any impulse items over a higher amount and create a “wishlist” for them instead. After the time period is up, take a look at your list and ask yourself if you still need them.

How Does This Help Me Save Money?

1) By having a list, you’ll analyze any items not on it to see if you truly need those added items.

2) By having price estimations on your list, you’ll know how much you are spending on each trip and whether you can afford it.

3) By limiting impulse buys, you’ll keep on track for that long-term goal by not letting little $1 or $5 items add up to hundreds of dollars taken away from your budget.

4) By having an organized list by store aisle, your trips will go faster causing you buy less and save more money!

Changing our shopping habits can take time. You need to make sure you don’t let yourself get down if one week you forget to make a good shopping list or buy an impulse item you didn’t need. Just get back on track and keep trying to become a smarter shopper!

Stay tuned for more in this series soon!

Thank you for stopping by Coupon Geek! I value my readers and their advice, tips and comments. Please remember that Coupon Geek is a positive, family-friendly and upbeat site when leaving your comments.


  1. ashleigh howard says

    Great advice and tips! thanks so much! i am a stay at home mom and my husband is the working man :) so we have to cut back and i have to save. I am very bad at impulse buying :(

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