Supermarket Saving Tips – How to Avoid The Overspending Trap

By | December 1, 2018

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(Last Updated On: December 15, 2018)

Avoid overspending when you shop for groceries

Now that Christmas is almost here, we’re not just shopping for gifts. We’re stocking up on festive food as well. And no prizes for guessing where we’re heading for our festive food supplies.

Did you know that supermarkets are specially designed to empty our wallets?

According to this National Geographic article, grocery shopping is a “cunningly orchestrated process . . . designed to lure us in, keep us there, and seduce us into spending money.”

Alright, I admit it. I’ve entered supermarkets with the good intention of grabbing just what I needed. But often I’ve emerged with a full shopping cart and a huge bill – more times than I care to remember.

Phew! At least we know it’s not our fault. It can happen to anyone. We’re practically at the mercy of powerful marketing strategies based on proven psychological research.

But the good thing is this – I’ve spent time and effort learning about supermarket traps and how to avoid them. So that we can all shop smarter and save more.

Let’s find out more!

Trap no. 1: Huge Trolleys

It all starts with just grabbing a shopping cart. But my goodness, have you noticed how huge it is?

Beware of big shopping carts and big baskets – they make you buy more. Similarly, giving you big bags for produce and bulk bin products makes you spend more than you need!

Be fully aware of how things seem less when placed in a large bag, basket or trolley. Always buy only what you need, and only the amount you need!

Trap no. 2: Lovely settings

During Christmas, supermarkets put in special efforts to make this a jolly season. Noticed that they are literally decked with tinsels, complete with Christmas trees? This is in addition to the usual setting where you’re often greeted by lovely flowers at the entrance. Now you’re also greeted by lovely Christmas plants like the poinsettia.

There’re now designated sections in the supermarket devoted to Christmas displays of scrumptious treats and foods, with Christmas mince pies, Christmas cakes, Christmas candy and much more.

A whole kaleidoscope of vibrant colors with luscious fruits and crisp vegetables attractively displayed gives you that feeling of health and goodness. And puts you in a very good mood to spend your money on stuff.

Don’t you feel good drinking in the sea of colors, and even better after you’ve bought some healthy fruits and vegetables to start off your shopping?

Once you’re lulled into a good mood, you often end up buying more stuff than you require.

You may even justify buying yourself extra treats like chips, because you’ve chosen some healthy fruits and vegetables earlier in your shopping.

I know, because it’s happened to me too 🙁

So, be hyper-aware of this lovely setting trap and resolve to stick strictly to your shopping list to avoid any overspending.

Trap no. 3: Freshly Baked Bread

Take a few more steps into a supermarket, and what’s that aroma? Sniff . . . Mm, you’re enticed by the aroma of freshly baked bread. Some of my town’s supermarkets station their barista-made coffee near the entrance. The result? A feel good combination of the smell of freshly brewed coffee and saliva-inducing freshly baked breads greets the unwary shopper.

Nine out of ten shoppers would reach out for that freshly baked garlic-cheese topped ciabatta bread or that triple chocolate muffin with its cherry on top beckoning to you. These are perfectly understandable buys triggered by that irresistible aroma of coffee you savored as you passed that coffee stall.

Few of us have the iron will to resist such temptations. So, one way to spend less is to limit the amount of confectionery that goes on our shopping list.

Trap no. 4: Music

Supermarkets play soothing music, have few windows and no clocks. Why? To make you linger and buy more and more. Soon, you lose track of time. Before you even realize it, you’ll have blown your grocery budget!

Be aware of this trap. Preset your phone alarm to sound after a predetermined amount of time, say 30 minutes. This way you are more likely to stick to your shopping list and budget, saving you both money and time.

Trap no. 5: Location, Location, Location

Essentials like milk are placed in far flung corners of the supermarket, forcing you to make a huge round trip. You then get enticed by all sorts of offers along the way. Before you know it, you’ll have loaded up on a lot of stuff that you don’t need 🙁

Be especially careful during festive seasons like Christmas – yummy treats and chocolate gift boxes are placed strategically at the ends of aisles.

How to avoid this trap? Move purposefully, grab ONLY what’s on your shopping list, and go straight to the checkout. Remind yourself that there’s no time and money to waste.

Trap no. 6: Am I in a supermarket?

Most supermarkets now sell stuff that malls sell – not just groceries. The supermarkets I go to sell lots of other things like clothing, toys, cellphones, electrical appliances, camping gear, footwear and hardware etc.. You name it, they have it!

There are all sorts of stuff luring you to spend more. So, be very careful what you place in your shopping trolley.

I was once tempted by a huge stuffed toy fish that was going for half price after Christmas. It WAS a great deal after all… Thank goodness I managed to catch myself.

Always ask yourself if you need the stuff. Even bargain prices waste your money if you buy things that you don’t actually need!

Trap no. 7: Target the Kids Too

Kids are not spared the supermarket traps either. Notice how kids’ cereal boxes with attractive cartoons are displayed at THEIR eye-level? For adults, expensive branded items are placed at our eye level.

How to avoid this trap? Go for the cheaper generic brands that are displayed either at higher or lower than eye level. Oftentimes the taste and quality of generic branded foods are on par with that of the pricey better known brands.

Trap no. 8: Lures at Checkouts

What do you see when you wait at checkouts?

Lots of candy, chocolate bars, soda and even magazines. Few of us can resist these treats while waiting! Worse, our kids would want the chocolate and other treats too.

What can we do to counter this trap?

Before setting off for the supermarket, tell your kids that treats are supposed to be occasional. Better yet, get your kids to pay for the treats they want, to teach them that things don’t come free.

As for yourself, read up on the health issues that may come with eating too much candy.

Why risk ill health and hefty medical bills?

Trap no. 9: Reward Loyal Customers

Supermarket loyalty schemes really show how scheming they are!

They offer you loyalty points that you can use to redeem things like crockery or cutlery, for example. Do you really need that extra set of crockery and cutlery?

Oftentimes, a quick calculation will tell you that you must spend a lot more, just to qualify for these “freebies”. Sadly, most folks end up spending more to try and get so-called “free” stuff. Don’t. Never!

Always do your math, and STOP being loyal to these schemes. Be loyal just to yourself and to your finances!

I did fall for this trick years ago. But just like you, I’ve decided to be smarter. I still collect my stamps, but if they don’t happen to add up to qualify for my free gift, it doesn’t matter.

Wrap Up

A supermarket is a business enterprise that seeks to sell you as much as possible, so as to make as much profit as it can from you.

Be super aware of these 9 supermarket traps. Use the above simple strategies to avoid the traps and soon, your wallet will be thanking you.

When grocery shopping be extra careful that you’re not spending more than you should.

Good luck!

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8 thoughts on “Supermarket Saving Tips – How to Avoid The Overspending Trap

  1. Annick

    It’s crazy how much work and marketing goes into “emptying our pockets”! I knew that supermarkets were designed to make us want to spend a lot but this article really puts things into perspective! It’s good to be able to educate ourselve and not fall in the traps! This article is a very good one and I hope many more people read it!

    1. moremoneytips Post author

      I much appreciate your encouragement Annick 🙂 Given that we all need to eat regularly, cutting our grocery bills helps us to save lots, all the more in the long term.

  2. Ashley

    Great tips! I also try to make sure I’m not hungry when I go grocery shopping. I get sucked into the traps easier and buy way more if I’m hungry!

    1. moremoneytips Post author

      Thanks! I agree with your point Ashley. It’s a great solution to not go grocery shopping when hungry.

  3. Live Learn Better

    Never really thought about it like that. But yes the Trolleys are huge. I have also fallen into the trap of I just want to pick one thing but end up with a ton.

    1. moremoneytips Post author

      How true! Luckily we’re all more aware and careful now about avoiding overspending in supermarkets.

  4. Dorit

    Great list of all the marketing tricks aimed at making us spend more money. Another thing I would add to the list is when they change where stuff is placed. You go straight to the area where whatever used to be and its not there anymore. So, whilst you look for it you have to pass by all this stuff that you actually do not need.

    1. moremoneytips Post author

      Thanks Dorit, for your observant point! Come to think of it, what you say has happened to me. How clever these supermarket strategies are.


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