For those who have a family, doing their shopping while spending as little as possible can make a big difference at the end of the year. Knowing how to shop wisely can not only allow us to save money but also puts us in a position to deal with those little surprises that may arise in our daily lives, it saves us time and is also useful for our health.
These tips, are based on my experience and focus mainly on food shopping that is done at the supermarket because it is a necessity and because supermarkets are now widespread. I propose below as a suggestion, a list of rules that I have given myself. Do not forget to let me know your opinions in the comments because your experiences will be useful to me as well as other users of the site.
Rule #1: Consider all factors.
Many of us, overlook the fact that we travel by car. Even the car has a cost in terms of fuel, maintenance and management. Shopping at a faraway place if we buy few things could be detrimental. In my job I have met people who are more or less shrewd and prefer to travel around the world before buying something of little value.
We always try to put on the other side of the scales the fact that if a package of pasta costs 10 cents less, it makes no sense to spend fifty times more in gasoline to go to that particular supermarket. Let’s not forget that all supermarkets have more expensive and less expensive items and therefore even if we save money buying pasta, we will surely spend more buying sauce or other things and therefore we will have lost money on the trip and money for other accessory or complementary things.
Rule #2: The notebook is your friend.
The grocery list was a very common thing until recently. With affluence, we have lost this healthy habit and may get carried away with the shopping frenzy. Later on, we’ll talk about how marketing might trick us into buying things we don’t need. For now in this paragraph let’s focus on how to organize our notebook.
The notebook is also useful for those who are following a particular diet not to lose sight of the nutritional intake but the most important thing is that it contains certain information.
Good or bad, each of us has received our own dietary education and therefore we are led to always buy the same things more or less. Having a list of these things to organize the moments of the week where we can go and buy them, is definitely an advantage that should be exploited.
We will then know exactly where the cheapest item that we need at that moment is and possibly be able to take detours to buy it so we can avoid going there specifically. Having a list of items we need, usually related to certain places, without a shadow of a doubt, will allow you to better manage our shopping during the week.
A shopping list that we should stick to, helps us avoid being drawn to other items that we don’t need. In case we realize that we forgot to write something down, we will add it to the list. If it’s an item we don’t usually use, we’ll make an asterisk next to it to remind us that we’re buying something just for that moment. The fewer asterisks on our shopping list, the less we’ll spend.
Rule #3. Better quality than quantity.
It is my opinion that there are several reasons why a person should focus on quality rather than quantity. While it is true that there are several industrial and mass-produced products that can save us money, it is also true that a cheap, low-quality product may in the long run be handled, packaged and stored poorly.
Better quality products normally follow more accurate distribution flows and should, at least in theory, respect those minimum standards of hygiene and production necessary for the health of the consumer. Let’s always remember that health has no price and doctors and treatments (rightly) are not cheap.
It is better to spend slightly more for a slice of meat cut in front of us than to choose frozen things of doubtful nutritional value and dubious production. By choosing to penalize quality, we would risk having stock in the fridge which, once expired, we would have to throw away.
Let’s be very careful not to fall into the trap of fake quality. In this article we are not saying that a product to be of quality must necessarily be of famous or advertised brand.
Rule #4. Better to do your shopping several times and in different places.
We are not professionals in preserving food and therefore in order to enjoy the highest quality, it is always better if it is possible to do the shopping in minimum quantities during the week. My advice is to choose one day every two weeks to dedicate to the bulkiest and easiest to store things like drinks, pet food, vacuum-packed foods like rice, sugar, salt and honey.
Another reason why it is more convenient to shop more often by taking fewer things is the fact that on that particular day, there may be items on offer or expiring that would be particularly cheap. By increasing the frequency, you increase the likelihood of being able to access different promotions but watch out for marketing tricks that we will talk about later.
Many supermarkets have items that are very affordable and others that are very expensive compared to their competitors. For this reason, it is wise to write in the famous notebook where a certain thing is cheaper. Remember to keep the notebook up to date because prices may change on a rotating basis, so what was cheap in one supermarket will no longer be so and vice versa.
Rule #5: Pay attention to marketing tricks.
In and of itself, marketing is not a bad thing. It is an economic science that is based on statistics and psychology. It is a tool that helps sellers meet customer needs while increasing sales. It serves to sell more in short. Marketing can, like any science be used well or badly.
Knowing some of the most common tricks can help us to be less impulsive and manipulable. It is important to understand the difference between marketing, advertising and reality. First, let’s completely forget what we see in advertisements. By definition they serve to sell more. It is not said that an object, just because it is much more advertised, must also necessarily be of better quality. The costs of advertising inevitably affect the final price.
Selling is not something as simple as it seems because you have to deal with the competition and then over the years, have been adopted techniques aimed at pushing the user to consume more. Let’s not feel antagonistic or cheated by this system, our society is based on consumption, the world has always been going this way and not only for sales. Knowledge is power and below we offer some small reflections.
Purchased items must be put somewhere to be transported from the shelves to the checkout and from the checkout to the home. Investing some money for some quality fabric bags to be used for containment and transportation, can surely save us a lot of money, facilitate walking and avoid that, once out of the supermarket, the very thin recyclable plastic bags break through making the glass bottles crash to the ground.
Inside the supermarket there are two types of containers that are usually always made available to the customer. A kind of trolley which is used by those who are in a hurry, and the classic, larger trolley with four wheels. Since our mind partly perceives the amount of shopping we have done based on how full this trolley is, a marketing tactic is to renew them in the long run with larger and more capacious specimens. The user, accustomed to shopping by eye, will certainly have a nasty surprise once he gets to the checkout.
To all of us has happened at least once to notice that someone looks inside our trolley with the intention perhaps to see what we buy and what are our economic availabilities. Never trust your visual perception.
Trolleys where there is also a child seat have the incidental (perhaps) function of calming us down so that we can concentrate more on our shopping. The reason why bulky items are usually found at the end of the supermarket route or near the tills is precisely because, buying them first, we would have the perception of having filled the trolley.
This marketing trick, is not followed to the letter by all supermarkets, many times, the carts are related to the size of the supermarket. Keep in mind that not all marketing rules are applied by all supermarkets and this is not an exhaustive guide.
Normally, bulky items such as drinks, water and pet food are placed last on the imaginary route into the supermarket. If they were made available immediately at the entrance or in an immediately accessible and welcoming place, they would certainly fill the cart sooner, making the feeling of emptiness that drives us to buy more ineffective.
Normally, shelves are arranged in such a way as to allow for a spiral or zigzag path, precisely to give people the opportunity to view all the items on sale before arriving at the checkout counter.
This trick is useful to better control and supervise the merchandise, the people and in any case direct them so that they don’t get lost. It is very much used in large service stations that have a small supermarket inside.
If we like chocolate, we will practically feel in heaven looking at the shelves of sweets. Of course we would linger longer and this will increase the probability that we give in to the temptation to buy something.
Another example are the crates of vegetables and fruit that are usually found at the beginning of the route so that the customer, who is not yet tired, lingers longer and in a more favorable mood, to evaluate these kinds of items that normally give a higher profit margin to the supermarket.
If the goal is to save money, there is no point in going around the whole supermarket to see what’s there or to pass the time because inevitably you will buy something you don’t need. The less time you spend in temptation, the less chance there is that we will buy something we don’t need.
Normally the products that are put at eye level are those from brands that can afford it. You may be amazed at how much you can save by simply lowering your eyes to devote our attention to those products that are at the bottom of the shelves.
The same goes for the shelves that are very high whose products seem almost unreachable. Supermarkets that do not have special shelves for sweets could put sweets and toys at the bottom so that children, seeing them, will convince their parents to buy them.
Be sure to bend at the knees when picking something up from the bottom or you risk getting stuck. If you don’t reach for the taller products, avoid climbing over the shelf but call a supermarket employee for help.
One trick that has been used for a long time now is to enter prices with cents because we have a tendency to only look at and value the number before them. If something costs 1.99, our brain will tend to interpret it as if it cost 1 and something but practically it is 2.
This is a habit that is now well established and I’m sure many of you reading know this.
You may have noticed that from time to time the items put up for sale have been moved. This may serve to prevent people from skipping entire shelves. If we’re looking for something we usually buy and it’s been moved, we’ll normally have to evaluate other shelves we didn’t look at before as well, and thus spend more time inside the supermarket evaluating the items on sale.
Traditionally, necessities such as toilet paper are located at the end of our route so that we walk down all the aisles increasing the likelihood that other products that we don’t really need will attract us.
Usually these are unnecessary, ancillary or personal care related products. An example would be candy, a cooler drink than the one on the shelves, razors, refills and whatnot. When we’re standing in line at the checkout, something has to be done besides minutely observing the contents of the cart of those before us, and here, we may run into the temptation to spend our time considering buying what is not essential.
A practice that I have seen done in more than one supermarket is to put products in a disorderly manner inside a container. These containers have a little bit of everything in them, from drills to shoes, toothpaste to clothespins.
Although many make an effort to apply even the slightest discount, these are normally items that have no real convenience and serve to give the idea that there is some sort of sale or outright sale.
Have you noticed that there are very cheap printers with ink that, compared to their price, is very expensive? The same is true with parts for some toothbrushes and the like. The spare parts are priced slightly lower than the entire kit. The buyer then, to avoid wasting the object, feels almost obliged to buy the spare parts that in itself, should not be so expensive.
To quote the little prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the essential is invisible to the eye. As most of us know, the suit shouldn’t make the monk but it actually does. People love attractive things and this is the reason why they tend to buy more if there is a beautiful image on the box (for illustration purposes only) that makes us imagine what the final product will look like.
It has also been shown that a more attractive image (in any field), arouses much more confidence and expectations in people.
The things that we always and most frequently buy, because they are basic necessities, are normally found at the end so that they are bought last. Since they are necessities, the supermarket is not afraid not to sell them and therefore prefers to make sure that the customer is encouraged to evaluate all the rest of the samples in the other aisles before reaching the goods that he will surely buy.
It is also important to remember that each product is designed to appeal to a certain type of clientele. This is nothing new. To give an example, things aimed at children are normally with brighter colors, those aimed at women will have softer pastel colors synonymous with delicacy, those for men normally have darker and more intense colors.
The shapes of men’s items are more pronounced, well-defined and sometimes angular. Those dedicated to female consumers normally have much more tapered, small and rounded shapes.
Of course, if I am buying a certain type of the famous hazelnut chocolate, whose name I will not mention for obvious reasons, I can also find other types of jams and sweet spreads in the immediate vicinity. This makes it more orderly and immediate arrangement of goods for those who intend to find it but some supermarkets. They might arrange cookies or similar spreads nearby.
This technique is called cross selling and consists of offering items that are different but normally used together. Normally this is not done with milk and cookies because milk is voluminous and would take up a lot of space in the cart for the reasons stated above. A complementary technique to this is to put a product on offer and maintain or increase the price of the complementary product.
The technique just explained is also used for advertising. It is a well-established practice to advertise through leafleting, site or other means, items that might be complementary with others. One of the most incorrect is to include in the flyer of the items that you have in minimum quantities or are already exhausted so that the consumer goes there convinced to buy a certain type of article and not finding it, inevitably buy another brand at full price.
Sizes and quantities are important in order to understand if actually a product is convenient or not. Some companies, in order to sell more, produce bulkier packages that contain less product. Normally this strategy is adopted for products that normally cost more than the package.
Others, for products with a lower profit margin, prefer to produce smaller packages so that less product is available and therefore the product will have to be purchased much more frequently.
In some countries, there are special taxes or production costs for certain items that are used to hold or package items, which may force the manufacturer to adjust them to avoid too high a cost.
The convenience of a product compared to another brand, lies in the fact that for the same quantity, it must have a lower price. Many countries impose by law to insert the unit price and also the price by weight. But if you’ve been paying attention, to muddy the waters, it’s rare to see on labels the price per 1 kg of product.
There are items whose labels show that a particular cheese costs 2 per 100 grams, others whose labels show that it costs 3 per 180 grams. Which one is cheaper? Because of the rush, the person pushing us forward and also laziness, we hardly ever stop to do the calculation of how much a product actually costs per gram.
However, we are very careful not to buy the cheapest food product because it could hide the nasty surprise of being of very bad quality. And this could be extremely detrimental to our health.
A conscientious seller will certainly prefer to throw away food that has been badly preserved by mistake or that emits a strange odor instead of putting it back on sale at a cheaper price.
Rule #6. Everything in its time.
Always choose vegetables in season. For example, if we refer to the most common fruit, the rule of convenience “should” be as follows. In winter, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, pomegranates, pears, kiwis, lemons, kumquats, citrons, apples, persimmons, clementines, German medlars, sorbs and bergamot. In spring strawberries, first cherries, lemons, medlars, plums. In summer apricots, melons, figs, cherries, peaches, plums, all varieties of watermelon including watermelon, yellow watermelon, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, Sicilian bananas, figs and cherries. In autumn pears, pomegranate, persimmons, dates, jujubes, chestnuts, citrons, grapes, pistachios, pink apple, kiwi, lemons and pine nuts.
Of course this is a partial list because each place has its own vegetables and its own times for production and distribution. It will not be too difficult for you to inform yourself using Google. There are applications and before the advent of technology a design called the “wheel of health” was used in agriculture.
Rule #7: Laziness is our enemy.
It is not an easy thing to spend as little as possible because the system is created to encourage consumption by the customer. I’ve been told in the past that I’m a big spender. As you can see, the reality of the facts that could be married also with your behavior, is not that I don’t know how to do the shopping but I am lazy.
There is nothing wrong with spending money if you are on vacation or have plenty of it. Merchants, employees and everything around them need to be able to survive as well. It is only fair that money should circulate so that the economy is as healthy as possible. There are some people, however, who can not spend and this article is aimed primarily at them.
Laziness is the only thing that life does not forgive us and constancy is the best virtue to achieve a goal. There is no point in trying to do as this article says just once and then continuing with the same routine as always. In that case you will have invested your time badly and it would be counterproductive.
Rule #8. Saving money is also done at home.
One thing that is too often underestimated is the fact that you must pay close attention to how you store things. It is useless to blame the supermarket if then, once we get home, we do not store food in the correct way.
There are foods that need, once opened, to be vacuum-packed, others should never be thawed and refrozen, others still need to avoid direct contact with light and certain temperatures.
Let’s remember that at home, to avoid throwing away food that has gone bad or worse, to avoid feeling sick, we should follow very similar rules that all food vendors are required to follow.
Rule #9. History is important.
Studying history is important to avoid making the same steps that led to certain mistakes. The experience of our grandmothers is of paramount importance to understand what is most convenient and genuine. Let’s always trust what our grandparents tell us.
Another thing that in some countries is mandatory in case of discounts, is the presence in the label also of the original price. We know very well that we are attracted by a quality product with a 50% discount but, in addition to wondering why that product is on sale, we should also ask ourselves how much it cost before then.
A conscientious merchant, makes the right price because it has its own costs to maintain its structure and its family like us. Always be wary of prices that are too low because it is not normal for a business to overprice without good reason.
We have always been led to think that the merchant profits disproportionately and so we have forgotten the importance of the right price. If a merchant has an influx of customers that allows him to sell 10 t-shirts of 50 money each, it is not normal that he can maintain the rent and salary for himself and his employees if he has a margin of only 10%.
Always shop by rewarding businesses that you feel are honest and healthy. Honesty is not always synonymous with price but with conscientiousness. Only a small portion of the earnings physically goes into the merchant’s pocket. The rest is lost in expenses and taxes.
Choosing to shop at conscientious merchants, favors those activities whose conductors do not use tricks to exploit human weaknesses in order to sell more. The price is always correlated to the amount of people who enter that store and it is not always said that the more people there are the better.
You should never buy anything you don’t really need or just to try it out. In physical stores, unlike online stores, the right of withdrawal may not apply in some countries. That particular item returned, could be sold as if it were new to another person unaware of its history. Would you be happy if that happened to you?
Rule #10. Utmost politeness.
The old rule that the customer is always right is just a tactic unscrupulous people have to make some mean people feel more comfortable at the expense of the dignity of the employees.
Those who serve you when you set foot in a store are not your slaves. They are people like you who have the right to express their opinions and above all they have the right to their own dignity. A conscientious merchant will have no problem telling you if a piece of clothing is right for you.
Some of you at this point, may think that this paragraph is biased, that in fact you can not trust regardless of the professionals in the stores because they only think of their earnings and are therefore in sharp contrast to you who want the highest quality at the lowest price.
For the avoidance of doubt, I invite you to put yourself in the shoes of a salesperson. Difficult and rude customers make the latter weigh every single minute of their work and will be more inclined to make the person responsible for this state of mind pay more for their time.
On the contrary, a sympathetic and friendly manner will almost predispose the salesperson to a state of mind of complicity, they will spend their time with you much more peacefully and will greatly increase the chances that they will give you a better discount or favor you in some way.
Always remember that while it is true that a good salesperson must always be able to put you at ease, it is not the falseness in the latter’s attitudes and false servility that will help you save money. Usually, regardless of the reaction of the person in front of you, it is normal that if we are rude no one will favor us.
A salesperson receives an amount of insults and humiliation on a daily basis that you can’t even imagine, so by simply being polite, you may find that unknown doors will open for you.