How to Shop at a Time of Financial Difficulty
Globally, the cost of living has gone up, creating financial hardship for many. In the last year, food prices in the US increased by more than 9 percent, in the UK prices increased by more than 16 percent, and there was a 6 percent increase in China.
Clearly, there are many underlying reasons for the increase in food prices, including the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, extreme weather conditions, and rising wages for workers.
Unsurprisingly, the increase in food costs means that people are looking for ways to cut down on the amount of money they spend on groceries.
This may not always be easy as consumers are faced with special offers and discounts that are tempting. As much as 50 percent of groceries are bought because of impulsivity, and discounts often help facilitate spontaneous shopping behaviours.
Consumers are also more prone to fall for promotions when they feel stressed over financial worries. It is a well-known fact that stress can negatively affect the decisions people make, such as consumers being prepared to take risks that they would not be willing to take if they were not under pressure. Such risks are often misguided by price.
Clearly, people are driven by price when they are under financial pressure, and this can mean that they choose to purchase products that are cheaper.
However, buying food just because it is cheaper can lead to food items not being consumed. Perhaps you buy a cereal brand that you don’t normally buy and because it is less tasty it ends up sitting on the shelf until the content goes stale and it ends up in the bin. Thus, costing people more rather than less.
Five simple tips to avoid unnecessary spending
- To avoid falling prey to the ‘tricks of the trade’ it is important that consumers think about what they need before they go shopping. Make a list of what you need and don’t deviate from it, just buy what is on it. Being focused helps as awareness means you are much less likely to be subconsciously influenced by in-store factors and will therefore avoid making unplanned purchases.
- If possible, use a smaller shopping trolley or even a basket. If you carry a basket, you will be consciously aware of how heavy it feels. Thus, you are less likely to purchase additional items as the weight acts as a reminder of how much you are buying. When the basket becomes too heavy, consumers stop shopping. Similarly, a smaller cart is easier to fill up and thus you are unable to buy as much.
- Don’t rush. When people are in a rush, which is often the case, they are less likely to look around and compare prices. Usually, in supermarkets, the more expensive items are placed around 120 cm above the floor, as this is where consumers tend to look. Hence, when you spot an item that seems okay that happens to be in the middle of the shelf, and for time reasons you won’t look at further items, you end up paying more. It also affects our overall decision-making, meaning that we engage in snap judgments that we may regret later. For example, people commonly assume that multi-buys are cheaper and therefore don’t check the price per unit.
- Whilst you shouldn’t rush, neither should you spend too long in the store. Supermarkets want us to spend as much time as possible in their stores as shopping at a slow pace makes people spend more. Some supermarkets even play slow background music to slow people down as people pace themselves in line with the rhythm of the music. Something that has been found to increase sales by as much as 40 percent. Basically, slowing shoppers down means that they see more of the products and offers and this makes them more likely to buy them. To deal with this, decide how long you should spend shopping and make sure you have enough time to think about the purchases you make. But don’t linger and leave when the time is up.
- Never shop when you are hungry. Shopping on an empty stomach can lead to poor decision-making. Not only can it make you less rational and aware of what you are buying but it can also make you purchase more high-calorie items. Interestingly, being hungry also makes people more likely to purchase non-food-related products and spend more money, meaning that you may also be additional non-essential items on display.
If you follow the above recommendations, you have a pretty good chance of making your shopping trip cheaper.