Stewardship of Life


The discipline of shopping

Posted in It's Personal by Robert Blezard on February 12, 2010
Tags: , , , , , ,

I received inspiration for a Lenten discipline in the most unlikely place.

It happened to me just the other day. Maybe you’ve had the same experience: I needed milk, so I went to my local market. Milk. Just milk!  It’s in the dairy section, which is just past produce and just before you get to meats.

I needed only milk, but the bananas looked good, and I remembered that I also needed lettuce. Oh, and a few tomatoes wouldn’t be so bad. And the red seedless grapes from Chile were on sale for $1.29 a pound. It went like this all through the store: Picking up items on impulse.

The total bill for this shopping trip, “just for milk”? $38. Now it’s not the money, because I can afford $38; or the groceries, because I eat every day, and I hate throwing out food.

The issue is the unplanned buying that expands the bill not merely for my supermarket trips, but also my junkets to  the hardware store, the office supply store, the department store, the convenience store – everywhere!

Being a man, I have a highly regular method of filing store receipts: First I stick them into my pants pocket. And when I empty my pockets, I pile the crumpled receipts on my bedroom dresser. Very efficient.  The final step is to look over the receipts before finally throwing them in the trash, usually once or twice a month.

Reviewing the last couple batches, I notice a lot of items that, by the cold light of reality, I didn’t need at all, and only marginally wanted.

For instance, going to the office store for a storage card I needed for my camera, I also bought a nice case for my iPod Nano. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but six months later I have yet to use it. Or the TWO long-sleeve casual shirts I bought because, at buy-one-get-one-free, they were too good to pass up. But I already own more shirts than I can wear! What was I thinking? I went to the store for jeans!

You get the idea. My house is full of lots of stuff I didn’t need, didn’t really want, and didn’t set out to buy in the first place. How much take-home pay have I frittered away?

So here’s what I’m going to do for Lent: I’m going to buy only things that I need, AND even then, things that I plan ahead to buy. So if I go to the store for just milk, I get just milk.

How is impulse buying a problem in your life? How do you keep it under control?

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3 Responses to 'The discipline of shopping'

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  1. Sharron said,

    One tactic I’ve found to be helpful is immediately taping my receipts to categorically organized monthly pages in a three ring binder. The binder gets thicker and thicker as the year progresses and reminds me of the volume of my spending. It’s also great come tax time, as all my receipts are there and organized.

    I also travel to the store with specific lists and try hard not to deviate. My one exception is a stock-up sale at the grocery. If canned tomatos are on a really good sale, I will buy a case to stock my pantry.

    Finally, I keep a running list of bigger items that I need. Like right now a good white shirt is on that list. If I’m in the thrift store and see a really great blue shirt for $3, I’ll remember that I only NEED a white shirt and will put the blue one back on the rack.

    P.S.: Love the image of literally flushing money!


    • Thanks! Good idea about the notebook. I’ll have to try that!

  2. Terri said,

    Our impulse buying is curtailed by our limited income, and our lack of credit cards. All shopping is done with designated cash on hand. Works great!!


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