Finances & Money

Ways to Save Money #9: Only Shop When Needed

This is part nine of the Ways to Save Money Series.

In one of my graduate-level classes, we went around the room and introduced ourselves. We stated our educational and professional background, as well as our personal interests. One woman who I seriously thought might be Single Ma (until later) stated the following:

“I love to shop, I love TV, I love to shop, I enjoy cooking, did I say I love to shop?”

I wonder if she loves to shop. She literally stated it 3 times in a 10 second span, so obviously she REALLY loves to shop. What I never asked was how much she bought, how she shopped and what she shopped for. I assume she’s not crazy about shopping for groceries or cars or houses. From her pretty pink backpack and coach handbag, I assumed it was a love for clothes.

But before I begin to assume whether she paid retail, or just loved shopping at thrift stores or online, I want to ask “Why does she love shopping?”. Is it her only escape from the home? She has 3 teenagers and isn’t working now so she can finish school, so perhaps it’s either the only time she gets away or it’s a bonding activity with one of her kids. Perhaps she really doesn’t know what else to do with her money.

But shopping probably isn’t the best hobby if you’re trying to save money. “Save money” in the sense of stashing it away in a money market account, investing it in a mutual fund, or plain old avoiding spending (like “I saved $2 today because I didn’t get a soda at lunch like I would every other day”). But if you’re out just window shopping, you’re one step closer to the temptation to spend.

But not all of us are shopaholics. We might just decide to go to Target, Walmart or the mall for something to do on a lazy Sunday, with no intention to buy something. But how many times have you gone to the store either for one small thing, or just to browse, and came home with something (or at least a very strong desire to get it the next time you go back).

The purpose of a store is two-fold:
1. To sell you stuff
2. To entice you to buy more stuff

That’s why there are “Sale” and “Clearance” signs everywhere. You never go into a store knowing an item is on sale or clearance unless someone told you, or you saw it on TV, online or in a print ad. There’s almost no such thing as shopping online or going “in and out” of the store without noticing everything placed around that item you want. I wonder if stores are always understaffed just to make you walk around the racks longer while waiting for help.

So the lesson here is to avoid going to the store, whether it’s the mall, Walmart, the grocery store, or the knitting shop, unless you know specifically what you need and where to get it. If your purpose really is to save money, then really try to go in and out of the store without stopping to browse. Only shop when you need to!

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I like going to the mall but now a days I rarely shop. I don’t have money to spare and quite honestly I don’t have a real need to buy stuff for the sake of buying it. I watch all the people scurrying around buying things like it was going out of style. Unless you need to buy something staying out of the stores is a good idea.

    (If the malls don’t get any extra money from me the grocery stores definitely do; I always seem to buy more when I walk into the store)

  • I was at the mall this past weekend. It was crazy. About as bad as Christmas…you could barely find a parking spot in that giant place. I honestly don’t see how we could possibly be facing any kind of recession….If that is the case, perhaps we need to build more stores.

  • I like shopping too and I usually go with a list of the things I need to get and so it should be easy to go in and out of the shop and get what I need and leave. It never seems to happen. Especially, if I am not shopping with my husband, I will some how get side tracked and pick up something not on my list. Other times I get snagged by the flyer they put up front and then I look at all the sale items. Usually a waste of my time but I do through the isles. Not sure why. I recently joined a website called
    It’s a site that helps you monitor items that are not on sale yet but will notify you once the price drops to the amount you are willing to pay for. Saves me a ton of time going back to check up on an item but more importantly, it has actually helped me decrease my “wants” and keep with the “needs”. As I don’t get to buy the item right away, it puts a time delay so if I do want it on sale, I still can but because of the time delay it sometimes put things in to perspective and I don’t end up buying the item. Maybe the site should call themselves shopaholics annonymous for people like me.

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