July 12, 2009

Day 5: Impulse Control

One lesson that I've already learned in the short few days of the experiment is that I have a tendency to impulse buy WAY more than I ever noticed. The first time I had to check myself was when shopping last week. I was very, very, thirsty while we were out and I thought to myself, "I'll just grab a drink at the checkout!" And I never really thought about how much I may have been doing that over the years - grabbing a drink at the check out because I would be out longer and was thirsty; but I bet if I could add it up, I'd be surprised at how often those little refrigerated cases have lured me into their refreshing depths for a severely overpriced quenching for my thirst.

At least I'm not alone. Point of Purchase merchandising has been around for over a hundred years - maybe longer. And there is a complete and total industry devoted to it. The funny thing to me is that it started out being the small things like gum and candy and remains those items - along with magazines - even today. I tend to think that I am fairly immune to these check-out lane buys (aside from the drinks, of course). I used to be really bad about buying magazines in the check out lane, though; I'd get started reading some article or find a recipe while waiting for the person in front of me who was buying a month's worth of groceries for a family of 28 and then I would have to take the magazine with me or die of sheer curiosity about the article's resolution or the tastiness of that recipe (BTW: I never did end up cooking any damn thing I found in a magazine!) However, after turning 16 or so, I was pretty immune to all the candy bars, batteries, tiny boxes of tissue, and cheapie toys that now clutter up my check out lanes.

For me, the urge to impulse buy comes from deep within the store aisles. I'm not sure if that makes me odd or not, but it certainly makes me profitable from the store's standpoint. It never fails that if I take the time to make a beautiful list for any store I'm going in, that I fail to remember one or more items that I had intended to put on the list, which then generates a panic within me that forces me to make rash decisions about anything else I might want or need in the coming days that for some reason, can't wait until I'm sure the purchase needs to be made or not. This "perceived convenience" happened when I knew I'd be driving by a Target on the way home from the little one's six month check-up the other day. I thought, "Oh, I'll just pop in and get her a new bottle of infant acetometaphin so I can keep running errands and she can have some relief from her shots, even though there is already a nearly full bottle at our house!" But of course, I realized that I a)did not have a coupon for that item, so I really couldn't stop in there and b)really shouldn't be stopping to pay more money for what I already have, and that was a pretty interesting lesson that I'd never given much thought to. You know, I'd like to attribute this flaw to my having a child under one and the trouble it is to get out of the house with her, but I've been this way for my whole adult life, and so I just can't lay the blame on her for my problems.

Another thing that always gets me is a new or novel products. When I was in BiLo stealing their Blue Bell ice cream for $2.50 a 1/2 gallon, I happend to see that they had these teeeeeeeeny tiiiiiiiiiiny cartons of Starbucks brand ice cream on sale. And even though they cost nearly what my 1/2 gallons of Blue Bell were going to cost me, I had this overwhelming desire to get one and "try it." I had all but opened the freezer case when I realized that I could NOT have that precious little carton of ice cream, and man - the heartbreak was real. I was sincerely disappointed that, despite having a FULL GALLON of delicious ice cream in my cart, I could not spend way too much for this little carton containing at most 5 bites of ice cream. This must be why women who resist impulse buys can lose nearly 5 pounds in a year compared with those who don't stick strictly to their shopping lists. No tiny ice-creams for them!

I know it's been said before that the best thing is to make a list and stick to it. But it's more than that. There is a thoughtfulness that needs to be applied to your shopping, because it's far too easy to justify a dollar spent here and there. And I now hope that I can learn from having to be accountable to the project a new way of thinking about shopping so that I can resist these impulses in the future.

Hm. That's a mighty big lesson for Day Five. I just hope I didn't peak early and end up with nothing else interesting to report for the rest of the project!

1 comment:

KuryKidsMommy said...

It is SO true! Before kids, when we had two incomes, I'd never even consider making a list. And coupons? No way. But with one income and two babies, it is an essential part of my life. And since I like to shop at the nicer grocery stores (and not Walmart) the only way we can do that is by being very thoughtful about what is on sale and planning menus around the sales and coupons. It truly is a new way to live (and shop!) But I love the challenge.