Shopping is a typical part of our daily lives and completely necessary to sustain our health and well-being. However, it can be easy for some people to turn shopping into a dangerous hobby that causes them to waste a ton of money.
It’s important to know the mistakes that you may be making while shopping that can lead you down a spiral of totally unnecessary spending.
21 Shopping Mistakes You’re Making That Waste Money
Whether you’re trying to save money or just budget and manage it better, the strategies below will help you to stop wasting money shopping.
1. Following retailers and influencers on social media
Retailers are using social media to command our minds and take over our wallets. This is probably one of my weakest money habits and for good reason.
Companies know that the majority of adults use social media. This is a great way to get their product or brand in front of millions of viewers for free or low costs.
If you follow your favorite brands, you’re always going to see their sales and new products and be enticed to buy something even though you may not need it. Influencers are even harder to turn down because they show you how they use, wear, or love the product, enticing you to buy even more.
Marketing psychology shows that the more you see a product, the more you are likely to buy it. So do yourself a favor and just block all the retailers and influencers that have been getting you to spend money on unnecessary things.
2. Buying something just because it’s on sale/coupon
Another marketing tactic that business use are coupons, sales, and promotions. Unless you are already making a purchase, don’t buy an item JUST because it seems like a good deal.
Instead of looking at it like, wow I’d be saving $100 on that tv if I buy it now, think of it like, I’d be spending $200 that I don’t really need to spend.
Always think of the amount you’re spending, rather than saving. That will hopefully push you to purchase less.
3. Subscribing to email lists/text alerts from retailers
As mentioned before, when businesses can easily make it in front of your eyes and into your mind, they’re manipulating you to make a purchase.
Businesses send out emails with sales, new product launches, and ideas for using their products which can entice you to buy something you don’t really need.
Avoid this tactic at all costs by unsubscribing from all email and text alerts from businesses and companies that you may buy from.
Even if you don’t think you would buy from them, unsubscribe because they say it only takes 7 times to see a product for a consumer to buy. You may be hurting your spending habits this way without even knowing it.
The only time you should be on an email list is if you absolutely know you will be making a purchase and need to get a coupon from the retailer (most businesses send coupons through email just to get you to subscribe).
4. Buying because you have a gift card
There’s a reason why retailers love when people purchase gift cards: Because giving someone a gift card automatically means they’re going to be spending more in their store.
For example, if your aunt gives you a $50 gift card to Old Navy, you’re going to go to Old Navy (which you may not have normally done) and probably spend at least $65. That’s $15 extra dollars that you wouldn’t have spent if you didn’t have a gift card. Of course, if you have a gift card you should definitely not let it go to waste.
The point is not to go to the store just because you have a gift card with no intention in mind, but instead, save it for when you absolutely need something that you would be buying anyway.
5. Buying the bulk item/subscription to save more in the long run
This is mainly referring to subscription services or multi-level products and can actually be good or bad depending on your situation.
For example, I just bought a new mascara (actually it was lash growing serum, but same difference). The price was $55 for one tube with a 30 day supply or $100 for a larger tube with a 60-day supply.
If I bought the larger one, I would be saving $10 in the long run instead of buying 2 of the smaller mascaras down the line. However, it only works for one reason: If you absolutely know for a fact that this will be something you will use and continue to purchase long-term.
If this is your first time using the item, but you think you will like it, don’t buy the long term option. This is because chances are, you’ll never get around to buying the second item.
So again with a change in mentality, you can look at this as I’d be spending an extra $45 by buying the larger bottle, instead of I’ll be saving $10.
This works the same for buying in bulk and subscriptions. If it makes the individual price cheaper, it’s convincing you to spend more overall. Areas, where this could work for, is buying toilet paper, paper products, etc. that you know you will use and don’t expire.
6. Always opt for a refund instead of store credit when making a return
If you have the option, ALWAYS choose a refund. Having store credit is like having a gift card which will cause you to come back spend more.
Even if this is a store that you go to frequently, you want to avoid having a store credit. Often, it will sit for months without being used when this money could have been sitting in your account or used for something else by then.
Most businesses will only offer you a refund the way you paid if you have a receipt or if they can look it up by your credit card.
This means you should always save receipts for all purchases unless you’re paying with a credit card and are sure that they can look it up this way.
7. Making impulse purchases
Buying something as soon as you realize or decide that you want it can lead to unnecessary spending. I always mull over purchases for a few days or weeks before deciding if it’s a necessity.
This allows you to:
- Realize it’s not a necessity and would just be a waste of money
- Not give yourself enough time to compare prices and shop around
- Do your research to see if it is in fact the best choice
- Completely forget that you wanted it
You may already do this for large purchases like a new refrigerator or computer, but I’m talking about even smaller items too!
For example, I just wanted to buy my daughter some new hair bows, even though she already has a ton, because I liked a different style now. After giving it a few days I just realized I didn’t need any more bows for her.
They were only $15, but if I could save $15 everytime I wanted something, that really adds up!
8. Using credit cards
Although I am a big proponent of credit cards if you make good financial choices and can pay them off EVERY month because of the rewards and cashback they provide, it’s not a good idea if you’re prone to overspending.
A wise way to shop is only bringing cash to the store since you can’t go over the limit of cash you have in your pocket.
9. Not asking for cash for gifts
If you ever get a choice in a gift that will be made for you, NEVER ask for gift cards, but choose cash/check/savings deposit instead. As stated above, gift cards are just going to make you spend more money in the long run because you can never just use the exact amount on the gift card.
If you feel weird asking for cash, opt for a gift card to a grocery store or any subscription/membership that you’re already apart of. This will allow you to apply this money to things you are already spending on instead of wasting more money shopping.
10. Not using cashback apps/discount gift cards to make purchases
If you’re not using some kind of app, site, or strategy to get money back or discounts on purchases, you’re actually losing money!
There are so many ways to do this nowadays so make sure you choose one or a few of these options:
- Use cashback apps for in-store purchases like iBotta, ShopKick, Drop, Dosh
- Use cashback websites to get cashback on purchases made online like Rakuten, SwagBucks, MyPoints
- Buy a discounted gift card before making a big purchase through CardCash or GiftCard Spread
Always go through these apps or websites to see how much you can get back from a purchase at each store. When you couple that with credit card reward points (if you manage using credit cards well), you could be getting a lot of money back on your everyday purchases.
11. Forgetting to always use coupons
Although I stated above that you shouldn’t make purchase JUST because of a coupon, but if you’re buying something anyway, look for a coupon.
There are many ways to find coupons including the newspaper, online, previous purchases/receipts, email lists, etc.
- Sunday newspaper
- Magazines and flyers in the mail
- Retailer’s email list (only subscribe if you’re planning to buy)
- Online coupon sites like coupons.com and couponsurfer.com
- Direct from the manufacturer
- Weekly store ads
- DIrectly on products
If you do forget to bring your coupon, you should make every effort to get back to the store with your receipt and coupon or call customer service for online purchases, and most businesses will likely refund you.
12. Not comparing prices
You could be wasting a ton of money by not shopping around for the best price. If there is an item that you want to purchase, make sure you’re checking other websites, retailers, and stores for the best price.
Also look for coupons, promos, or free shipping from other stores. You may find that one store has a better price, but the cost of shipping is more. Whichever one is the lowest TOTAL cost would be your best bet.
13. Not price matching
After you’ve compared prices, price matching may be a good option for saving additional money. Some businesses will take off an additional 5 or 10% just for buying form them, instead of the competitor with the same price.
Most companies will list their price match policy on their website if they have one so always check as an additional way to compare prices.
14. Not using rewards programs
A lot of businesses offer rewards programs as an incentive to loyal customers who frequent their stores.
Something along the lines of, Buy 9, get your 10th free. It’s great to be a part of these if available.
If you’re buying something anywhere, make sure you join their rewards program and use a cash back app to get the max benefit out of your purchase.
15. Opting for convenience over cost
If you’re shopping at the over-priced grocery store or pharmacy just because it’s closest to you or on your way home from work, you could be wasting money.
Of course, there may be times where this is understandable, but not if you’re desperately trying to save money.
So if you have to go a little bit out of your way to save a few bucks, it may be worth it. Just see if the benefit outweighs the inconvenience.
16. Letting returns wait too long
If you’re a procrastinator like me, you may have watched items that you meant to return become yours just because you kept putting it off. Don’t let this happen!!
I’ve let countless dollars go to waste because of this, even when the items were waiting in my car to be returned!
Therefore make returns a priority so you don’t get stuck with a store credit or worse-keeping an item you really don’t need or want.
17. Letting a purchase sit on your credit card without paying it off on time
I don’t think there’s anything that I hate more than paying extra fees and not getting anything for it. This is what credit cards can do to you if you don’t pay off your purchases every month.
For example: You buy a pair of shoes for $60 on your credit card on March 15th. That credit card bill may be due around April 30th. If you don’t pay the whole bill off in full by April 30th, that pair of shoes will end up costing you $73 (with the average 22% credit card interest rate). If you don’t pay it by May 30th, those shoes are now costing you $90.
This is a huge increase in cost that you may not have been expecting. So if you know you’re not going to have the money this month to pay your card IN FULL, don’t buy it (unless it’s an emergency).
18. Not reading the fine print
This may not apply to everyday purchases when you go shopping at retail stores, but it can be important to note for larger purchases. Be sure to understand the return policy or any additional fees you may incur just from making this purchase.
19. Buying the latest and greatest when you already have the older version
There are some people who need to have the latest and most updated version of everything. Whether it’s the new iPhone, MacBook, TV, sneakers, etc.
The truth is, products don’t change that significantly for you to justify purchasing every new updated version.
If you have something that works, don’t think you need a new one just because there’s a new one available. That’s a big waste of money.
20. Making shopping a hobby
If you let shopping be a hobby, you’re sure to overspend. This means collecting shoes (that you rarely wear) and shopping because you like to walk around the mall on a Saturday afternoon.
So find other inexpensive hobbies and leave shopping just for necessities.
21. Only looking to save when it’s large amounts
If you have the mentality of, I’m just saving a quarter, it’s not worth it, you’ll never end up wealthy.
That’s how the rich get richer! We save every nickel and dime that we can.
If there’s ever an opportunity to save money, whether it’s using a coupon to save 40 cents, driving an extra 3 miles to save $1, spending an extra 10 minutes comparing prices to save $2, or clicking through an app before you make an online purchase to save 90 cents, IT IS WORTH IT!
It will all add up some day so save your pennies where you can!
So if you’re prone to any of these 21 shopping mistakes, you can make a change now! Don’t risk overspending and wasting money while shopping.
Be wise and your wallet and future will thank you!
Eugene is a Chemical Engineer with a passion for personal finance and is constantly learning new tricks to make his money work for him. He obtained an MBA part time and hasn’t stopped finding ways to make money, save money, and properly invest money. He currently lives at the Jersey Shore with my wife and two children.