Visiting your local supermarket is like running a gauntlet of temptation. It’s so easy to see something that you didn’t even realize you wanted and put it in your cart without thinking about it. But if you’re not careful, you can end up spending a whole lot more money than you were planning to.
Supermarkets are engineered to get us to spend as much money as possible, and they do a very good job of it. They put pricier items literally front and center; brands pay a lot of money to be positioned at the “endcaps” of aisles, where more people will see them. Pricier items are positioned right at eye level, while less-expensive alternatives are usually down at the bottom of the shelf. And while milk and eggs are usually at the back of the store because that’s the area closest to the loading docks, stores are also well aware of the fact that they’re making you walk through the entire store (and be exposed to thousands of tempting items) just to find the staples.[related]
If you’re trying to save money at the supermarket, keep in mind that supermarkets are specifically designed for the exact opposite of that; they don’t want you to try to save money, because if you did, they’d go out of business. Even the coupons are intended to get you to spend more: If you spend $2.99 instead of $3.99 on a pack of hot dogs you wouldn’t have otherwise purchased, that’s still three bucks you wouldn’t have spent without that coupon. They’re also banking on the hope that you’ll make impulse buys —which is why gum, candy, and magazines are there for the taking while you wait your turn to check out.
So don’t forget that supermarkets work really hard to get you to waste money. But with a little bit of knowledge, will power, and planning, you can beat them at their own game and not spend a penny more than you need to.