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The Simple Dollar

Avoid the lure of the checkout aisle purchase

Grocery stores purposely stock the checkout aisle with things that are perfectly selected for you to just toss on the conveyor without a second thought.

By Guest blogger / November 14, 2012

Grocery store clerk Mike Saladino places a customer's purchased items in a paper bag in Palo Alto, Calif., in this June 2010 file photo. Hamm advises that you never buy anything that you find in the checkout aisle.

Paul Sakuma/AP/File


Grocery store designers are smart people.

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The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money.

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They know that when you check out with a cart load of groceries, you’re going to be standing in that spot for a while. They also know that sometimes you’re unfortunate enough to have children with you.

Thus, they stock the checkout aisle with things that are perfectly selected for you to just toss on the conveyor without a second thought.

Magazines. Beverages. Gum. Candy. Car fresheners. The list goes on and on. 

All of these items have a relatively low price point. All of these items are things with very attractive packaging. All of these items are things that you can quickly enjoy without much effort at all. All of these items are also priced so that the store makes a nice profit.

All of these items are meant for you to buy them without skipping a beat. Many people do it, too. (If that wasn’t true, the checout aisle wouldn’t be designed this way in virtually every grocery store.)

Since there’s nothing in the checkout aisle that you actually need, a really simple rule can save you some money.

Never buy anything that you find in the checkout aisle. If it’s not in your cart when you wheel up to the checkout, then don’t buy it.

Yes, that means ignoring some temptations, but it also means that you’re not dropping money on things that you want only fleetingly. Instead, you’re keeping that money for things you actually need or truly want.

If you want gum or candy, go to the candy aisle. If you want a magazine, go to the magazine rack (or, better yet, subscribe, as you’ll often save quite a bit). If you want soda, go down the soda aisle.

Avoid the overpriced impulsive items in the checkout aisle and your wallet will thank you.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. 

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