Michael on February 13th, 2008
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I hate shopping. Always have. When I was in ninth grade, I had to buy a sport jacket for the ninth grade prom. In the process, I knocked down a changing room at the local department store. True stories (both that my school had a ninth grade prom and that I knocked over the wall).

I’m not a violent person, but I can be impatient and particularly so when I feel the entire project (in this case, making myself remotely presentable to someone I “liked”) is a complete waste of time. So upon learning from my mother that jacket # 4 wasn’t going to cut it, I sighed and then leaned (a little too much it turned out, thanks to my 130-pound frame) against the wall. . . and the whole thing fell over.

Of course the good news is that jacket # 5 was definitely good enough. After all, everyone was excited to leave (or to see me go).

I’m not a much bigger fan of shopping today. The only exceptions are toy stores (I used to work for Toys “R” Us) and grocery stores (I like to eat.) Why grocery stores? Perhaps it’s because I’m somewhat wired not to spend money haphazardly. When you’re buying food at a grocery store, your spending seems like it isn’t discretionary. Since you have to eat, there’s no guilt and so you just shop away.

And you know what? Ten or fifteen years ago, that was pretty much true.

But not anymore. Now, thanks to the dramatic expansion of the retail channel known as grocery, there are more food shopping options than were once even imaginable. From the Wal-Mart Supercenter (which didn’t exist when I knocked over the department store changing room) to Whole Foods (some refer to it less affectionately as “Whole Paycheck”), there are a wide variety of options.

With so many choices in today’s retail landscape, you can’t just willy-nilly go shopping anywhere and believe that your choices won’t impact the amount of your grocery spending. Okay, perhaps you never could, but now, in 2008, it’s especially true. Plus, making such a mistake today will cost you far more money than it would have years ago. Here are some considerations for grocery shopping. The next post will feature some additional comments on the pros and cons. Of course, feel free to pipe in now.

  • Where do you shop for food? At a grocery store, a discount supercenter, a wholesale club, or a health foods store? All of them?
  • Do you make bulk purchases? What kind?
  • Use coupons? Buy different things as a result?
  • Do you look in your refrigerator or pantry closet before you go food shopping?
  • Prefer organic food? Which ones?
  • Who does the shopping? The person who does most of the cooking? Or the person who does most of the eating?
  • Does anyone actually cook in your household?
  • How much time do you spend in the bread aisle?

The answers to these questions determine not only how much money you spend on food, but also how much of your spending is truly discretionary vs. non-discretionary, a need vs. a want, or represent laziness vs. preparedness). Got any theories?

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2 Comments to “Shopping: I wasn’t angry but I did knock over a wall”

  1. Matt says:

    Did Lisa like the jacket?

    Great post. We spend too much on groceries, and most of it results from trips to Fresh Market (our Whole Foods equivalent) after work while hungry and in need of reward after a stressful day. The bill is always horrendous, and we justify it by not eating out (much) and eating well.

  2. Michael says:

    Thanks for the comment, Matt. Her name was Sarah and the jacket was white!

    One can always find a way to rationalize a purchase. Been there myself many times. Perhaps it’s a treat or a special occasion. Nothing wrong with that. The financial challenge is when it becomes something recurring and, upon looking back, you regret the expense because it has limited your ability to meet objectives that are more important. to you. If and when that happens, you’re making a critical first step to moving Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck, because you’ll have the motivation to change behavior.

    This means different things (both rewards and sacrifices) for every individual. The joy of life.

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