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Whether you are working your way through college, settling into life in your first job, find yourself with new expenses with children, are entering retirement or somewhere in between, there’s one thing we all have in common: shopping. From groceries, cleaning and hygiene items to clothing, entertainment and other goods, shopping online or in-store brings with it a familiar temptation: sales.

Think twice before taking advantage of a great deal.

What’s the best way to tackle debt? Avoiding taking on additional debt. That means taking some time before acting on the good deals you may see as you are walking up and down the store aisles or browsing listings while shopping online.

You’ve made a list and maybe even separated your list by sections of the store so you can keep your trip short and reduce the temptation to buy something that’s not on the list. But then, as you are putting a bottle of shampoo in your cart, you notice an endcap across the aisle with a big SALE sign above the garden seeds and decide to pick out your plants a little earlier this year. As you make your way through the store you also add ice cream (and sprinkles, waffle bowls and caramel topping), a new workout ball and a DVD from the $5 bin. Before you know it, you’ve added an extra $30 to your cart.

While the purchases themselves aren’t wrong, they may lead to buyer’s remorse, especially if you have a tight budget to stick to. Here are a few tips to help you stay the course while shopping:

  • Spend more time planning your (online or in-store) shopping trip than the trip itself. Before you head to the store or open your favorite shopping app, identify meals and needs for the coming week and make a list of items. After you have your list made, divide the list into the stores you will visit to get each item. Some stores may only carry certain items, and you may be able to get some items cheaper at other stores due to various sales they may be offering. Do some research before you go so you know which items you will be purchasing at each store so you can be sure to get the best deal and avoid settling for something similar (and potentially more expensive) than what you had intended to get.
  • Be intentional about your purchases. Know what you want and stick to your list. When you are shopping and see a good deal, take a moment to decide. Carefully consider the item, ask yourself if you really need it, ask yourself if you love it and ask yourself if the purchase can wait. If the purchase CAN wait, this gives you time to think through how you would use the item, and it may potentially remind you that you already have something similar or you may find that same item at another store for a better price.
  • Ignore ads and unsubscribe from store emails. We know what you’re thinking, “but then I won’t get coupons and the scoop on the latest deals!” Exactly. Whether you are scrolling through social media and see an ad for something you were just thinking about (how do they do that anyway?) or checking your email and find a BOGO coupon for your favorite store or restaurant, hide it, delete it or save it for later. That doesn’t mean you won’t make the purchase, but if you weren’t planning on purchasing that item before you received the promotional email or saw an ad, odds are you don’t need it. (And don’t let FOMO get the best of you; there WILL be another sale or opportunity to get a good deal.)

Want more tips for managing your finances? Check out our blog posts to learn more about establishing a solid budget or building your savings.