Frugal Students Know: You Never Ever Shop Hungry!

You know how it goes — you’ve done a good job sticking to your list, you reach the checkout line and BAM, your fingers stray to the items just within reach. Avoid impulse buying by learning store tricks and your own triggers.

Checkout Lanes

Beware the checkout line, where you’re a captive audience.

Ever notice how the items lining the checkout lanes are low-priced? That’s not coincidence. One pack of gum won’t hurt, will it? (Depends. How tight is your budget? Do you really need gum?) Question every purchase. Do not pick up the item. Don’t even put a finger on the item. If you have it in your hand, there’s a greater chance it’ll find its way into your bag.

You can do a great job through your entire shopping trip only to drop $5 on a magazine you didn’t even know existed.  Eye-catching headline + time = money out of your pocket into the cash register. Odds are excellent that you can read that article free online.


Did you ever wonder how a cold bottled 20 oz. drink can be worth $1.79 when you can find a 2-liter of the same drink for 99 cents at the grocery store? I’d love to be able to explain that equation to you, but I don’t think I learned that particular “new math” method.

How is it that you reach the checkout line and you’re suddenly parched? Power of suggestion, maybe? Remember that tip to keep a refillable water bottle around from a couple of weeks ago? This will save you paying for a drink and spare you some empty calories. (Forgot your water bottle? Head to the restrooms after you check out. You can often find a water fountain nearby and — last time I checked — there was no fee to use one.)


About to wilt from hunger? Try some water first (see “Drinks” above). You may just be thirsty. Take the money saving one step further! Look for a fountain rather than paying. However, if there’s no free option, paying for a bottle of water is far cheaper than $8 for a drive-thru “snack” between meals. In any case, you can make yourself something more filling when you get home, and it’ll be a lot better for you, too.


Clearance! Markdown! It’s almost painful to pass up a great deal sometimes. But if you’re buying only because it’s cheap, then it’s likely you don’t need it at all. Remember the trick to envision how you will use the item (see #2 in Question Every Purchase). If you don’t see yourself putting it to use immediately, then you can do without it.

[box type=”bio”] Passing up a good deal is my biggest personal challenge. You may have noticed that I love a bargain. There are times when I find it nearly impossible to walk away from one, so I have to physically remove myself from the store and give myself a good lecture. (That strange woman muttering to herself outside the store? Probably me.)[/box]


Stores want you to have your hands free to pick up lots of merchandise. Check your list before you enter the store. If you have just a few items on it, carry them in your hands to avoid picking up “just one more little thing” and don’t fall into the cart trap. You know those smaller carts that a lot of stores are offering, for when “just a few items” are needed? Genius! Even one of those little hand-carried baskets can get you in trouble, if you find sticking to your list a problem. This doesn’t mean break your arms trying to carry too much — just be aware of the pitfalls and stick to that list.

What are your biggest challenges or temptations when shopping?

Further Reading:

Pinterest Very Pinteresting! Find some frugal tips and ideas on our Pinterest board for Frugal College Students.

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