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How to Shop and Not Get Sidetracked


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It is easy to get distracted while shopping. Colorful sale tags and giant display posters are designed to catch your eye, make you curious, and entice you to buy buy buy.

What do you do when shiny objects are calling your name?

Read these tips to take you from sidetracked to on track.


Tips to Stay on Track


    1. Make a List

      Make a list of everything you plan to purchase. A shopping list helps you plan ahead, frees your mind, and helps you focus on the task at hand.

      You can make the list on your phone, via a list-making or shopping app, or go old school and use a pen and paper.

      Whatever method you choose, make sure you put all the items you plan to purchase on your list.

      If you are familiar with the layout of the store, consider listing your items by category.

      Categorization works best for grocery shopping. List all the fruits together. Group beverages. Arrange your list in a way that corresponds with the location of the aisles.

      For other types of shopping, write out what you need to get in each section of the store. If you are buying a new outfit for a special occasion, select the shirt, then the pants, then the matching shoes.

      If you begin by selecting a pair of shoes that don’t match the outfit you finally select, you may end up buying two pairs of shoes because you have become attached to the first pair.

      When you make a categorized list, you are less likely to become distracted when you don’t have to backtrack and constantly crisscross across the store.


        2. Be Laser Focused

          Focus on what you plan to buy. Turn off phone notifications, close your social media apps, and focus on your list.

          If your list is on your phone, resist the urge to open other apps, check email, or scroll through your feed. Distracted shopping leads to unplanned spending.

          In addition to limiting digital distractions, avoid aisles and locations that will not contribute to checking items off your list.

          If you are in the store to buy a shirt, do not go to the pants section. If you are on a healthy shopping quest for fruits and vegetables, avoid the cookie and chip aisles. If you are in the mall, act like the store across the way with the big sale sign does not exist.

          By avoiding locations that do not serve your purpose, “I’m only going to look.” is less likely to turn into “I only bought a few things.”

          If you need to, set a timer. When the timer goes off, you should be in the checkout line or headed out the door. Setting a time limit reminds you of your goal.

          Stay laser focused by reducing your distractions and using your time wisely.


            3. Write Down Your Maybes

              Put one or two maybe items on your list.

              Maybe items are things you may buy if they are on sale, or if you’re still craving them after you’ve finished getting everything on your list. A maybe item could be a candy bar, an extra tube of toothpaste, or the shirt you have been eyeing for a month.

              By putting the maybe item on your list, you acknowledge its existence. Instead of trying to suppress your thoughts and completely ignore an item you want, be honest with yourself.

              Maybe you will buy the item. Maybe you won’t.

              The benefit of writing down your maybes is that you improve your focus and empower yourself to decide what you will purchase and what you will not. Writing down your maybes may lessen your impulse to buy something, even if you don’t need it.


                4. Think About It

                  When you get sidetracked by a seemingly amazing deal, a colorful package, or a tantalizing aroma, ask yourself two questions.

                  1) What is urging me to make this purchase?

                  2) Do I really need this item?

                  If you’re still tempted, write down the item and make it a maybe for your next shopping trip.

                  It is amazing how a moment of self-reflection, paired with a little bit of time, can get you back on the right track.


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