How Much Money Should You Take When You Go Shopping?

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how to go shopping
How much money do you take with you when you go shopping? Personally, I carry a lot, at least, I have access to a lot of money. In an earlier article, I shared what I carry in my wallet – I normally carry anywhere from $60-$100 cash, a personal credit card, a business credit card,…

How much money do you take with you when you go shopping? Personally, I carry a lot, at least, I have access to a lot of money. In an earlier article, I shared what I carry in my wallet – I normally carry anywhere from $60-$100 cash, a personal credit card, a business credit card, and an ATM/Debit card.

I pay my credit cards in full each month, so that means I generally have access to a lot of money when I leave the house every day… But that doesn’t mean I spend it! When I go shopping I look for ways not to spend money, instead of looking for ways to spend money.

How Much Money Should You Take When You Go Shopping?

I received a question from a reader earlier this week that asked how much money you should carry when you go shopping.

How much money do you need when you go shopping?  There are so many factors to consider.  Would you be kind enough as to give me some pointers as what to look for or avoid?  I really appreciate your help.

Thanks, C.

C., thank you for sending in your question. That is a very broad question, and the answer will vary from person to person. But I will do my best to share tips on how I go shopping, and I will invite readers to share their tips as well. I’m sure we will all learn a few good pointers!

Never go shopping without an agenda and a budget

how to go shoppingOne of the first and best recommendations I can make is to never go shopping without an agenda and a budget. Simply jumping in the car and driving to the store is a recipe for overspending – at least it is for me! Before I go shopping, I think about what I need and I write it down on a list. That way I am mentally prepared to spend a certain amount of money.

Make a grocery list

When you go grocery shopping, go with a list and a general idea of how much you will spend. Try to avoid items that aren’t on the list. The only exceptions I make are when certain staples go on sale. And I only buy those items I know I will use in a relatively short period of time.

Try window shopping online first

Before going to a mall or department store, try window shopping online first – that way you have a good idea of what is on sale and what you are looking for. Then reserve your trip to the store just to try on the items or see them in person before buying. This is also beneficial because you are less likely to make impulse buys if you browse online but make your purchases in the store.

Take Cash if You Tend to Overspend

Paying for any item in cash makes us think more seriously about whether we want to make that purchase or not.

There are studies that show that people actually experience more pain by paying in cash than paying with a card or other form of payment.

For example, McDonald’s was one of the last fast food restaurants to accept payment by credit or debit card. They saw an immediate uptick in sale. How much? A Dunn and Bradstreet study found that the average ticket at McDonald’s was $4,50 when someone pays with cash and $7 when they pay with a card.

So get the money out before you go, and keep that credit card in your wallet.

Avoid the “It’s on sale” temptation

Raise your hand if you’ve used this line before – “But it’s on sale! I’m saving money!”

Wrong – you aren’t saving money if you are buying something you don’t need! A good way to avoid the temptation of buying things because they are on sale is to place a mandatory 3-day waiting period on any unplanned purchases. If you still want the item after three days and it fits into your normal budget, then go for it! Otherwise, skip it. Chances are the feeling of needing that item will be gone and you will decide you can do without the item.

Put down the impulsive purchase

It is very easy to see something that you “just have to have”when you are shopping at any store. They position the interesting items right where you can see them.

Since we didn’t come to the store to find this item, the best thing we can do is to put it down and take a mental note of it being available. The next time I enter that store, if I still really want what was originally an impulse buy, then I may allow myself to buy it.

This way my brain has had time to process whether this is really a good purchase or just a spur of the moment bad decision.

Know why you spend

Some people shop for fun or because it gives them the rush to find a “great deal” or the perfect “fill in the blank.” Think about why you spend money – and if you are finding yourself spending money for the wrong reasons, you might want to rethink your spending patterns.

Sometimes you only need to make small changes to see big results.

Know When to spend

If you are looking to purchase an item that you do not need TODAY, then make sure you a buying it at the right time.

For example, when my appliances are getting on their last legs, I want to make sure that I am ready to purchase new appliances from November to early December. This is when the best prices on most appliances show up in all the stores.

By doing your research and knowing when major purchases are at their lowest prices, you can be sure that you are buying when you can get the best price.

How do you limit your spending while shopping?

These are the steps I take to limit my spending, but I’m sure others have found things that work better for them. I would love to hear how you limit your spending while shopping!



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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad says

    These recommendations are solid– I would add “Shopping with a Mission”. Know what you need– go in, get it, and get out. This way you don’t fall into the traps the retailer lays for you– impulse buys.

  2. Craig says

    I don’t have a set dollar amount, it’s hard to determine that. If I know I am paying in cash, I try to take the amount necessary to buy my item making sure I don’t spend more. Of course I have been in Borders and Best Buy before when that one purchase turned into 3 using CC, ha.

  3. TStrump says

    I carry very little cash and usually use my credit card.
    Lately, I’ve been leaving it at home so that I don’t spend so much.

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