The Power of the Shopping List

posted 11/7/2014 in General

Lists come in all sizes and types. There are lists of the best movies ever, to-do lists, short lists and never ending lists. Whether we’re ranking things or just trying to keep track of what we need to do, a list gives us something to reference.

This reference point is incredibly important this time of year as we head out to shop for holiday dinners and gifts. Lists keep us from overspending and help us practice self-control. Why is this important? Because in today’s retail landscape, from the grocery store to the mall, marketers and store owners are setting you up for failure.

Let’s take a look at how they’re doing this.


The only reason we open ourselves up to more advertisements than usual is to get a good deal on something we need. Marketers know this, which is why there are so many coupons and deals advertised in the daily newspaper and online. How often have you seen the following phrases in ads or in stores: “50 percent off!” “Buy 2, get 1 free!” “Buy 1, get the second one at half price!”

Now, you may see these and think you’re in for a steal. But let’s look at each of these in depth in order to shop smarter:

  • 50 percent off- you’re getting something for half of the normal price. However, companies are counting on your rational human brain to say, “Hey, you were figuring on spending x-amount on this anyway, so why not get two for that price?”

  • Buy 2 get, 1 free- do you really need three of whatever this product is? What if you just need one?

  • But 1, get the second at half price- again, do you really need more than one of whatever item it is that you need?

It may seem like you’re getting more for less. However, if you’re trying to save money, spending the same amount invalidates the point of the “sale.”

Store Design

We’re fortunate to live in a country that has plenty of whatever it is you need or want. But this plethora of choices can also backfire on us. All of these choices combined with the sheer size of stores and how everything is organized into neat little aisles or sections for your “convenience” works in the store’s favor.

By making stores larger, companies hope to keep you in the store for a longer period of time. Why? Because the more you are exposed to things that you want, the more likely you are to buy them.

This is what makes a list so powerful.

When you step into a store with a list either on paper or on your phone, you are giving yourself an advantage. You know what you need, what your purpose is for going to the store in the first place. This eliminates the need to wander through the aisles and prevents you from making impulse purchases.

So whether you are going to the grocery store, shoe store or nearby mall, prepare a little beforehand by making a list. Not only will you get the satisfaction of crossing everything of the list, but also in knowing you were a smart shopper.

Good luck, and we hope to see you soon!

Lincoln Savings Bank, member FDIC

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