It may seem a little shopping-obsessed to prep for a big shopping day, to pack for it even. But with the proper preparation, even the most casual shopper can have a better time, save money, and stick to a budget. Bring the right things on shopping day, and things will go much more smoothly. Here's how to prepare.
1. Shopping list. Don't go shopping without one. It's easy to get carried away, whether you're at Wal-Mart or the mall or the grocery store or wherever. But if you've got a list, you can remind yourself what you're there for. And if you force yourself to stick to the list, you will save yourself from a lot of impulse buys that you'll regret later. Your budget will thank you.
2. Coupons or discount cards. Have a folder or other container for coupons you find, and just toss them in there during the week. When you're ready to go shopping, take them with you. Only use them if you had planned to get that item already. Also bring any discount cards you might have for different stores. These little things can add up.
3. Canvas shopping bags. Plastic or paper — the essential question of our shopping lives. But a better choice is canvas. These shopping bags aren't too expensive, and can be reused over and over. They're also handy if you shop at different stores: instead of carrying multiple bags, you can put them in one big bag.
4. Water. Being out and about will get you dehydrated if you don't have a bottle of water with you at all times. And being dehydrated can lead to you buying costly and unhealthy drinks and food.
5. Snacks. Along those same lines, to keep yourself from getting too hungry and binging at the food court, bring some healthy (or at least semi-healthy) snacks in a little bag or your purse. Nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, pretzels, popcorn, cut-up veggies and the like are all good choices. Snack on them throughout the day while you're out, and you'll save money (and your health) when it comes to eating out.
6. Don't buy list. Rather than just having a shopping list, start a "Don't Buy" list and carry it with you always. When you see an item you really want to buy that's not on your shopping list, put it on your Don't Buy list — and don't buy it. Later, you can consider whether you really need it, and whether you have the money — in the safety of your own home. Don't buy on impulse while you're out shopping.
7. Leave the credit card. A good method is not to bring your credit card. Only bring the cash you need, or only a debit card (if you know there's enough money in your bank account), and you will be sure not to spend money you don't have.
8. Book. If you have to take playful kids or a partner who's not so keen on shopping, bring a few books or magazines with you — coloring/activity books for the kids and a couple cool mags for your significant other. This way, when they get bored, they can whip out the book and be instantly entertained.
9. Mobile device. If you've got a device that can connect to the Internet, bring it. Not only can it serve a similar entertainment purpose as a book, but it's a great shopping device: while you're considering buying an item, you can look up reviews on the Internet, or see if there are better deals online.
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