An Expert Guide to Buying Less at Your Go-To Stores

Avoid falling into the impulsive shopping trap the next time you go shopping with these 3 psychological tricks.

The act of shopping transcends its basic necessity, often becoming a delightful pastime. People have been partaking in it since ancient times, but it was during the 17th and 18th centuries, with the emergence of a burgeoning middle class and expanding economic opportunities, that our modern approach to shopping took shape.

While the link between shopping and economics may seem straightforward, psychology also plays a significant role in our purchasing behaviors. Shopping, like many other facets of our lives, is not always under our complete control. In fact, the pleasure we derive from shopping extends beyond the satisfaction of acquiring desired items; it involves the release of dopamine, a hormone that induces feelings of joy and contentment within our brains. Surprisingly, even seemingly unrelated factors in our daily lives can influence our shopping habits. Research indicates that having a cup of coffee prior to shopping can lead to increased spending and the purchase of more products.[1] This can be attributed to coffee’s stimulant properties, triggering the release of dopamine, and heightening both our mental and physical excitement. Coffee serves as just one example, underscoring the importance of acknowledging our interdependence in making purchasing decisions. Overconsumption and impulsive shopping behaviors not only impact our finances but also pose threats to the environment.


Overcoming the perils of overconsumption

The escalating phenomenon of overconsumption poses a grave threat to both our way of life and the environment. Consider this: since 1970, the US population has increased by a staggering 60%, while consumer spending has risen by 400% (adjusted for inflation).[2] It becomes abundantly clear that this unsustainable model cannot persist. To combat the allure of overspending and overconsumption, individuals can employ a few psychological tricks that aid in curbing impulsive tendencies.


“Cash only”

The way we pay for our purchases has an impact on how much money we spend. Numerous studies have revealed that using cash instead of credit cards helps lower the overall amount spent during a shopping trip. The rationale behind this phenomenon lies in the tangible nature of physical currency. People tend to exhibit more restraint when parting with cash, perceiving it as a concrete and palpable object. Conversely, the virtual nature of credit card transactions, coupled with their delayed visibility, makes individuals more prone to spending without immediate apprehension. In fact, a study revealed that utilizing credit cards instead of cash can lead to a 12-18% increase in expenditure.[3] Therefore, if you aim to exercise fiscal responsibility during your upcoming shopping venture, consider establishing a budget and withdrawing the corresponding amount in cash beforehand. By doing so, you will create a tangible reminder of your financial limits and reinforce a sense of accountability for your spending.

The shopper’s blueprint

Sometimes, we plan our shopping days, usually for items we need in the house or for our everyday lives. In these cases, an effective strategy is to create a list of desired products and set maximum price limits. This intentional approach engages your rational thinking, helping you avoid impulsive decisions and unnecessary expenses. Studies have shown that preparing a shopping list leads to buying fewer items and spending less money. In two experiments, participants were randomly assigned to either create a shopping list or not prepare one for their upcoming grocery trip. Those who were induced to prepare a shopping list before shopping bought fewer products and spent slightly less money.[4] By adopting this simple yet powerful practice, you can cultivate a more sustainable shopping routine that enhances your financial management.


The price behind the price

Every object comes with a price tag, but often the cost fails to reflect its true environmental and societal impact. As conscientious consumers, it is crucial to consider the genuine consequences of our purchases. The economic price of a product only accounts for the firm’s supply chain costs, overlooking the broader effects on society and the environment.

To reduce unnecessary purchases, take a mere 10 seconds to assess the necessity and true costs behind each item. Examine labels for greenwashing claims and unethical practices. Consider the materials used and their sourcing. By pausing automatic shopping habits and reflecting on the true cost, we can avoid purchasing unnecessary goods and help us focus on products manufactured with ethical considerations.


Watch your step

Shopping responsibly entails nurturing both environmental and economic sustainability. These intertwined facets must be embraced holistically to avoid the perilous clutches of overconsumption and excessive shopping. While businesses strive to entice us into buying more, our journey toward sustainability demands that we take deliberate steps to thwart detrimental habits – not just for our wallets, but primarily for the planet.

Outsmart the allure of mindless consumerism and embark on a witty shopping adventure where every purchase carries meaning, and every saving is a small victory for both our finances and Mother Earth. In the realm of responsible shopping, the magic happens when frugality dances with sustainability – a match made in shopping heaven, ensuring both fiscal and environmental prosperity.




[1] “Caffeine’s Effects on Consumer Spending.” Available at:

[2] “Overconsumption and the environment.” Available at:

[3] “Prefer cash to credit cards to spend less.” Available at:

[4] “Shopping less with shopping lists.” Available at:


Author: Giuseppe Scandariato