Skip to content

33 Checkout Counter Impulse Buys You Should Never (Ever!) Fall For

Back away from the candy.

Nobody is immune to the allure of checkout counter displays. When the Center for Science in the Public Interest surveyed over 1,000 adults about their shopping habits, they found that more than half of those interviewed had recently bought candy or soda at the checkout counter. And of those people who grabbed last-minute items, 76 percent felt regret about their impulse purchases. Though it might feel like a good idea to pick up a pair of headphones or grab some gum on the go, most items located in the checkout line are there for the benefit of the retailer, not you. To prevent you from feeling buyer's remorse, we've compiled a list of items that you should never buy at the checkout counter.


M&M's Candy Random Facts

Checkout lines are notorious for tempting consumers with sugary treats. However, even if you are in the mood for a sweet snack, you shouldn't buy it at the checkout counter. Candy sold by the register is almost never on sale, but the items in the aisles at superstores like Target and Walmart can go for as much as 90 percent off.


woman reading magazine

Listen, Best Life is a media company, so we're 100 percent in favor of buying magazines. But if you want to keep your favorite publication afloat, you can do so without making your magazine purchases at the checkout counter.

According to a 2016 study from MagNet, the average monthly magazine offers subscribers a discount of 63 percent off the cover price! Those are hardly savings to scoff at.

Gift Cards

save money on clothes

There are better places to buy gift cards than at the checkout counter. On Cardpool, for instance, you can buy fellow shoppers' unwanted gift cards for a fraction of their value. And if you wait until a popular sale time like Black Friday or Memorial Day, then you might just be able to score a gift card to your favorite store when it's on sale.

You can also check out the gift card section at Costco for a good deal. Most of them are offered at discounted rates of up to 20 percent off.


Piles of DVDs {Checkout Counter}

Don't let flashy displays by the checkout line sucker you into buying overpriced DVDs. Instead, do your DVD shopping on Amazon, where prices are at their lowest and options are optimal.


Makeup Aisle {Checkout Counter}
Mihai_Andritoiu / Shutterstock

Drugstores like CVS and Rite Aid are always trying to trick you into throwing a few bottles of nail polish or a few tubes of lipstick into your cart before you make it to the register. However, it's never a good idea to buy makeup products impulsively.

Makeup looks different on everyone, and you need ample time to play around with products until you find the best one for your skin type and tone. Unfortunately, you don't have that kind of time in a checkout line.


Notebook on a park bench {Checkout Counter}

Only a person with serious self-control is able to weave through the line at T.J.Maxx or Marshalls without throwing a few new eye-catching notebooks into their shopping cart. As tempting as these blank canvases are, though, it's important to will yourself not to waste money on notebooks that you likely don't need.

At best, these journals will come in handy once or twice at work. And then, you know what will happen next: You'll store them away somewhere in your office and forget you ever bought them.


mug hooks

Before you buy a mug you found while checking out, think to yourself: Do I really need this? We're sure it's cute, but it probably won't even fit on your overflowing shelves. You don't need a mug for every holiday, hobby, and special event—just use the ones you already have!

Dog Toys

Dog with Pet Toys

The dog toys hanging in the checkout lane are not good quality. Even if a chew toy is 50 percent off, you'd still be better off buying one you can count on lasting for more than a day. And you'd be hard-pressed to find better deals on pet toys than what offers anyway.


Woman Buying Produce

Though it's commendable that retailers are making an effort to make their checkout lanes healthier, brown bananas and bruised apples sitting by a register are not particularly appetizing. For fruit that's nutritious, delicious, and in good shape, head to the fresh produce section of your local grocery store.


Stack of Books {Checkout Counter}

If you come across a novel while checking out that speaks to you, then write the name of that book down instead of buying it right away. Odds are that if you do a quick search online—particularly on secondhand marketplaces, like Amazon—you'll be able to find the book you want for a fraction of what it's selling for at the register.

Office Supplies

ends of pencils

Rather than buying office or school supplies whenever you see them at the checkout counter, stock up on them when they're on sale instead. Right after back-to-school season, for instance, stores like Staples and Office Depot always offer great deals on everything from pencils to binders, and you'll find much better products and prices there than you ever will in a checkout aisle.


Woman Shopping at a Headphone Display {Shopping Tips}

There's a reason why those earbuds near the register are only $10. Unless you're perfectly fine listening to static, you should stick to the tried-and-true headphone brands that, while expensive, won't make it impossible to actually hear your music.


Mini speaker

When buying a new speaker, you should abide by the same guidelines that you would for any other electronic device. Would you buy a television in the checkout lane? What about a laptop? If your answers to both of these questions are no—and they really should be—then skip the speaker at the checkout counter, do your research, and invest in one that actually works instead.


Chewing Gum

There's nothing wrong with chewing gum, but buying it in the checkout aisle isn't a smart move. If you are a frequent gum chewer, then you're going to save more money by walking over to your store's candy aisle and buying your gum in bulk. A small $2 pack of gum will last you, at most, a week; a $5 three-pack of gum, on the other hand, will last you almost a month.

Stuffed Animals

Stuffed animal

Usually it's the thought that counts, but not when it comes to this particular purchase. Stuffed animals stowed away by the cash register are usually overpriced and poor quality, and even a child is going to notice that the toy you got them is lacking. And they probably won't have a hard time admitting that to your face either.


Remote batteries

There's no need to waste money on name-brand batteries at the checkout counter. Buy your batteries in bulk at stores like Costco and Target that sell generic versions for a fraction of the price. They're still good quality and will ensure your electronics are always running.


Table of Cheap Sunglasses {Checkout Counter}

There's a reason why sunglasses situated near the register are so inexpensive. These shades are made of such cheap material that they'll probably chip or get scratched as soon as you take them outside.

Ultimately, you're not saving any money by opting for cheap sunnies. When they break—and they will—you're going to have to replace them, and that vicious cycle adds up over time.

Phone Chargers

Phone Charger {Checkout Counter}

Have you ever bought a phone charger from the checkout counter? If so, you already know that they're faulty and finicky. And as if their functionality wasn't bad enough, just wait a few days: Your new charging cable will be fraying and breaking apart completely in no time.

Like other electronics, chargers are worth spending a little more money on when it means getting a product that works and lasts.

And All Other Phone Accessories

a smartphone charging with a portable cell phone charger - cell phone repair

The other phone accessories sitting by the register don't exactly work all that much better. Cheap phone cases break; portable batteries don't actually charge anything; and touch screen styluses probably aren't even compatible with your phone! Hard pass on these.


over 40

If you happen to come across a great deal on your favorite underwear brand while waiting to check out, then go ahead and make the purchase.

Otherwise, it doesn't make sense to buy underwear when you haven't had time to think about what you're buying. What if you hate the material? What if the sizing is off? What if you accidentally picked up the wrong style in a rush? Underwear is something you wear every day, and you really don't want to be stuck with a three-pack of unmentionables that are unwearable.


Cheap Jewelry

Before you buy a necklace or bracelet, you should take some time to consider how it looks and whether you'll actually wear it. Unfortunately, rapidly moving checkout lines just don't provide you that time.

Selfie Sticks

celebrity photo secrets

Checkout counter or otherwise, you don't need a selfie stick. Your arm hopefully works just fine.

Gift Sets

Soap and Glory Gift Set Gifts Under $100

Retailers are perfectly aware of the fact that gift sets are hard to resist—that's why they put them in the checkout lanes! Though they may seem like good deals, you should try your hardest to resist these sets, unless it's for a last-minute holiday gift.

Otherwise, you're picking up a package of products you'd never otherwise buy that are disguised to look like a deal. You're smarter than that.

"As Seen on TV" Items

As Seen on TV Section {Checkout Counter}

Just because a product had an infomercial, that doesn't make it any more useful. These products are just avant-garde versions of the blankets, outlet plugs, and flashlights you already have. Skip 'em!


Keychains, 40s

While you may need a key ring for your keys, it doesn't have to be cutesy. This is just a practical item that's become a novelty purchase. Whether it's at the checkout counter or not, keychains are a waste of money and a recipe for clutter.

Car Accessories

Inside of a car.

Pretty much any car accessory you buy at the checkout counter is going to be useless. Those air fresheners? They lose their scent as soon as they're out of the package. Those license plate frames? Chances are you'll regret that one. Oh, and those car phone chargers? Good luck getting them to work!


candles and decorative towels

Shoppers are easily manipulated by scent, and retailers love to take advantage of this by placing candles by the checkout counter. Don't let their tactics trick you into making an impulse buy.

All you really need is one or two candles to make your house smell great. It's only when your current candle supply runs out that you should even entertain the thought of buying new ones.

Water Bottles

woman filling up water bottle

Realistically, a person only needs one water bottle. After all, the whole point of the product is that it's portable and that it helps you cut down on waste.

But far too many folks waste endless amounts of money on water bottles just because they have cool patterns or happen to be trendy. Don't be one of those people. Try to remember the reason you bought a reusable water bottle in the first place.


old vintage toys in a box, childhood toys

Do not let your kids trick you into buying them toys at the checkout counter, no matter how much they fuss. You very well know that anything you buy in the checkout lane is going to be played with for just a few minutes and then tossed aside like trash. It's not worth it.

Energy Drinks

energy drinks Lower Blood Pressure

If you're in the checkout lane, don't reach for a Red Bull in a cooler to keep you energized. You'll likely regret bringing that empty can up to the register and besides, energy drinks are not doing your body good.

Travel-Size Toiletries

Travel Size Products {Checkout Counter}

Do you really need a travel-size deodorant? Or a miniature bottle of shampoo? Any hotel you stay at while traveling is probably going to supply you with many of the things you're thinking about buying.

And if you're not staying at a hotel, you're better off buying a set of empty travel bottles on Amazon that you can fill with your favorite products at home and reuse time and time again.


cds compact discs

If for some reason you're still buying CDs, at least do yourself the favor of doing so online. Since they aren't as in-demand as they used to be, you can find great deals just by doing a little bit of internet research.

Plastic Bags

woman pulling meat out of a reusable shopping bag

There's no reason for you to pay an extra $0.10 for bags at checkout every time you go to the store. Just invest in a few reusable totes and you can save both money and the environment. It's a win-win!

To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to follow us on Instagram!  

Filed Under