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The One Shopping Habit That's Making You Spend More Money, Study Says

Research says this common habit leads to more unplanned purchases.

We all spend money on things we don't actually need. And while sometimes we plan for these "treat yourself" moments, we may also be subjecting ourselves to unplanned and unnecessary purchases without even realizing it. In fact, there's one subtle way you're probably consistently causing yourself to overspend. According to recent research, using your phone while shopping in stores is making you spend more money. Read on to find out the truth behind this bad shopping habit, and for more retail news you may have missed, find out why Walmart Is Starting to End Its Most Popular Program.

A 2019 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science found that people who use cell phones in stores for a purpose that is unrelated to their shopping tend to spend more money on unplanned purchases. This includes using your phone to make calls, send text messages, check emails, or even to listen to music. Researchers observed more than 230 participants who were given a shopping list of items and asked to do a simulated shopping task. Those who used their phones often were more likely to deviate from their planned list, picking up items they did not plan to purchase and forgetting items they had set out to buy.

"Mobile phones are quickly becoming the principal distractor for many consumers and they offer a unique form of interruption," study co-author Michael Sciandrat, PhD, an assistant professor of marketing at Fairfield University, said in a statement.

Cheerful woman selecting fresh vegetables in market, everything is fresh and organic. She using mobile phone to check is everything purchased

You probably think an unplanned purchase here or there doesn't make much of a difference in your bank account, but it actually adds up. Brittan Leiser, a financial advisor and founder of SavviHer, points out it only takes an average spending of $2.74 a day more than you planned to waste $1,000 a year. Plus, according to Nishank Khanna, the chief financial officer at Clarify Capital, unplanned purchases often cause more long-term harm than people may realize.

"Unplanned purchases can do some serious damage to our budgets because we don't allocate funds for things we aren't expecting to buy," Khanna explains. "Unanticipated purchases are often to blame for bad financial habits, like taking on credit card debt we are unable to pay off at the end of the month or being unable to hit our monthly savings target."

Spending too much money is something many of us end up falling victim to, so if you need some money-saving tips for when you're shopping, read on. And for more in-store habits you should be aware of, find out The Rudest Thing You're Doing While Shopping.

Only bring as much cash as you can spend.

Convenient store female cashier counting the cash at the counter

Anna Barker, a personal finance expert and founder of LogicalDollar, says you should leave your credit card at home when you go shopping and only bring as much cash as you need for your planned purchases.

"For anyone who struggles with controlling themselves when it comes to their credit card balance, only entering stores with cash provides an easy way to limit how much you're able to spend," she explains. And for more money matters you should know about, check out why You're More Likely to Divorce If You Spend More Money on This.

Calculate how many hours of work are needed to afford an item.

man with eyeglasses siting on floor in the living room and using smart phone and laptop for managing home finances

You can also try to trick your brain out of spending more money by using math to see how much hard word an item is actually worth, Barker says. "A trick that I personally use is to calculate how many hours of work are needed to earn the amount of money needed after tax to afford an item," she says. "While a potential purchase may seem like a great deal, it can be very sobering to realize just how long you have to work to afford it." And for more news about spending you should know, check out PayPal Just Announced a Major Change That Could Soon Affect You.

Eat before you go shopping.

Woman eating an apple

Don't ever go shopping on an empty stomach. A 2015 study from the University of Minnesota found that people are likely to spend 70 percent more money than they would have if they're shopping on an empty stomach—and this includes buying non-food related items. Barker recommends having a snack before you shop to "stop those hunger pangs from hitting your wallet." And for more useful content delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Set a budget with some wiggle room.

A smiling group of young adults have fun shopping for retro and vintage clothing styles at a second hand thrift store. Mixed ethnic group. Horizontal image with copy space.

Of course, it's unlikely that you'll be able to stop yourself from ever making an unplanned purchase. That's why Khanna recommends setting a budget that allows for a little wiggle room. "When you give yourself buffer room in your shopping budget, you're essentially planning for the unplanned," he explains. "Unexpected purchases that fall within the budget become affordable and you don't have to worry about pushing the boundaries of your financial wellbeing." And for places you may no longer be able to spend money, discover which Beloved Beauty Brand Is Closing Stores Nationwide.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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