The grocery checkout line is designed to be a trap for impulse buys. Retailers deliberately place enticing, low-priced items right in front of customers waiting to pay. It’s easy to give in to the urge to grab one more thing. But shoppers often regret these purchases later.
If you want to save money, it’s best to stick to your shopping list and avoid the checkout line distractions. Rather than purchasing any of the items below, make a point of buying products that really meet your needs.
Magazines displayed in the grocery checkout line can be a tempting purchase. The most commonly-featured titles lure you in with celebrity gossip or they promise quick and easy solutions to life’s problems. But consider whether they are worth the cost.
“These things used to be kind of affordable but the prices now are kind of jaw-dropping,” said Julie Ramhold of DealNews.com. “I recently saw a standard-size magazine–that is just a regular issue, nothing special–going for close to $10. If you’re still buying magazines in the checkout aisle, you’re paying more than you should. You can likely find great subscription deals online to have a magazine sent directly to you, or you can even opt for digital subscriptions in many cases to cut out the physical copies altogether. Either way you look at it, there’s no need to buy them from the checkout aisle anymore.”
It’s not uncommon to see a selection of gift cards for other retailers prominently displayed at the grocery checkout line, but this isn’t the best place to purchase them. While gift cards may seem like a convenient and easy option for gifting, you can make your money go a lot further by having a little prudence.
“Why pay full price for something that you could buy at a discount?” asked Ramhold. “There are plenty of gift card websites that offer discounts on these items, but even if you don’t want to go that route, warehouse clubs are another good alternative if you have a membership. Even if you don’t like either of those options, by waiting for gift card promotions, you can still get a better deal than just paying for face value.”
Although it can be easy to throw a pack of batteries in your cart while waiting in line, it’s best to avoid making a quick overpriced purchase. These are typically priced around $3 to $10 for only two to four batteries.
“If you see batteries in the checkout line, it’s likely that they’re going to be small packages that take up little space and will also be priced at a premium,” said Ramhold.
“Even if you opt for store-brand batteries, the price for those smaller packages tends to be worse than if you were to buy a larger package. If you can shop at a warehouse club, batteries often are priced better there, even though it does mean purchasing in bulk. If you don’t want a huge package of AA batteries, you’ll still be better off looking at the battery section for whatever store you’re in to find a bigger selection (even if it’s only slightly bigger) and potentially a better deal,” she explained.
Avoid buying mini hand sanitizer bottles and other travel-sized toiletries at the checkout line. They may seem like a convenient purchase, but you can usually find a better deal on larger bottles sold elsewhere. Although these will be priced at only $2 to $5, if you look at how much you’re paying per ounce of product, you’re getting a terrible deal.
One alternative is to purchase full-sized products and transfer them to reusable travel bottles as needed. This not only saves money but also reduces waste by reusing containers.
Another option is to purchase travel-sized toiletries in the regular aisles of the store rather than at the checkout line, as many stores have a separate section for them.
Phone accessories such as charging cables, earbuds, and phone cases might call to you with their fun colors and designs, but it’s usually not the wisest purchase. The checkout line isn’t the best place to shop for accessories. There’s little opportunity to compare prices and features, and the ones sold near the register are likely to be of low quality.
“You may see simple sets of wired earbuds or headphones in the checkout aisle for what seems like a reasonable price, maybe between $5 and $10, or even cheaper,” said Ramhold.
“But the truth is these are usually just a waste of money because they’re cheap in both price and quality. As such, you may be able to get some use out of a pair of these earbuds, but there’s a good chance they’ll fail before too long, so you’ll just end up replacing them once again. You’re much better off going to the electronics section of Target or even checking out Amazon and Best Buy for affordable earbuds, rather than going with whatever option exists in a checkout aisle.”
Mini Handheld Fan
On a hot day, mini handheld fans are often displayed at the checkout line of retail stores, but they are probably poor quality. These can range from $5 to $15. When you’re feeling hot and sweaty, you might be tempted to spring for one. But these fans typically lack the power to provide airflow to actually cool you down.
Additionally, they’re often fragile and prone to breaking, meaning they won’t last for long. You’re not likely to get more than a few days’ use out of them, making them a waste of money.
Novelty items such as toys, keychains and refrigerator magnets are often displayed at the checkout line of retail stores, luring shoppers to make impulse purchases.
“Although they could appear like a harmless and entertaining purchase, they frequently have little use and are quickly forgotten or thrown away,” said Preet Kaur a Finance Manager at Matajer Dubai.
These items can range from $1 to $10 each. They are often low-quality, overpriced, and not very useful, making them a waste of money. In addition, they probably don’t even serve a practical purpose, and may just add clutter to your life. Ask yourself if you really need the item and how often you will use it — if the answers are no or not often, don’t add them to your cart.
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