Friday, November 22, 2013

Make a List, Check it Twice

A few weeks ago, I asked my co-worker Evan how much time he spent in Wegman’s when he did his food shopping. “30 minutes or so,” he said. I was spending, on average, 60 minutes each time I went there, and not coincidentally, way more money than I planned to. “It’s all about the list,” he said. I told him I usually had a list. "But do you stick to it?" he asked.
What a concept.

Although I have a list when I go to the store, my eye wanders, especially at Wegman's. Maybe I do need that hot wing cheese dip. Or that new brand of granola, or the chipotle hummus. Maybe the blue corn tortilla chips are healthier. With so many choices, my trips there became endless, overwhelming, exhausting.

The next week, I took Evan’s advice. I made a comprehensive list and went into the store, determined to only buy what was on it. It took great discipline with so many temptations: the funky car magnets I’d admired, pita chips for the aforementioned hummus, pepperoni for our pizza – but no, I stood firm, stuck to the list, and got out of there in 30 minutes, on budget. Amazing.

As I resisted each impulse to buy something not on the list I realized those urges came from a scarcity mentality – I have to buy it now, because maybe I won’t have another chance. I’m not sure what that’s about, but once I realized it was driving my buying choices, it was easier to say, no, I food shop at least once a week, if I really need eggs, I can get them. Having a list helped me feel more secure that I wouldn't have to do an extra grocery trip for a forgotten item.

The ultimate triumph of the list came the following week when I took my list, my new discipline and my toddler to Target. Somehow, I found everything that I needed and was back in the car in 30 minutes. With a toddler. This might not be walking on water, but for my world, it was miraculous. 

The list made me realize how susceptible I am to clever marketing, how distracted I am, how tempted to buy things I don't need, and have never considered until they catch my wandering eye in the store.

Could this possibly work for Christmas shopping? If you try it, let me know how it works out.