Are your bad habits costing you extra at the grocery checkout?
If you don’t pay attention to what and how things are scanned, not only could you be paying more for your groceries, you could also be missing out on opportunities for discounts.
I know that paying attention at the grocery store checkout is easier said than done.
I totally get that when you’re out shopping, sometimes shopping is the last thing on your mind.
Especially if there are a million other things you need to be doing, or your kid is having a meltdown in aisle 5.
Up Your Grocery Game
But, if you take the time to up your grocery game and implement a few new strategies, your budget will thank you.
The theory behind cutting back on overpaying at the grocery checkout is simple. You need to know how much your items cost and pay attention while they’re being scanned.
Putting that into practice, however, requires a bit more effort.
But, you’re in luck. These five steps spell out exactly what you need to do to stop overpaying at the grocery checkout.
1. Make a list & add prices
Making a well thought out list is a great first step! This allows you to prepare ahead of time and keep your shopping trip contained.
The list forces you to think through your meals and purchases. It’s the first step to making your shopping trip a conscious effort. (I don’t know about you, but auto pilot grocery shopping is definitely dangerous to my budget.)
Actively use your list while shopping
Actively using your list can be tedious at first. But, it does make a difference.
Actively using your list means editing your list as you shop.
As you pick up your items, write the price of the item down and add notes to help you remember sales or specials.
For example, if an item is regularly $1.99, but there’s a sale on for 2 for $2.50, make a note. If you run into issues at the till it’ll help you troubleshoot.
This can seem like overkill, but if you really want to be able to keep track at the checkout screen, you need to know the details.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Writing a list is one thing, but how are you supposed to stay focused enough to actively use it?
2. Only shop when you are prepared & focused
Don’t go to the grocery store if you’re not prepared. This is freaking hard, but your budget will thank you.
I know that when I take the time to prepare – make a shopping list, visualize my route through the store, estimate my time, and make sure I have my wallet – I pay way more attention to what I’m doing.
When something has been planned out, it’s easier to gauge when it’s not going according to plan.
This helps me stay on track and stick to my list. And sticking to my list helps me have fewer items, so I’m less overwhelmed at the checkout.
Focus, focus, focus
Now, what about staying focused?
We already know that this is the piece that seems crazy unrealistic if you have kids, are super busy, or get easily distracted. But, it’s an important piece to master and it does make an impact.
So, what is it about your regular shopping that distracts you? What draws your focus away from strategically spending your money and turns grocery shopping into a mess?
Figure out what the distractions are so you can come up with a plan to keep them at bay.
If the distractions are mainly your kids, when is a time you can shop without them?
On the way to pick them up from daycare? When your partner in crime gets home from work?
When are you least distracted?
I find that I am most distracted, mainly because I’m agitated, when the store is really busy. I’m also not as focused as I should be if I stop by the store on the way home from work, if I’m really hungry, or if I’m in a generally bad mood.
So, I’ve found the time I am most alert and on task while shopping is early morning on the weekend. There have been many times I’ve done the grocery shopping and am back home by 8:00 am.
I like this time because the roads to the store are bare, you get primo parking spots, and the store is practically empty. With so few people I can get in and out without getting agitated.
Plus, the produce is always well stocked in preparation for the weekend rush.
3. Know the policies
Did you know that in some situations you could get your item for free if the scan doesn’t match the display price? Check out the details of the Scanner Price Accuracy Code at the Retail Council of Canada website.
The website also lists what stores follow that code.
In addition to knowing the scanning code, study up on your store policies. What are the coupon practices? What are the rules for points programs (PC Plus, Air Miles, etc.)?
Calling customer service ahead of time with questions is my preferred method of getting info. I’ll call and ask specific questions about coupons or points programs and it’s pretty painless.
I really like not being that person at the customer service desk – although there is a time and a place for it. So, being prepared enough to call and ask my questions saves me a bit of sanity.
4. Speak up!
This is super hard for me. And, I’m not even that shy! It’s mainly because I don’t want to be that person at the checkout.
I know we’ve all experienced that person.
Not going to lie. There have been times I’ve just ignored a scanning error because I didn’t want to make a scene in a busy store.
As much as I’m sure you can relate, that behavior isn’t doing any good. By not speaking up you’re selling yourself short.
A few cents here and a buck or two there really does make a difference to your budget.
And, there are respectful ways to approach the situation.
I also have to remind myself that if I speak up when I’m undercharged for an item (which I do), it shouldn’t be a big deal to speak up if I’m overcharged.
If you’re focused and have a well-annotated list, it’s easy to get the situation resolved respectfully. It may take a few extra seconds, but it’s worth it to you and your budget.
5. Review your receipt
Reviewing my receipt is another hard one for me. But, accepting and reviewing your receipt should be a routine part of shopping.
Reviewing your receipt allows you to verify how much you paid for each item and your trip overall.
It gives you a second chance to make sure you were fairly charged. And, it gives you proof so you can back and fix any issues if needed.
The best time to review the receipt is after you’ve checked out but before you leave the store. That way, if there’s an error or issue, you can duck on over to customer service before you leave.
I know that if I wait until I’m home to review I’m less likely to go back and resolve the issue.
Not only is reviewing your receipt good practice for making sure you were fairly charged, but it’s good for overall reconciliation.
Having the receipts for all your purchases will help you reconcile your bank and credit card statements. That means you can be sure that you haven’t been charged twice for anything and that your transactions have been processed correctly.
It also helps you identify trends in your spending so you can gauge whether or not you’re on track.
Yes, your online bank access tells you how much you spent and where, but it doesn’t tell you the details. $50 at the grocery store may seem like a win for a week’s worth of food. But reviewing the actual receipt could remind you that all you bought was chocolate bars.
Next time you need to pop out for groceries, take a minute to review the tips we just talked about.
Make sure you have a list, stay focused and know the applicable store policies. Be ready to speak up, and review your receipt.
You can even start a tally to see how often you catch mistakes at the checkout. And, tally up how much you’ve saved by catching them.
How much will this save you over a month? What about a year? Comment below with what you find!