How Your Cell Phone Can Break Your Grocery Budget
It was supposed to be a quick trip to Walmart. My son needed some things for his science project, so I threw on my shoes and said I’d be back in a few minutes.
â€œWait,â€ said my wife, â€œI have a list.â€
I looked on the counter, and sure enough there was a piece of paper with â€œScotch Tapeâ€ and â€œMechanical pencil erasersâ€ written on it. I folded up the piece of paper and put in my pocket. No big deal.
On my way to the store my phone rang. Apparently my son had a cold sore and would like some over the counter medication. I hung up, and at the next red stop light I pulled out the piece of paper and added the item to the list.
While I was walking through the store collecting the handful of items my phone rang again. My wife had tried a new kind of shampoo and conditioner while out of town with her mom last weekend and wanted me to pick some up for her.
â€œAre you out?â€ I asked.
â€œAlmost,â€ she said.
Translation: It doesn’t matter if I’m out or not, just get it.
I stood in Walmart’s hair care isle, phone stuck to my ear as she tried to describe the product she wanted. After a few minutes I located the desired products and put them in the cart. Just my luck, they didn’t have the regular size, so I had to purchase the larger size hoping that she liked the product enough to use it for awhile.
Finally heading to the checkout counter, my phone buzzed with an incoming text message.
â€œI sure am in the mood for an apple crisp.â€
Detour to the produce section to pick up some apples, then to the freezer section for some whipped topping. I thought I had the rest of the needed ingredients at home. Well, I hoped I had them anyway.
Pushing my cart out of the store, I looked at my receipt, recreated below for your reading pleasure:
- Apples $4.13
- Whipped topping $0.94
- Erasers $1.64
- *PH Leveler $3.54
- *PH Testing Strips $4.98
- Cold Sore Medication $5.48
- Tape $0.97
- Shampoo $5.97
- Conditioner $5.97
The two items with the ‘*’ next to them are the items I was originally going to the store to purchase. I went from getting 2 items for $8.52 to getting 9 items for $33.62.
These middle of the week trips to the store are outside our normal grocery shopping budget, so the money spent usually comes out of the funds for the following weekend. They circumvent our normal need analysis and list process that ensures we stay on budget. What I’ve finally learned is that we need a budget bucket for these sort of trips. Then, if we need to make a run to the store, we need to discuss what else we need and make sure we stay within the confines of the allocated amount.
Most of all, I need to learn to not answer my phone while at the store.
How do you handle middle of the week trips to the store? Have you ever been at either end of a series of phone calls as described in this post?
Brought to you courtesy of Brock
Brock is a software engineer by day and personal finance blogger at night. He is a fitness junkie and enjoys grilling and smoking meat. Married with two children, Brock strives to improve his skills as a husband and father, and is always on the lookout to stretch his family’s budget as far as he can.